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The Adventures of two Fibre Artists.



Contributing Artists

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Creating through the Pain

Some of us, unfortunately, find that creating art can be quite painful. I am one of those who do. I suffer with arthritis and fibromyalgia and I wake up with my hands, among other parts of my body, so stiff and painful that on occasion my husband will gently massage them untill I am able to open and close a fist on my own. The act of picking up a coffee mug can cause the pain in my wrists to shoot all the way up my arm. These complaints can make many fibre activities miserable, especially knitting. If it were not for the enjoyment and relaxation fibre art affords me I am not sure if I could continue.

There are a few things I have found to be helpful in reducing the pain. The first, of course, in the case of knitting, is choosing the correct needles. Warm natural materials like wood, casein and not so natural, plastic, are easier to hold in painful hands. I love my Britanny needles but recently I found the joys of Balene and Bryspun. They, the latter two brands, are not only warm but light in weight and they have the tapered tips that make it easier to insert into a stitch, especially the tighter ones like 'k2tog " or "sl1, k2tog/p2tog, psso". There is another natural brand that has become popular among knitters with arthritic hands and that is the "Ivore" from New Zealand. Again they are warm, light weight and have tapered points.

Then there is, when choosing the right tool, the style, circular, flex or straight. Obviously the longer the needle the more awkward it can be as your work begins to progress and more weight begins to tax any hand or wrist. Imagine when making a shawl or sweater, as the rows accumulate there is more weight placed on the wrists and hands trying to support long singlepoint needles. Circular needles will allow the work to drape and even rest onto your lap so your wrists are supporting the whole project. The same goes for flex needles. The needle itself is small, about 6 inches or so then a plastic cord is attached, not unlike the circulars but instead of connecting the two needles there is a ball on the end of the cord that prevents your work from slipping off. You are still working with two needles but since most of the needle is flexible the work, once again, is allowed to wrest in your lap.

Another precaution you can take to help alleviate pain is frequent breaks to offer your hands rest. I am sure there are some exercises aimed, specifically at painful hands, but what I usually do is to gently contract and flex the fingers making a fist and massaging them, much like my husband does for me on those occasions that I can't seem to manage myself. Warm water is helpful. Just like hot baths will soothe aches and pains in the body the warm moist heat is also helpful in alleviating painful hands. When taking a bath is not feasable allowing warm water to run over your hands can be of some relief.



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