How to prevent pain when crocheting

We've all done it, got too involved in a crochet project, sat for too long trying to get it finished up and ended up with pain in our fingers or wrists. (As designers we do this a lot!) 

Pain from crochet tends to manifest itself in pain in the fingers of either hand, in the wrist, elbow and shoulder of the dominant (hook holding) hand and in the neck. Left unchecked this mild pain can turn into a repetitive strain injury (RSI), a serious condition cured only by resting completely or medical interventions.

We'd all like to be able to do more crochet without experiencing pain. These simple techniques and points to consider should help prevent pain occurring in the first place.

POSTURE

The majority of neck and shoulder pain particularly is caused by poor posture when we crochet. Ensure that you are sat comfortably. Your neck should not be hunched over as you look at your work. Is your back comfortable?

If you need glasses, are you using the right pair to be able to see the work while you are sat comfortably? If you are having to hold the crochet uncomfortably far away or too close to see it, it might be worth a trip to the opticians to get a pair that allow you to both see and work comfortably.

Are your elbows and wrists held comfortably as you work? Propping them up on a pillow or arm rests as you work may help this.

TECHNIQUE

RSI is caused by repetitive movement so it stands to reason that minimising movement while you crochet will help minimise the risk. Be mindful of your technique as you crochet. Are there any movements that can be made smaller and more efficient? Can you twist less as you pull the yarn through? Do you need such an expansive movement to yarn over?

Of course some of the pain can be caused by squeezing. Can you change your yarn hold so you don't need to grip it so hard? Are you having to grip hard to hold your hook? (see also TOOLS & MATERIALS)

STRETCH

As you crochet take regular breaks (every twenty minutes at least) When you take a break look up from your work and carry out simple stretching exercise on your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands:

  • Roll your neck backwards, forwards, to the sides gently.  
  • Shrug shoulders up and down and roll shoulders forwards and backwards.
  • With your arms semi extended, shake your hands.
  • Holding your arm just above your elbow reach over your opposite shoulder. 
  • Pull your fingers gently back so your wrists flex.
  • Clench into a fist then stretch your fingers as far as they will go.

Before you start to crochet again, recheck your posture.

TOOLS & MATERIALS

Finding the right hook FOR YOU is absolutely pivotal to avoiding pain. Many people find hooks that have a soft grip useful as you do not have to squeeze as hard to be able to grip and manipulate the hook. Other people find that an ergonomic handle doesn't suit their hold but a straight hook made of bamboo is good as it warms to the touch. For more information about

Some yarns are more likely to cause pain, especially wrist, elbow and shoulder pain. Unyielding, unstretching fibres such as linen and cotton are more likely to cause pain as it is harder to push the hook through them than a bouncy, soft wool for instance. 

There are specialist gloves and supports that you can buy that may be helpful to help you support painful joints. 

VARIETY

Nothing is more likely to cause repetitive strain than doing the same thing over and over again. Try and mix up your projects so that you are doing different things. 

Vary the hook size you are using (particularly if you are not using an ergonomic hook) so the pinch you have to make is changing in size. 

Vary the type of yarn you use. Both fibre (as discussed in TOOLS & MATERIALS) and yarn weight. Some people find chunky yarns harder on their hands and some find lace weight impossible. 

Work at different gauges even within the same yarn weight, your hands grip and move differently when they work at the solid tension of a sock than they do a drapey shawl.

Thinking carefully about all these points as you pick your next project: Avoid what is painful and mix it up between the rest. 

STRENGTHEN

Looking after your body in general can really help to alleviate pain when crocheting. Ensuring all the supporting and opposing muscles are strong and healthy makes a big difference. Light weight bearing exercise for the arm muscles is really useful. It was transformative for Joanne's elbow and shoulder pain. (As with all types of exercise, seek a qualified coach and if you have any medical issues seek a doctor's permission before starting any new exercise regime)

IN SUMMARY

Crochet itself is quite a meditative and soothing practice. Being mindful of our bodies and looking after them as we crochet is an important part of that practice. 

