Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Different Style of Knitting . . .

I said I might be able to help Janice with her style of knitting.  She has arthritis in her hands.  I'm so sorry about that because I cannot even imagine how much that must hurt.

Janice - I did a little research, and apparently you are likely already knitting in the style (Continental) that seems to work best for many knitters with arthritis, but I do have some info to share with you.  I realize that you probably will not want to change your entire style of knitting, but - apparently - I knit in a style that is not very common, but can work really well for people with arthritic challenges. 

I knit British style, which is no surprise because I was taught to knit by my grandmother who came from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  British style means that I "throw" my yarn, rather than "pick" it as you do in Continental style.  But, I knit British style "supported." That means that I brace my right needle somewhere on my body, keeping it in a fixed position and essentially moving my arm - not my hand when I throw.

This is called supported knitting or supported needle, and is very common on the Isle of Shetland, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, where they use a special tool for it called a knitting belt.  

This photo of knitting belts is from Studio PK (home of The Principles of Knitting which is a very good book to have in your reference library), where you will also find all sorts of good information about knitting with a knitting belt - and which actually enlightened me on some things I've always wondered about.  The following is from Studio PK's "Why Use a Knitting Belt." The bolding is mine.
"Why would you want to strap on a belt in order to knit? Why not just use a circular needle?
Because a  knitting belt holds the right needle in a fixed position, which produces several advantages:
  • Without the need to hold a needle, the right hand is free to act solely as a shuttle, wrapping the yarn and controlling tension.
  • Movements required are minimal, which increases speed, reduces stress and fatigue, and produces a very even fabric. Position of hands and arms is ideal, reducing the possibility of neck and shoulder problems, or repetitive motion injury.
  • The belt can be used for any project, large or small, flat or circular, and in any style, traditional or modern.
  • Purl can be done as fast as Knit, with no change in tension; even the most complicated stitch technique is easy to manage. (I always wondered why people would complain that their purl rows were never even - I have never experienced this problem - I actually like to purl.)
  • Any type of color pattern can be done while holding both yarns on the right, or one yarn in each hand.
  • Small items worked in the round are easier to do because the right hand is up on top of the needle, not inside the small circle formed by the knitting."
To use a knitting belt, you would be knitting exclusively with metal double-pointed needles of various lengths and sizes.  There are plenty of videos on YouTube if you want to see this style of knitting demonstrated.

I don't use a knitting belt, I just brace a needle on my body which I think gives me more flexibility.  I even do this with circular needles.

So - essentially I knit this way without the use of a knitting belt, which is probably why I never cared for double-pointed needles:  I've impaled myself (yes, really) with them more than once attempting to brace them on my body.  I usually brace needles in the crook of my thigh or somewhere on my torso - it depends on the length of the needle if it's a straight, or if I'm using circulars.   I've often wondered if my grandmother used a knitting belt, but I don't have any memory of her doing so.  For most of my life I thought I knit the way I do because I'm left-handed and she was right-handed.  I wrote about it on this blog forever ago.  If you click that link and read my post from 2008, you'll learn that it turns out that I knit the way I do because that's how my grandmother knit  :-)

So - Janice, like I said, you probably don't want to completely change your knitting style, but at least you know there are options.  A quick Google search sourced a ton of into on this topic - you never know - there might be something in there for you to try.  In no particular order or preference, here are a few:

6 Tips for More Comfortable Knitting

Ergonomics for Knitters

29 Tips for Avoiding Knitting Pain

Stitchlinks Troubleshooting Knitting

And now, I need to go and check the thermostat.  Last night got down to the 40s and it's feeling a little chilly here in my office (which is the warmest room in the house  :-) ).


calicokitty6 said...

Thanks for posting this. Lately my hands have been getting "tired" while knitting and I might have to get one of these belts.

My former boss learned to knit on straight needles and used to hold her right needle under her arm which freed her hand to knit. It was just how she did it.

I knew another woman (in her 80s) with very painful arthritis in her hands and she learned Portuguese style knitting. She said it saved her from giving up her knitting. All the tensioning is done with a pin or wrapping the yarn around your neck. This may be another option for your friend if the belt doesn't work out.

Janice H. said...

A great big thank you, Annie! And a big hug! :) I had no idea that there would be an option for me to continue knitting with the arthritis. I used to watch "Knitting Daily" on PBS and I have a faint recollection of Eunny Jang showing how to knit with a knitting holder. She demonstrated many variations of knitting --- it seems different parts of the world have a different method.

Guess what I'll be doing this weekend?! :) I will have to experiment and practice on learning a new method. I'm not sure how it will work with circular needles, but if you have had success using those, maybe I'll be able to also. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I had searched at Ravelry for hints on how to knit with arthritis, but didn't come away with much information. You have certainly done your research and I'm surprised that I hadn't thought of searching the internet for some information.

I have to admit that I am one of those persons whose purl stitches are never as tight as my knit stitches. In one of the books I borrowed from the library on knitting, I found the hint that after each purl stitch, using the Continental style of knitting, it was necessary to snug up the stitch. It seems to happen more with that style of knitting than others. Continental has some advantages such as speed with picking the stitches rather than throwing the stitch.

I have an afghan on the needles [from last year] and I'm looking forward to trying some of these new techniques. I will be sure to let you know how it works for me.

Thanks again, Annie!

A :-) said...

You are both quite welcome. In my real like I'm a researcher, so this is "what I do." :-)

Certainly there are other knitting techniques - you never know which ones might work for you. I sure hope you find one that will :-)

Janice H. said...

Just wanted to drop you a line letting you know that I've been trying a few of the variations that you mentioned. My muscle memory is true to the continental style and I'm having a bit of trouble working in the English method. What a mess! :) I think I may just use the exercises for my hands and stay with the continental method. The exercises do make a big difference. I also got out the fingerless gloves which are made of an elastic type material. I was able to knit a row on the afghan. That's the other thing I'm going to try --- knitting one row at a time. It's going to take a while to finish the afghan, but I've plenty of time on my hands. As winter settles in, I will try a few other methods of knitting. I'm so glad about the information that you shared. It's gotten me to pick up the needles again!

Janice H.