Cubic needles – easier for arthritic hands?

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Here are my cubic needles in my Autumn Leaves stole. If you look closely you can see that they are square!

A little while ago my friend Maya mentioned that she’d heard  really good things about cubic needles being useful for knitters with arthritis in their hands. I’m always on the hunt for anything that will help me to be able to knit more and for longer so I was super keen to give them a go. Apparently the shape is more ergonomic and according to the makers reduces “hand fatigue”.

As my birthday was coming up I decided to see if any of my family members might treat me to a set of cubic needles. I guess I could have tried out a fixed needle first to see how I go on  but I’ve been wanting an interchangeable set for quite a few years now and it seemed like a good opportunity.  Luckily my Mum and Dad were happy to help me out.

I got the interchangeable Knit Pro Symfonie Rose set from Knit with attitude. They are a lovely dark wood and the packing is lovely. It all fits neatly into one little case with all of the needles and cables tucked away – a far cry from my tangle of individual circular needles! I sometimes feel like my knitting and knitting paraphernalia takes over much of the front room so it’s nice to have at least one thing that packs away nicely!

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It’s not quite as yellow as this in real life

I’ve started using them on my Autumn Leaves Stole. I’ve been a bit naughty and switched over needles part way through the project. It might give me some gauge based issues later on but I didn’t care as I was really excited to use them.

It was a bit weird knitting with square needles to start with. It took a few rows to get into the rhythm (and get used to the risk of being jabbed by a corner). Now that I’m used to them I’m really enjoying working with them. The wood is lovely to the use and the stole is looking great. Wood is so much nicer than metal!

It’s hard to tell at this early stage if they are helping my hands or not. I’m inclined to feel that they are but that could be wishful thinking on my part! I’ve certainly been able to have several evenings in a row knitting with them and not gone to bed with painful joints so it’s looking very promising!

My only problem with them is the sizes; for some reason they only start at a 4mm. Given that the needles I use most often are 2.75mm and 3.25mm that is a bit annoying. The 2.75mm in particular causes me problems with my hands so I would have been super keen to see if a cubic version would have helped. I tried to order them but they don’t actually make them….. I guess that I am fairly unusual in having a preference for 4ply over DK and aran and they just don’t have the demand for the smaller needles so they don’t make them. My problem with the heavier weigh wools is that they are much bulkier and less flattering plus they tend to lack drape. I really want to use my new needles though so I will be searching out decent DK and aran patterns to find something I actually like!

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I’ve learned to crochet!

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I’d been meaning to learn to crochet for quite a while but hadn’t quite got around to it.  I thought it might be good for my arthritis to have an alternative to knitting and also I really love the look of granny square blankets.

During a quiet afternoon at Knit with attitude I persuaded Jess to teach me how to crochet a granny square. It turns out she’s a very good teacher and I picked it up much more quickly than I thought I would. I’ve tried before and got a but confused so I think it was helpful to have someone there to demonstrate (I have a feeling I’m more of a kinetic learner).

I’ve really got into making  crochet squares and I’ve done quite few so far. I got some good tips from Bunny Mummy’s blog .

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I’m really enjoying it, it’s almost as addictive as knitting! I’m still working on getting my squares perfect, at the moment they’re not all coming out exactly the same size and there are some  messy bits, but I’m getting there!

I’m not sure how useful it will be for my arthritis. I have a theory that a change in hand movement would be helpful (so that I’m not just completing a repetitive knitting movement all the time).  It feels very hard on the joint at the base of my thumb and it’s hard to tell if it’s better or worse than knitting for my hands overall.  I’m sure that ideally I’d stop knitting or crocheting when my hands hurt. But, in reality, I get so frustrated when I have to just sit there without anything to do  that I end up focusing on how much pain I’m in which makes it worse.  I guess that there’s no ‘right’ thing to do. I do very find it very annoying that as autumn rolls around and I really want to get knitting the change in temperature (and rain!) really sets off my arthritis. I’m currently day-dreaming about moving somewhere warmer where it doesn’t rain…maybe the Caribbean….I wouldn’t actually be able to wear my knitwear…… but it would be like a miracle cure…..plus  think of all the yoga I could do *stares dreamily into space*…….

My totally non-scientific arthritis product testing

My boyfriend writes a running blog (if you like running and marathons and things you should check it out) and sometimes image001people send him products so that he can try them and review them (sadly no-one ever sends me awesome wool and free patterns to review…). The nice people from Regenovex got in touch with him to see if he wanted to try out their joint products. He put in a good word for me and they sent me some stuff too!

I love free stuff so I was very excited. They sent me some capsules, some gel and some patches. I was most interested in the capsules as I’ve been meaning to try them out  to see if they could help with my arthritis for a little while. Anecdotally I’ve heard good things about this sort of product but as they are quite pricey I’ve never been sure enough that they will make a difference to fork out the £20.