Why not pin or print this image to remind you as you work

RSI is a serious condition and if you have any tingling, aching, stiffness or inability to move the fingers or the wrist you should stop crocheting immediately and rest. If resting does not completely cure the symptoms you should seek medical advice. Continuing to crochet through the pain can make the problem worse.

How to work raised (post) crochet stitches

A very versatile stitch to add to your repertoire, raised stitches are based on the standard crochet stitches, the only difference is where the stitch is worked. Raised stitches are worked around the stitch below rather than into the top of the stitch. This has the effect of lifting both stitches to add texture.

Raised stitches are often worked in columns and, as they are easy to spot as you work, can be used to divide different sections up (which removes the need for too much counting - always a win!) as in Humphrey from The Shawl Project Book Two (above)

The raised treble front is the reverse of the raised treble back so, if you are working in rows, you will use a raised treble front on the right side of the work and a raised treble back on the wrong side or vice verse to create a column.

IMG_5802.jpg

Sometimes they are used in rows (normally on the wrong side of the work) to force the tops of the stitches below over to form a strong horizontal line, as in our popular Contour Shawl pattern (above)

The raised trebles can be used to form a faux rib by alternating front and back post stitches. It doesn't quite have the stretch and elasticity of a knitted rib but it adds enough weight to stop the crochet curling so makes a good edging for sweaters. A basket weave effect can be made by alternating blocks of front and back raised stitches. This is the edging we used for Callander from  (above).

The raised treble front is also used to make crochet cables. By altering the order of the stitches a cabled effect can be made quite easily.

Crochet really is a craft divided by two languages and never more so when it comes to raised stitches, the terminology is completely different. In the UK standard crochet terminology the stitches (taking the treble variant as an example) are known as Raised Treble Front, abbreviated to RtrF and Raised Treble Back, abbreviated to RtrB. On the other side of the pond, in US terminology, they are known as post stitches (because the stitch is worked around the post of the stitch below) and they are known as Front Post Double Crochet, abbreviated to FPDC, and Back Post Double Crochet, abbreviated to BPDC.

But without further ado, lets get you making them. We are using the raised treble stitch for the tutorial. If you want to do a raised double crochet stitch (US single) then simply use the hook placement as a guide and otherwise make a double crochet as you normally would (eg, no yarn over before you insert the hook, draw up a loop around the stitch, yarn over and draw through both loops on the hook)


HOW TO

RAISED TREBLE FRONT

 

STEP ONE:
Yarn over

 

STEP TWO:
Insert the hook from front to back then back to front around the stitch.

 

STEP THREE:
Yarn over and draw up a loop.

 

STEP FOUR:
Yarn over and draw through two loops, yarn over and draw through last two loops.

 


RAISED TREBLE BACK:

STEP ONE:
Yarn over

 

STEP TWO:
Insert the hook on the far side of the stitch from back to front

 

STEP THREE:
Push hook front to back again around the stitch.

 

STEP FOUR:
Yarn over and draw up a loop.

 

STEP FIVE:
Yarn over and draw through two loops, yarn over and draw through last two loops.


Fancy giving it a go?

We have lots of patterns that use raised stitches and show how truly versatile the stitch is.

Clockwise from top left:

Bartsia Cardigan, Alchemilla Shawl, Contour Shawl, Gnarled Bark Hat, Pinetum Shawl, Callander Cardigan, Humphrey Shawl (centre)

This article was originally written (in substantially different format) and photographed by Joanne for Love Crochet Magazine and is republished with permission.

How to work a crochet spike stitch

Today we are getting spikey with it and looking at how to work a spike stitch.

The Malvern Cowl from Crochet Yeah! uses spike stitches for a colour work effect.

The Malvern Cowl from Crochet Yeah! uses spike stitches for a colour work effect.

Spike stitches are a decorative technique worked in crochet. Normally worked in double crochet rows using two or more colours in the piece, they are an easy way to introduce a colour work effect into crochet without having to juggle more than one colour in the same row.

