Getting a Grip on your Crochet

Like many things in life, holding on too tightly when crocheting can cause you more difficulty than loosening up.

Your hand is an amazing construct and understanding the mechanism of your grip can help you find the perfect one.  Barring any injuries or surgeries that have changed the usual configuration, our hands have approximately 23 joints and 27 bones. The difference in number of joints and bones between individuals is caused by the sesamoid bones, tiny little bones that develop within the tendons depending on how we use our hands and on our personal genetics.

These joints include the marvelous saddle joint of our thumbs which allows that digit to move in opposition to our fingers, distinguishing us from many of the other creatures we share our earth with.

Our thumb is the only digit of the hand that actually has most of its operating muscles in the hand itself.  In contrast, the fingers are primarily moved by muscles in our forearms.  That’s why pain in or injury to your arms can affect your grip strength and coordination of your hand movements.

Much of the pain in crocheting comes from either holding our hook with a “death grip” or tensioning our yarn too tightly with the opposite hand.  The stress that eventually builds in our hands and forearms can lead to discomfort in our necks and shoulders.

Too tight a grip can also result in tight stitches. Although there are forms of crochet that benefit from tight stitch work, in most cases it will not produce a fabric that you will be happy with. Kevlar is great stuff, but it’s not that comfortable for a snuggly sweater or warm hat.

Smaller hooks can allow you to make snug stitches when needed without causing injury to your hands. Try playing with your gauge by swatching to see where the match between hook size, desired gauge and hand comfort is for you.  Experimenting with various ways of holding your hook can also give you options if you run into hand pain.

Whether you prefer a knife or pencil hold for your hook there are some general rules about choosing the best hook for hand health:

  1. A large rounder handle is easier on your hand. It takes less pressure to hold onto. However, a too large hook will also cause strain
  2. Lightweight hooks are kinder to your hands– in fact the lighter the better.
  3. Some “give” to the material of your hook handle is especially helpful to those of us that contend with arthritis or joint pain. My current favorite hooks with a squishy handle are the Etimo hooks from the Japanese company Tulip.

The search for the perfect hook can be a bit like the search for the perfect mate.  You may have to try a number of different ones before one you find a good match. Unlike your lifemate though, if you find a hook you sort of like but the handle isn’t ideal you can always modify it.  Next issue, I will give you examples and ideas of how to modify your hook.