How to Knit With Arthritis; What To Do When It Hurts

I still have a blanket that my mom started knitting years ago. She never finished it and I didn’t have the heart to throw it away. She suffered terribly with rheumatoid arthritis and  I’m convinced it was the medications and their side effects that put her on the road to an early death. In her final months there wasn’t much she could do anymore; the once vibrant, always-on-the-go mom I knew was totally transformed.

With rheumatoid arthritis, cells become inflamed and release enzymes that destroy bone and cartilage. It’s very real and very painful for millions of people. Joints that are affected lose their shape and alignment. Elasticity becomes impossible. Even little things like opening a jar or picking up a pin is difficult if not impossible. Trying to walk correctly becomes a chore; knees and wrists turn in or out completely away from their correct appearances.

Aside from simple household tasks, hobbies also can become difficult to perform. Medications do help and taken correctly, in a fairly healthy body, they should bring some relief.

Our culture is very aware of healthy lifestyles. And that’s a good thing! We should be always on the lookout for remedies that are best for  us. There are so many ways we can help ourselves from eating better foods to exercise, to taking things in moderation.

So, how do you knit with arthritis??

Knitting can be difficult with stiff fingers – sometimes they seem to lock in place or wrists get very achy. If I knit for long periods sometimes my fingers will actually not straighten out initially on putting the knitting needles down. Very strange! My back and neck start aching and no matter which way I try sitting, the dull pain is still there.

Instead of putting our beloved hobbies to the side, let’s see if there are some remedies to help for knitting with arthritis.

First off, immerse your hands in warm water for about 5 minutes. Let your fingers just enjoy the warmth; this will bring relief before you even begin to knit.

Secondly, hold your knitting in your lap, if possible. Don’t keep those needles straight out in front or held too high as this will stiffen your fingers more quickly. By letting your knitting fall into your lap, you will be taking the heaviness away from your hands.

Thirdly, don’t use heavy, bulky, chunky, or cotton yarns as they are hard to knit with, anyway. When you have arthritis, these types of yarn can be almost impossible to work with. Cotton yarn is one of my favorites, but when knit on small needles can become VERY tight and hard to move along. A nice wool yarn or a soft acrylic is best.

Fourth, knit slowly. Take lots of breaks. This is good for all knitters. Get up, stretch, go for that second cup of tea! Find a GOOD chair which helps you to sit upright and correcstiff fingerstly.


Fifth, try knitting in the mornings and not as the last thing you do at night. Once you’ve been busy all day with other tasks, your hands are not going to want to cooperate later in the evening. Sometimes, neither will your eyes!

Sixth, use compression gloves or fingerless knitting gloves. These come in various sizes and are latex-free, and help to gently compress your hands which leads to a greater freedom of movement for you.

Seventh, hard straight needles can be difficult to use. Circular knitting are best because you can “knit in the round” back and forth comfortably. Also, try out wood or bamboo needles as these are light-weight.  (Denise interchangeable ktg needles (knit denise)

Eighth, keep several projects going at once, as if I have to tell you! This way on a good day, you can work on the more intricate of patterns; then switch to something easy and repetitive when your hands just will not cooperate.

I know these are not all the solutions to knitting with arthritis, but I hope some of them will help.

Take it easy, take it slow, but ALWAYS take your knitting to heart!




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