Spike stitches are worked into previous rows by inserting the hook through the fabric rather than into the top of the stitch. They are a great way to add shading and texture. Playing with the depth and frequency of spike stitches along a row can add a variety of geometric colour patterns. Altering the length can create triangles or chevron effects in a piece or keep the spike stitches the same length to add squares or rectangles.

Why not try using rows of spike stitches in amongst rows of double crochet when working with colour change or ombre yarns to give an interesting effect?

Maple Falls Sweater uses multiple spike stitches to look like leaves.

Maple Falls Sweater uses multiple spike stitches to look like leaves.

It is just as easy to work multiple spikes in the same stitch to give an effect like leaves or a birds foot. Simply repeat Steps 2-4 as many times as needed before moving to Step 5 and do not restrict yourself to just working directly below the stitch.

Spike stitches make a great border on a plain piece and can even be worked effectively on a piece of knitting.

The reverse side is very similar to the right side so the fabric is reversible. This doesn't hold true of stitches with multiple spikes so if you want a reversible fabric, steer clear of these.

HOW TO:

STEP ONE:  Work up to the stitch before the spike stitch.

STEP TWO: Insert your hook from front to back through the fabric on the row below (or two or more rows as required by the pattern) making sure that the hook is in the column below the stitch.

STEP THREE: Keeping the yarn held at the back, yarn over and pull a loop through the fabric.

STEP FOUR: Draw the loop up to the height of the new row making sure it is neither puckered nor too slack.

STEP FIVE: Yarn over and pull through both loops on the hook (just like a normal double crochet) The stitch is completed.

TOP TIPS FOR GETTING IT RIGHT

Be careful where you place your hook in the rows below to give an even finish.

Make sure you pull the loop up to the same height as the new row to avoid puckering.

If you want to practice your stitch then you might be interested in buying the Malvern Cowl Kit - it contains all you need to make the cowl including three skeins of Socks Yeah Yarn, Crochet Yeah book (which contains the pattern plus five others), hook and stitch marker. It is available exclusively from our Etsy shop priced £27 plus p&p.

The book containing the Malvern Cowl pattern, Crochet Yeah, is available in print for £12 plus p&p or as an e-book for £10.

Maple Falls Sweater is available as a pdf download for £4

 

This article was originally written and photographed by Joanne for  and is republished with permission.

Contour Shawl

So, I guess you all really like the Contour Shawl, huh?  We are totally blown away with the response to our latest release.  Not only has it flown off the (virtual) shelves, but we have seen so many finished and in progress shawls popping up all over the internet!  Yay!!

 

At least once a day, we have been pouring through your makes - so in love with the different colour choices, it has us itching to make one in every single colour.  However, deadlines, so we will have to live vicariously through your awesome makes. 

One of the first to finish was Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch.  You can read all about her gorgeous shawl here and how she handled that very familiar game of yarn chicken

 

You can see more awesome contour shawls on Instagram and, if you haven't started one yet, you can get the pattern here

Three From The Top

We are so excited to release our newest collection, Three from the Top.  It is our first cardigan collection with 3 patterns sized from Baby to a 60in bust.  There is something for everyone!!

 

You can buy the print version here for £12

Alternatively, if eBooks are your jam, you can purchase the PDF from Ravelry for £10

Edinburgh Yarn Festival

The web seems to be abuzz at the moment with people planning and plotting their trips up to Edinburgh Yarn Festival (EYF).

Your Mileage May Vary from The Shawl Project Book One, which launched at EYF 2015

Your Mileage May Vary from The Shawl Project Book One, which launched at EYF 2015

Last year EYF was our first ever show and we were nervously packing, wondering if we would sell anything and if anyone would like our new look and new designs. It was an amazing success - we sold out of our first book The Shawl Project: Book One that weekend. And it still sells well a year on, with hundreds of copies in the hands of eager crocheters around the world. We think very fondly of EYF 2016 as the start of an amazing year, the year that The Crochet Project became a viable, profitable business.

We really wanted to have a stand again this year but our family commitments meant that wasn't going to be possible, we just couldn't make it work. It turns out to be quite lucky really as Kat has broken her elbow and her wrist and would not be well enough to lug stock and spend two full days working on a stall. But we are really sad that we not to have a stall this year, and we certainly plan to be back next year (if they will have us!)

