Designer, author, and teacher Ann McCauley brings a lifetime of artistic influences to her knitting. Her interest in knitting escalated when she toured Europe as a professional dancer and observed people knitting everywhere she went. Her book, Together or Separate: Knitting the New Twinset, is partly inspired by her travels and partly inspired by the Hollywood glamour of the 1940s, which made the classic twinset a star.
But Ann will tell you there’s more to knitting than design alone. Enjoying the process is as important as enjoying the finished piece. Through her years as a dancer, Ann learned how the body can tire, tense, and tighten up—and what can be done to help release it all.
From knitting shoulder pain to weary wrists and strained eyes, many knitters experience discomfort that can lead to less knitting. So the next time you feel yourself getting tired, fidgety, agitated, or downright frustrated while knitting, set your needles down and try some of Ann’s tips below. Her techniques take just a few moments, and your body—and your knitting!—will thank you. (Ann’s tips are great for crocheters, too.)
Thanks for sharing your ergonomic knitting tips with us, Ann!
For many of us, knitting encourages musing. It creates the opportunity to ruminate, reflect, intently consider, ponder, contemplate, or simply explore a source of inspiration. Below you’ll find some suggestions about physical awareness for knitters, and hopefully, thought provoking concepts about our beloved and shared art of knitting.
We use our eyes a lot when we knit—especially when we are just learning, working a more complex pattern, or knitting with black or dark-colored yarns. Granted, there are knitters whose level of expertise allows them to do so without requiring more than an occasional glance at their work. If your eyes feel strained, fatigued, or overworked, briskly rub the palms of your hands together until you feel that the friction is generating heat. Follow this by gently shaking your hands as if you were shaking off drops of water. Then, using a cupped hand position, bring your palms to rest over your eyes. Allow the entire area around the eyes to soften as your palms rest over your eyes. Allow the energy of your hands to renew the eye area. When you remove your hands from your eyes, explore the possibility of allowing a softer focus.
Here is my favorite wrist stretch. With the palm of one hand facing you, place the palm of the opposite hand against the back of that hand. Place the bottom-hand thumb against the little-finger edge of the top hand. Lace the bottom-hand index finger between the index finger and the thumb of the top hand. Wrap the other three fingers around the base of the top-hand thumb. Keeping the top wrist and hand in line with the lower arm, use the bottom hand to gently rotate the top hand outward so that the little finger of the top hand moves to face you, and the thumb of the top hand faces away from you.
Doesn’t this seem like an odd subject for knitters? Read on; tennis balls are a great tool for self-care. Sitting in your favorite knitting spot, it’s easy to place a tennis ball under each foot and gently roll the soles of the feet. Your feet will thank you! Tennis balls can also be utilized on the back by placing them between your back and the wall and then using the weight of your body to simply lean into them. Avoid placing them directly on the bones, vertebrae, or kidneys. Best results will come from placing them on either side of the spine, in the softer tissue, particularly between the shoulder blades and the spine. You control the amount of pressure by how much weight you use to lean into them. Bending and straightening the knees to roll the tennis balls vertically is helpful, as is just a small movement of your back from side to side to roll the tennis balls horizontally.
I don’t feel I can encourage you enough to spend some time on the floor. When we are on the floor, our bodies naturally lengthen out or start to stretch. I rarely, if ever, observe this happening from a seated position. Lying on the floor with both knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor—with your feet (all ten toes directed forward), ankles, knees, and the interior of your hip sockets aligned—is especially beneficial to the spine. Try tilting the pelvis, rolling up and down the spine one vertebra at a time, rolling from side to side, or hugging one knee at a time or both knees to the chest. These simple movements have a profound effect on the spine.
Lie on the floor. Extend your arms and legs into an X position. Reach as far as you can to extend your X and make your body as long as possible. You can imagine that some kind and gentle person is pulling each finger and toe for you as you stretch. Extend, elongate, and open up space in your body.
Be sure to take a look at Ann’s gorgeous designs from Together or Separate at the bottom of this post. Ann’s design aesthetic draws on solid colors, smooth fibers, and heavy textures that combine both classic and contemporary elements. You’ll find both traditional shell-and-cardigan combinations and unusual twinset twists, such as knit cardigans with coordinating socks.