I’ve been reading around for a while about the natural products that can help with arthritis and green lipped mussels have come up quite a few times. This product is ‘derived from’ green lipped mussels which I’m assuming means a synthesised version?

I’ve been using the capsules for a couple of months now and I’m really liking them. Because I am lazy I haven’t actually got around to making any before or after notes or comparisons (I think you’re supposed to note down inflammation, discomfort, pain and swelling before and afterwards and see how it compares to get a more accurate idea of how much something is helping) however it feels like it has made a difference.

This winter has been cold with three lots of snow. Over the past few winters snow and cold weather have wreaked havoc with my knees and my hips and forced me to sit on the sofa (looking grumpy), trying to keep warm and moaning about not being able to walk far enough to leave the house (I’m not a very good patient!). I’ve missed days at work (I am freelance so that’s really annoying for me) and had to stay in and generally miss out on fun. In comparison I  got through this last spell of bad weather much more easily; my old lady joints have still slowed me down a bit but I’ve been able to keep moving and haven’t needed any time off work or cancelled any social plans because of it. I was so pleased that I bought myself some capsules when the free ones ran out!

image002I wasn’t quite so sure about the gel. I tried it a couple of times but I just wasn’t able to get on with it. Firstly it has a fishy smell which I found a bit off putting and secondly it has a cooling effect. I know that some people really like cooling gels but when my arthritis hurts I want to be warm!  I currently use a Neal’s yard warming salve with ginger and cayenne on my hands (normally when I’ve done too much knitting!) which I love (although I am told smells a bit like Vicks!) I find the warmth soothes as well as easing the pain. I found that a cooling gel just didn’t have the same comforting effect. I wonder if that kind of product is better suited to post exercise use? I’m going to keep a hold of it though and try it out in the summer. I might get on better with it then.

I’ve rather enjoyed my product testing! I think my joints have benefitted too. Now I’m trying to work out how I can persuade people to send me free wool and needles to test…….

Is it a jumper or is it a dress….

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As you can tell it’s snowing in London today!

If you’ve read my blog before you might have have noticed that there tends to me a certain theme with my hand knits: they always turn out bigger than they should do. You would think that I would have taken on board my incredibly loose tension and started to make gauge swatches and changing my wool and needle size accordingly like a good knitter should…… But no,  a combination of laziness and excitement to start means that never ever happens. Instead, what I do is go down a needle size or so (depending on the needles I can find lingering around the front room that haven’t yet been chewed up by our bunny) then have a guess and sort of see how it turns out.  Because I have arthritis in my hands I try to keep the weave pretty open anyway as tight knitting is much tougher on my hands (and leads to have to stop knitting for a few days which is no fun at all). This slap-dash approach, combined with the fact that I’m pretty short, can sometimes yield questionable results and enormous clothing…..

Luckily for me I tend to go for baggy stuff and so it doesn’t cause too much of a problem but every now and again things come out too big even for me…….This jumper is a case in point. It is enormous! It’s almost more of a dress that a jumper and given the width it could certainly double as maternity wear…..

I decided to make it on a bit of a whim. I was waiting for a wool delivery before I could start my Beatnik and I had a couple of balls of Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca left over from my awesome Boxy jumper. I had various other bits of Drops in other colours for the neckband and the sleeves and I was impatient to be knitting something (I really don’t like not having anything to knit). I thought the simplicity would be a good antidote to the cables in Beatnik.

I encountered my first problem while I was trying to buy the pattern. For a start it was $7.00 (I thought it would be too depressing to convert it to sterling)…. For that money you’d expect a pretty detail pattern which downloads straight away, right?  Wrong….. I had to wait a full 24 hours for the pattern to be available for download and then when I finally got it I was 2 pages. I one page of which was a picture! So, $7.00 for one page of pretty vague instructions! I am still a little annoyed about this as you can tell….

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Luckily the odds and ends of Drops I had lying around go together pretty well.

It’s a really easy jumper to make. You knit the yoke first from the bottom up on smaller needles and then pick up the stitches along the bottom. It’s a weird kind of raglan as you do all of the increases straight away at the top. That gives you the drapey pleats but also it gives you loads of stitches…… I imagine if you actually had the right gauge it would look pretty nice.

I’m not entirely sure if I like this top yet. As well as being massive there’s a pretty noticeable colour change where I switch dye lots about a quarter of the way down the top. Also I’m not really keen on the kind of empire line style and it feels like there’s too much fabric at the bottom. The neckline is also pretty wide…

On the plus side it’s really warm and I still love the colour (which is lucky as I now have two jumper in this shade). It’s also going to be awesome for days when I feel a bit tubby or intend to do a lot of eating. I’m really hoping it will grow on me!