Kat is hoping to make it along for the day (subject to her arm being well enough) - if you see her give her a (very gentle) hug from me or a high five (right arm only)!

But even though we can't be there we are still representing and you can still buy our books thanks to our lovely friends.

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns is stocking limited quantities of The Shawl Project Book One and Book Two and will have some samples made up in her beautiful yarn (including some of the originals we have loaned her) find her at stand  B1. All the Book One designs take one 100g skein of 4 ply and all the Book Two designs take two, so it is the perfect show purchase - you know whatever yarns you pick up around the show can be paired with the perfect pattern when you get home!

And Rachel of Coop Knits will be selling our new book, Crochet Yeah! on her stand (A7) and has all the samples from the book for you to squish and stroke and of course the yarn to make them all. Rachel says that colours combos from the book have been selling well and I know she ran out of some colours at Unravel so do head over soonish!

Tenbury Mitts from Crochet Yeah!

Tenbury Mitts from Crochet Yeah!

So that we don't feel too left out, if you are there in person can you do us a favour please? If you are wearing something designed by us, you spot one of our designs in the wild, you see our samples on display, you are buying our book or flashing your stash then take a photo and share it with us on social media by tagging @thecrochetproj on instagram and twitter of The Crochet Project on facebook and #thecrochetproject #theshawlproject or #crochetyeah please. That way we will get to see it and live vicariously through you!

Introducing the Malvern Cowl

...And a GIVEAWAY!

Now that Crochet Yeah is available on full release as an e-book (£10) or print book (£12 + p&p), it is time to start introducing the patterns.

We'll start with probably the simplest design in the book, the Malvern Cowl. Its a lovely soft cowl, very easy to make and to wear and worked in just one stitch all the way. Yes, it is all double crochet (US single crochet) worked in a spiral around and around. Crochet doesn't get more relaxing than this! (To paraphrase the Masterchef judges) Even the pretty colour work effect is created using spike stitches which are just double crochet worked a few rows below - don't worry, its all explained in the pattern!

I think this Cowl in my mind will always have fond memories of the delicious meringue I was scoffing in the shoot and the lovely doggy friend I made!

I was particularly pleased with this pattern on a technical level though because I worked out how to do the crochet equivalent of Kitchener stitch ( a sewn reproduction of the stitch to make an invisible join) in order to graft the cowl closed. You can try out my instructions in the pattern (or just sew a seam if you prefer.)

And should you wish to make the cowl here are all the technical information you might need before you start:

Size
One size. 
Finished width: 15cm/6in
Length: 66cm/26in

Materials
1 50g skein Socks Yeah in Danburite (105) - Col A
1 50g skein Socks Yeah in Chryso (108) - Col B
1 50g skein Socks Yeah in Iolite (109) - Col C
4mm (US G) hook

Tension
28 sts and 28 rows in double crochet to 10 cm/4 in using 4mm hook (or size needed to achieve tension) 
Note: while this item doesn’t need to fit anywhere, not working to specified tension may make the fabric different to the picture and yarn quantities will vary.

Difficulty Rating
Beginner

Skills Needed
Basic crochet stitches, working in continuous rounds, spike stitches (explained).

Construction
Worked in rounds in a continuous spiral without turning or turning chains. Ends are then sewn or grafted together to form cowl.

Rachel Coopey of Coop Knits tells me that as soon as the cowl pattern details were put up on Ravelry she started getting orders for the three colours together!

With that in mind she has very kindly given us three skeins of beautiful Socks Yeah yarn to give away! They come in the Malvern Colours but you could always use them to make a Bromsgrove hat or add an extra colour to the Tenbury hat and mitts or make a stripey version of Worcester or Evesham.

Want to get your hands on the yarn? Its easy. Just go take a look at the patterns in the book and comment below to let us know which you'd make first and why.

The competition is open worldwide and we will pick a winner at noon GMT on Wednesday 9th March 2016. Make sure you leave your Ravelry name or email address so we can get in touch with you!