6 Tips for Ergonomic Knitting – Knit Quickly, Comfortably, & Efficiently

by | Apr 30, 2020

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Do your hands hurt from knitting? These tips for Ergonomic Knitting can help! Learn why knitting hurts your hands, and what to do about knitting hand pain.

Unfortunately, knitting hand pain is a common occurrence for many a knitter.  As much as we love to knit, our hands often get tired of knitting, or worse, begin to feel stiff and achy.

I have had problems with knitting hand pain in the past as well, and these tips have helped me so much!  By implementing these methods and techniques, I can now knit for longer periods of time without the stiffness and fatigue I used to experience.

I hope you will find these tips super-helpful on your journey to more ergonomic knitting!  But first, let’s look at why knitting can cause hand pain, so we can better understand what to do about it.

Can knitting cause hand pain?

Yes!  Knitting uses a lot of small, repetitive motions to make the stitches.  Doing these motions over and over and over again can make the hands and wrists tired, stiff, and achy.  If you are heavily using your fingers and / or thumbs as you knit, the fingers and thumbs may hurt as well.  Since knitting involves more than just our hands, it can also cause or contribute to pain in the upper back, shoulders, or elbows.

Why do my hands hurt when I knit?

If your hands ache or tire from knitting, this can be the result of several issues.  For one, the small, repetitive motions can fatigue the hands and wrists.  In fact, too much repetitive motion can cause permanent damage, called repetitive strain injury.  (Carpal tunnel is one of many types of repetitive strain injury.)

If you damage or injure your hands and wrists too much, you may have to stop knitting altogether!  This is why it’s so important to minimize the amount of motion required to make our stitches, so we can avoid doing damage to our hands and wrists.

Hand pain can also be caused by other conditions in the hands and wrists.  Please Note: If you are having problems with hand or wrist injury, or if you have a painful condition in your hands, please consult your doctor. These tips in this article are not intended to treat or cure any injury or condition.

Tips for Ergonomic Knitting

Each time you sit down to knit, there are several important things you’ll want to take note of first.  These tips may seem simple, but they are an essential foundation for comfortable, ergonomic knitting.

Posture is critical

Good posture is critical for ergonomic knitting, so be sure that the chair you sit in while knitting is a comfortable one. You want to sit up straight or lean into the back of the chair comfortably, without slouching or bending your neck forward too far.

Your shoulders should be relaxed, with your elbows at your sides.

If your chair has arm rests, make sure they are not too high or too wide. If resting your arms on the arm rest causes you to have to raise your shoulders or move your elbows too far away from your sides, it’s better to not use the arm rests.

drawing of a woman sitting in a chair with arms at sides, drawing of a woman sitting in a chair with wide armrests

This is not a marathon

While it may be tempting to knit for several hours straight, that may not be good for your hands. I recommend knitting in a few smaller sessions throughout the day.  You’ll also want to warm up your hands before beginning, by gently stretching the hands and wrists.

If you must knit for several hours at once, don’t forget to take breaks! It’s important to give your hands a break now and then, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. Stretching your hands during breaks can also help relax your hands between knitting sessions.

Helpful Tools for Ergonomic Knitting

Ergonomic Seat Cushions

An ergonomic seat cushion can greatly improve the comfort of your knitting chair and help with your posture. There are lots of good options available on Amazon.

Compression Gloves

A good pair of compression gloves can help improve circulation and support your hands. I prefer the completely finger-less compression gloves for knitting, as I like to be able to feel the yarn running through my fingers.

However, I also have longer finger-less compression gloves that only have the fingertips cut off. Those may work better for you if you like more support.

I don’t wear my compression gloves on video, to make it easier to see my knitting motions on camera. But I assure you that I almost always wear them to knit when I am not recording a video. 😉

Knit on Circular Knitting Needles, Even When Working Back & Forth

With larger projects, the fabric can get heavy as it increases in length.  The weight of the project can add to the strain on your hands and wrists, pulling down as you’re knitting.  If you’re using straight knitting needles, the weight of your project is hanging from the shafts of the needles.  However, with circular knitting needles, the majority of the project is hanging from a flexible cable, which allows the project to rest in your lap without weighing your hands down.  These are my favorite circular knitting needles, and I use them for almost every knitting project.

Should I buy Ergonomic Knitting Needles?

Knitting needles that are square-shaped instead of round are sometimes claimed to be more ergonomic.  While it may be easier for some knitters to grasp a square needle, switching to square needles is not a cure-all for ergonomic knitting.  I would suggest implementing some of the tips in this article to improve your ergonomics as well.  If you’re looking for a good set of square knitting needles, I recommend these.