Finding ways to keep on knitting despite having the hands of an old lady…

A few weeks again it dawned on me that I couldn’t carry on ignoring the pains I have been getting in the joints of my hands and I had to go to the doctor. I’ve had arthritis in various joints since I was 24 so it wasn’t a massive leap to suspect that was what was going on with my hands.

I’ve had the x-rays back now and I was right. I’m going to be totally honest. I was very upset. As well as loving knitting I also have a job that is computer based so I need my hands to work! I spent a little bit of time a)feeling sorry for myself and b)worrying about what was to come. (This wasn’t helped in any way by the doctor telling me that there’s nothing I can do to make it hurt less, other than take pain killers, and no way to stop it getting worse. She also started going on about trying to avoid ever going to hospital because of MRSA so I don’t think she was having a very good day). Now I am ready to get on with trying to make things a little better and working to keep my hands moving for as long as possible.

It’s hard to take a good picture of these but I promise they look alright on!

My first purchase has been a pair of compression gloves. I have been putting this off for a while as I had visions of beige coloured monstrosities but then I found this awesome grey pair on Amazon. They were fairly pricey for what they are however  the are by far the best ones I’ve seen. They were a little bit weird to wear at first but now I’ve got used to that I’ve been getting on very well with them and I think that they are helping. I’ve been wearing them out and about as well as around the house and I think they look okay. They are lending me a sort of 90s/Mitch from Being Human look which is no terrible thing. The only down side is the quality of the manufacturing. As you can see from the photo above there are various bits of thread coming off them and every time I cut off one piece of thread I find another one. When I’ve paid £19.99 for a pair of gloves (which I think is pretty expensive considering how small they are) I expect them not to start falling apart for a few months at least! They are also a little tiny bit too small on my fingers. I get quite a bit of pain from the joints at the top of my fingers and the gloves don’t quite cover them. They just need to be 1cm longer and they would be perfect.  Over all I am happy and I’d give them 4/5 .

I have also had a little try at taking Cider Vinegar and Black Molasses. Anecdotally I hear that it can work really well and I’m always willing to try things that are both cheap and come without side effects. I’ve really struggled though! It tastes absolutely vile, the kind of vile that makes  you shudder! It has also made me feel pretty sick. I’ve admitted defeat with this for a little while but I plan to have another go in a couple of weeks.

In the short-term I’ve also increased my visits to my awesome acupuncturist. As well as being very skilled at his job he’s really good fun so it is money well spent as far as I am concerned.

To help with my knitting I forced myself to have a whole week away from the needles. This was horrid, as you can image, and exercised my will power a great deal. To distract myself I made sure I did lots of bunny cuddling.

Coco looking very cute as always. This is in a brief spell of being good before getting on with her usual mischief….

I think the rest has done my hands a lot of good and I’m ready to start knitting again. This time though I’m trying to take it sensibly and only knitting for small amounts of time before having a break. I’m hoping to build up as I go along.

I’m also making sure that I have various different sizes of project on the go so that I can alternate between needles to give my hands some variety. This will be a little annoying as I prefer to work on one thing until I’ve finished but I guess I just have to go with it and see it if helps.

Knitting and Arthritis- things that might help

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about the problems I’ve been having with knitting now that my arthritis appears to have spread to my hands  (I know that it doesn’t actually ‘spread’ but you know what I mean). I got some lovely responses which have made me feel much better. Thanks a lot for those! Crafty people are lovely!

I’ve been doing a bit of research to see what I can do to help ease the pain a little and help me to keep my hands busy. Here’s what I’ve found out so far:

