Technical Tuesday: Some Handy Advice

I know this might sound obvious, but in order to knit… you need to take care of your hands. The idea for this post came to me the other day while I was knitting. I had a hangnail that kept bothering me when I was working with some really soft yarn. It made me feel like I had crypt-keeper hands, but just moisturizing wasn’t enough.

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Since I work with a lot of fibre, paper and my hands are always in and out of water, I need to pay a little more attention than most. I find it is usually my cuticles or the skin around my fingernails that gets really dry. When I am working with soft or fluffy yarn, like mohair, I really notice this. In the past year, I’ve had an abnormally high amount of manicures. There were weddings, showers and parties that called for getting all dressed up. Now that I’ve gone without a manicure for four-ish months, I am really noticing the benefit of getting them. I’m not even talking about going out to your salon and paying for one, but the kind you give yourself at home in your own living room.
First and foremost is moisturizer! Some fibres will dehydrate your skin a little bit, but use your judgement; if you know working with cotton causes your hands to dry out, be proactive about it! Wool naturally comes coated with lanolin, if you’ve ever felt unprocessed wool before you will know what I am talking about. To totally break it down, lanolin is the grease that comes from sheep fleece. It’s a natural moisturizer and is actually bottled and sold. Recently I have seen wool wash that has been augmented with lanolin; to bring fresh life to your wool sweaters. I digress, any fibre with a natural amount of lanolin will help keep your hands healthy.

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Giving a little extra love to your hands is never a bad thing either. I make sure to keep my nails in check. Filing down sharp edges and making sure they aren’t too long, without reason. Your hands help you to make beautiful things take care of them!
Stretching before every knitting session is another great way to take care of your hands and prevent injury. Whether we know it or not, knitting and crochet take muscles, be sure to acknowledge that with a few pre-crafting stretches. Going hand in hand with stretching is taking breaks. I am as guilty as anyone for getting into a groove and knitting straight through a couple hours, but at the end, my hands are sore. Taking a few breaks really helps me realize when I just need to stretch my hands and perhaps apply a bit of ice.

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Among all these tips, the last thing I will say is to use ergonomic tools and techniques. If a technique isn’t working out for you, then change it up. Hold the yarn in the other hand, learn how to knit Portuguese style, or continental. There are also many tools that are being re-invented to become more ergonomic. Take notice, but also do your due diligence; read reviews etc to see if these tools are legitimate before trusting completely!
I have heard a lot of people talk about how the feet are the most underappreciated part of the body. We walk on them all day and put them into uncomfortable shoes, but they still manage to carry us to most of the places we want. I wouldn’t say that our hands are the absolute most treasured extremity, but we do put them through a lot as well. Over all I would say to take care of yourself in general, but a little extra love on your hands would never go amiss.