The Best Ergonomic Position for Knitting

When you hold your knitting needles, it’s important to make sure you don’t grasp them too tightly.  A tight grip tightens your hands as well, which can contribute to hand pain and fatigue.   You want to use a light, gentle grasp to hold your needles, and make your stitches with small, delicate motions.

How to Use Less Motion to Form Your Stitches

Because hand pain can be caused by repetitive strain injury, we want to minimize the motions we use to create our stitches. There are many different knitting styles out there, all using different types of motions and hand positions to make the same stitches.

Most all knitting styles can become quick with years of practice, but often use unnecessary, non-ergonomic motions.

Some styles make large, sweeping motions to wrap the yarn around the needle, while some use smaller motions to “pick” the yarn with the needle tip.

Other styles are only ideal in certain situations, like when you’re purling in the round or knitting on straight needles.

Some styles wrap the purl stitch backwards for efficiency, which requires the knitter to compensate for every backwards stitch by re-orienting each stitch so it won’t be twisted.

When my hands were getting stiff and tired from knitting, I found that much of that fatigue was caused by the motions I was using to make my stitches.  I didn’t want to damage my hands to the point of not being able to knit anymore.

I tried looking for other knitting methods that didn’t use large, sweeping motions or swiveling the wrist to make the stitches, but I never could seem to find a knitting style that was as ergonomic as I would like.

So instead, I created my own. 

Introducing: The Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method,

My step-by-step video course that will teach you how to knit quickly, with minimal hand and wrist motion, to make your knitting as comfortable and efficient as possible.

mockup of a video course, the ergonomic speed knitting method

Here are just a few things I teach in this course:

> The most natural, relaxed way to hold the needles and yarn,

> How to purl just as fast as you knit,

> The ideal types of motions you should be using to minimize hand strain while knitting,

> How to eliminate unnecessary motion for efficiency,

> How to knit and purl quickly without twisting the wrists, overworking the fingers, or dropping stitches,

> How to control your tension for consistent, even stitches,

> and much more!

All of the techniques are taught in video lessons, with clear audio, high-resolution video quality, and detailed, step-by-step instruction. The Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method includes 12 video lessons, with over 1 hour and 50 minutes of detailed video demonstrations. And if you need any help or have any questions, I am always a quick email away!

Click Here to learn more about The Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method.

Now that I’ve created my own, super-ergonomic knitting style, I can knit for much longer periods of time without my hands feeling stiff and tired.

If your hands are constantly getting tired and stiff after every knitting session, The Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method might be just what you need to make your knitting comfortable again.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful!  If you have any questions, or if you have a tip to share, let me know in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Sandy Thrift

    Hi, I’ve been knitting since I was 7, I’m now 75, and seem to have developed tennis elbow. I have started to knit for the local scbu, and was knitting at every spare moment, now this. Looking online, it seems I must rest my arm but I lov to knit, can you help?

    • Yay for Yarn

      Hi Sandy! From what I understand, I think tennis elbow is caused by repeatedly straightening and raising the hand and wrist. Is the tennis elbow in both arms, or just one? If the problem is only in one elbow, The Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method could help with that. The technique I teach in the course eliminates most of the hand and wrist motion, and only makes slight sliding motions with the whole forearm from the elbow. However, it can easily be adapted to keep one arm still and transfer all of those gentle motions with the other arm. If you are an English style knitter, and you “throw” or “flick” the yarn around the needle, that puts a lot of strain on the right wrist and forearm. If you’re a Continental knitter, and you twist the wrist or move the index finger to get the yarn around the needle, that can also put a lot of strain on the left wrist and forearm. The Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method is designed to minimize the motion required from all parts of the hand and wrist. By positioning the hands at an angle that makes it easiest to grab the yarn, the only motion required to make the stitches is a small sliding motion of the whole forearm, and as I previously mentioned, the gentle sliding motion can be completely transferred to the arm that does not have the tennis elbow until the problem has healed. The forearm that does not have the problem only has to move back and forth in a 2″-3″ range while the other arm can remain still. (This is assuming you’re not gripping the needles too tightly, as only a light, gentle grasp is needed to control the needle tips with this method. Gripping too tightly can cause strain on the hand and wrist, even if you’re not moving it.). I hope this helps! If you have any more questions, just let me know. 🙂

  2. Sofie

    I have had trouble with hand pain while knitting, so I signed up for the full “Ergonomic speed knitting method”. I was truly amazed by what a difference it made. My hand pain was reduced from day one of using your tips. I’m now almost done with a sweater I’ve been working on forever, because now I am finnaly finally able to knit frequently. And thanks to the section of your course on tension control, my knitting is also much more even! Thank you so much <3

    Best wishes,

    • Yay for Yarn

      Hi Sofie! I’m so sorry I’m just now seeing your comment. Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m so glad to hear that the Ergonomic Speed Knitting Method has been so helpful to you!


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