We’ve all done it. The holidays are nearly upon us and we had planned to make gifts for our friends and loved ones. There are bins full of yarn buys that were “just right” for the various recipients. Now it is crunch time.
We steal every moment we can spare from our busy lives feverishly trying to finish the UFO’s that are floating around our various storage areas. Then it happens, we wake up with tight achy shoulders, or worse: numb, tingly, painful hands and wrists.
We push on, the gifts must be finished. By the time they are wrapped and the holidays have passed, we hurt so much the month of January is a no crafting zone.
So how do we avoid this scenario? Here are 10 quick tips to help you survive your holiday rush:
1. Take care of yourself first. A body that is not rested and well-fed is more vulnerable to injury. Plus, if you are tired you can make mistakes in your work– think of the frogging that can happen! Make a schedule showing the 24 hours in each day for a week’s time. Block out time for a full 8 hours of sleep, mealtimes and any time at your job that can’t be used for crocheting. Now you really know how much time you have for crafting.
2. Be realistic in your gift planning. Keep your gifts small, or if it must be something big find a way to give it “unfinished” to take the pressure off your deadlines. That could mean wrapping what you have done and give it with a note that you will finish it by a certain date after the Holidays.
3. Take regular breaks while crocheting. That means every 20 minutes (at the most 30 minutes) take a 5 minute break. If you need to, set a timer to remind yourself that it is break time. Stand up and move around. Stretch your arms and hands. Roll your shoulders. Get a drink of water maybe even have a snack.
4. Watch your tension. When working on a deadline it is very easy to find ourselves holding our hook and yarn tighter than we intend to. This can ruin the appearance of your crochet work as well as leading to pain in your hands, arms and shoulders. Take a deep breath and loosen your hold…if the gauge of your stitching becomes too loose when you relax your tension….use a smaller size hook.
5. Find a hand friendly hook. The tools we use make a big difference in how tight we feel we need to grip. Overall, any hook with a wider handle section can ease the tension in your hand when working on a project. This can be particularly true when working with thread or extremely fine yarns and the tiny steel hooks needed.
6. Experiment with your hook hold. Most people think that the knife (or toothbrush) hold seems to cause the least injury issues compared to the pencil hold, but both can affect the muscles of the arm and wrist. Again this depends upon the tightness of your grip. There is no one way that is the only correct way to hold your hook. Try different hold styles and modifications to find one that is comfortable for you. Having more than one way you hold your hook while working can also help you avoid injury.
7. Listen to your body. If your posture is straining your muscles you will know from the signals of pain or discomfort. Those are easy to ignore when we are happily hooking along. Try to support your body well wherever you are working. Keep your elbows closer to your body and try to support your work with either a pillow or table to keep the weight off your wrists and arms. And listen to your body, at the first twinge of discomfort take a break.
8. Use good lighting and get your eyes checked regularly. Your posture can be affected by your vision. Especially when working with dark colored yarns it is common to find yourself squinting, bending closer to your work or lifting your fabric closer to your face while working. These habits can end up causing tight muscles in your neck and shoulders, sometimes even your back. Eventually that can lead to injuries in your hands, wrists and arms. Placing a white towel on your lap or work surface behind dark projects can help. Keep your light source where it will help the most. A lamp shining over your shoulder is better than a brighter overhead light. Best of all is working by a sunny window.
9. Change it up. The kind of yarn you work with can make a big difference. The less stretch there is to the yarn the more stress it can place on your wrists and fingers while working. Switching between projects using different yarns and hook sizes can help. Most yarns made with fibers like cotton, linen and silk have less “give” and if doing a tight gauge require more effort to insert your hook into stitches. Fibers like wool, alpaca and even acrylic generally have more give and allow the motions of your hand and wrist to be relatively effortless.
10. Know when to seek help. If you experience pain that doesn’t go away completely within 2 hours after you put your project down it’s time to make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Otherwise you run the risk of causing yourself long-term possibly permanent injury. And if you have pre-existing pain issues, make sure you discuss your crafting and self-care activities with your healthcare provider.
Remember, while it is important to share caring gifts with others, it is also important to have fun and take care of yourself. Hopefully these tips will help you do both this holiday season.