  • Using bamboo needles. This seems like a good plan and the next time I buy that’s what I’ll go for. They are prettier anyway and now I have an excuse to spend that extra bit of money. 🙂 On the downside they aren’t cheap so I can’t just replace my whole needle collection with bamboo (I have a lot of needles!). Also they don’t come in quarter sizes and I find that I do a lot of knitting on 2.75 and 3.25 as I have a funny tension and often need to go down a bit.
  • Using circular needles. I like this one as I already do use them! I think it’s about taking weight from you wrists and shoulders as the weight of the knitting sits in your lap while with straight needles the weight stays on the needles and is taken by your wrists.
  • Knitting holders. These look good in theory as you clamp the needles into the holder and it saves your hands from being in the same position all the time (all scrunched up which is probably a very bad position for achey hands to be in).  I’m not sure about it in practise though. Would they work with circular needles? What about when you need to wrap and turn or if you’re working in the round? Or if it’s a small bit of knitting, do you have to take it out and turn it around every row? What if it’s a huge project, surely it won’t fit? The jury is still out on this one.
  • Avoiding cables. This one made me sigh because I love cables. Apparently they are much harder on the hands. 😦
  • Use wool rather than acrylic. I don’t use acrylic anyway so I can already tick that box.
  • Learn different knitting style and alternate. This makes sense to me. As soon as my hands are feeling a bit better I’ll start trying to learn continental style. Then I can alternate between styles and reduce the repetitive movement (well alternate the repetitive movement anyway).
  • Soaking my hands. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before as I have lots of baths to help with my knees and my hips. I tried this yesterday and it really helped. Not enough to pick up my needles unfortunately but it offered some rest-bite and I was okay to type again.
  • Arthritis gloves. This sort of thing. I hope you don’t judge me here but I’m very reluctant to get some of these. They aren’t terribly, um, aesthetically pleasing. Also I’m 30…..somehow I feel to young to need that….although obviously I’m not….. I need to think about this a little bit more.
  • A private physiotherapist. This would be an awesome option. Sadly it’s a bit too pricey. Luckily the NHS people I already see for my knees are lovely and down the road. However I need to be re-refered by the doctor to see them about something else (I blame Cameron et al for stealing all the money from the NHS).
  • Go and see the doctor!  The final and most obvious approach. I have an appointment this afternoon. I don’t find doctors are very helpful with this sort of thing.I don’t really know why. Bad luck? Living in London where everyone is a tiny bit meaner? So far all I’ve achieved is negative tests for rheumatoid arthritis and then they go “hurrah, you don’t have that” and then suggest I take paracetamol (!) or send me to the ‘pain clinic’ (not as bad as it sounds but not much help.  They did give me a tens machine but I don’t find it works for me. I have no idea how people use those things to get through labour.) I am hoping for better luck this time.

On the plus side I was look at the Arthritis Research website and they have an article which says that there is no evidence that knitting makes arthritis in the hands worse- yay!

If anyone has tried any of the above- let me know if it helped!

Knitting and arthritis

I started knitting about six years ago. I began to have problems with the joints in my knees and my hips. Out of nowhere the joints started to swell and it was so painful I could barely walk. Initially I thought that it would pass. I waited and took the pain killers and hoped for it to go away. But it didn’t. It just got worse and worse, it hurt so much I couldn’t get to work  as I couldn’t make it to the train station and even if I could the pain was so great I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate.  Beforehand I loved to walk; I walked everywhere. But I was totally stuck in the flat. Suddenly I’d gone from active to a sad little heap on the sofa,  veering between terrified of what was happening to me and bored out of my mind.

So, I started knitting. Yes, I was still stuck at home, it still hurt and I still had no idea what was happening, but I finally had something to do! Something fun to keep my brain distracted and my fidgety little hands busy.  I was totally addicted and thrilled to have found something so awesome to take from a fairly grim experience.

Eventually I started to realise that this wasn’t a temporary thing and I wasn’t going to get better.  I found ways to make it manageable and to ease the pain. I found an amazing acupuncturist, started yoga, learned to relax  and nourish myself with better food. I went back to work and got on with my life.

Over the years the pain has come and gone in flare ups. Mostly I’m fine and I can get about, do the things I want to and thoroughly enjoy my life. I eventually got a diagnosis of arthritis and started physio which is an amazing help (even if the exercises are an epic kind of dull). But every few months it sneaks back when the weather is bad, if I’m too stressed, if I’ve been doing too much or as a random suprise. When it happens it’s rubbish and  I’m pretty much stuck at home unable to walk as far as the tube unless I absolutely have to do something in which case I have to stuff myself with painkillers . That’s where my knitting comes in. I may not be able to get about but I can knit! I can curl up on the sofa with my knitting, a cup of tea and some trashy telly or a podcast and have a lovely time.

Every now and again I find that the joints in my hands hurt. For quite a long time  I have adopted a ‘la la I’m not listening’ approach. I’ve just ignored it, carried on knitting, and hoped that it would go away. But sadly over the past few months it’s becoming apparent that it’s not going away it’s getting much worse. It’s more than likely to be the same problem and I’m going to have to start taking it seriously. It’s got so bad that it hurts to much to  knit a lot of the time.  It’s fair to say that I’m gutted.  However I’m trying to look on the bright side. I’ll have to get myself back to the doctor for the exceptionally long and annoying process of getting a diagnosis (apparently you can’t possibly have arthritis below 40……) and then I need to work out what I am going to do to keep myself busy when my hands aren’t up to much.

Here’s the plan:

  • Research knitting for arthritis. Maybe there are special knitting needles? Maybe some wool is better than others?
  • Crochet? Maybe that’s easier on the hands?
  • A knitting machine? I like this idea. My friend is getting one soon and I thought I’d have a little play with hers and see if I like it and if so try and find me one of my own.

Hopefully I’ll have finished feeling sorry for myself very soon and I’ll be able to put the plan in action.