Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dear friends...

Sending holiday greetings to you, and best wishes for happiness, good health, and fortitude in 2017.

Today is Christmas, and this is what it looked like at sunrise in Woodville, Rhode Island, USA:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Square deal

Here's the start of the famous Zick-Zack scarf on a #5 squared circular needle. Pattern is highly recommended, and it's free!

Over the past months I have been wont to complain about a hand problem that unhappily impacted my ability to knit. In fact, I wrote a piece for Lion Brand about my struggle and how it led me to trial a table loom they sell, with positive results. Perhaps the most interesting part of this is a general understanding I've gained of how woven patterns are designed and implemented. I'd never understood that before, but experiential learning--simply by warping and wefting a very small loom (11" x 11")--has clarified a great deal of the process.

This is actually two 11 x 11" looms joined.  It's the Martha Stewart Crafts DIY Weaver.

But weaving is weaving and knitting is knitting. The prospect of a life without knitting wasn't an option for me. Finally, with the correct diagnosis--because my symptoms were atypical, the full diagnosis took two years, yikes!--I've figured out ways to knit comfortably and often. While I continue to study small-scale weaving (with table looms of various sorts), I've developed compensatory measures that allow me to knit in the manner to which I was accustomed, so I've let the Portuguese Knitting gyrations drop.

Google-aided research shows that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is rampant among knitters, and Digital Tenosynovitis (inflammation of finger tendons) only slightly less so. Those are my two bedevilments. For those of you who suffer from one or both, or from arthritis in your hands, here are my recommendations.

First, discover the Magic of SQUARE NEEDLES. These are much easier to grasp than cylindrical needles, and therefore more ergonomic. Kntter's Pride Cubics and Kollage Square needles come in all forms--straights, dpns, circs, interchangeables. These are the two brands I've found that are readily available, and you can get them in metal or wood. Since my experience with them is limited, I don't know if one brand has advantages over the other--and would like to hear from my readers, if you have good information about this--but I can say one thing for sure--they are a great relief to work with, and I can't see myself returning to cylindrical needles ever, even if my hand problems should completely resolve! You can buy all of these needles on Amazon and through other websites. I tried buying some first, at Webs in Northampton MA a few weeks ago, but they were sold out of the sizes I wanted. I think it's more efficient to order online.

I bought two wooden-tipped circs, 5 and 7, and a set of metal interchangeables in sizes from 6 to 11. I generally hate interchangeable needles, and had recently chatted with my Knitting Cabal about how frustrating it is to use them (we all agreed on this point), mainly because they seem to untighten quite regularly and often the tip separates from the cord, releasing a cascade of stitches (HORRIBLE!). However, I've been using my new square interchangeables for a few hours and that hasn't happened...yet. Dare I dream?

The other aid to my knitting has been an over-the-counter soft-ish brace for CTS. I ordered mine from Amazon; it's made by Mueller, but there are several manufacturers of these braces, and I think the style and fit are up to the individual. In other words, what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Trial and error time, my friends! Knitting with one of these braces on your hand is awkward at first and slow, but it also protects your wrist from damaging motions and provides much soothing support. It's really not hard to adapt if you just relax and take your time.

This brace is made by Mueller; it's relatively inexpensive and tightens with velcro straps. I bought it on, source of all things. Other good brands are Futuro and Imak.

Well, gentle knitters, that's the scoop from Woodville, Rhode Island. I embark on a Pacific Ocean foray next week and will be away from my computer for many days, so do not despair if your emails aren't answered in a timely fashion!