Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday

Crocheting with a Disability

  Many things might stop you from crocheting in your lifetime. Have you ever experienced a total lack of time? With changes in scheduling and life, you'll (hopefully) be able to make time someday. Quick, easily portable projects are a great way to get some craft time during short breaks.

  Low budget? Make plarn or fabric scrap yarn, they're the lowest cost materials you could ask for. Recycling is rewarding, too. Perhaps you can use your creativity to supplement your income in the process.

  Maybe you put your hook down because of a loss of inspiration. Sometimes the desire to create overrides the need for a project. If it ever happens to you, consider creating for charity. Search out an organization like Halos of Hope,  Project Linus,  The Pink Slipper Project, or  the Snuggles Project, which all offer free patterns for knitting, sewing and crochet.

  All of these problems can put a temporary stop to leisure activity, but what do you do if an injury or disability is holding you back from your favorite hobby? This seems like the hardest hurdle to overcome. Having rheumatoid arthritis, I struggle every day with my work, and fear the day I won't be able to pick up my hook and yarn. Ice, rest, and knowing when not to overdo it help me accomplish my tasks, but I still compete with stiffness, swelling, and pain. It's complicated to keep even tension or pick up small objects, and I often drop my hook.

  There are quite a few tricks I've personally learned to help me through a project. For example, I've learned to sit in an area where I can easily pick up my hook when I drop it. Instinct makes me want to sit in a nice comfy recliner, but it's no fun digging my hook out from inside or under the chair when it falls. As a result, I began working at a table, where I can also prop my hands on an ice pack while I work. This helps me avoid the swelling which will inevitably occur when I get buried in a project. To battle tension issues, I will eventually purchase a tension tool (a ring device under $10 with an adjustable tension spring), but for now I've learned different ways to hold my yarn, depending on how I'm working that day. And using hooks with large handles, or wrapping small ones with clay to better fit my hand is a lifesaver for me.

Important points to remember to avoid causing injury:

  • Rest when you need to. Stress is a major cause of injury.
  • While you're taking a break, do some stretching exercises. This can help maintain dexterity in your hands and wrists.
  • Use ergonomic tools to better fit your hands.
  • Pay attention to posture. Slumping, slouching, or leaning over your work, as well as holding your work up can cause injury to more than just your hands.

  There are many tools available to make crochet more comfortable for those with arthritis and other afflictions, such as ergonomic hooks, hook cushions, wrist braces, stress relief gloves and other aids. A quick internet search can inform you of exercises which can be helpful, but talking with your doctor to find the best options for you is a good idea.

  Recently, my thoughts started wandering in a different direction after meeting an amputee. Knowing I require the use of both hands for some things, I watched him complete the same tasks with only one hand. It made me think: Could I crochet if I lost the use of a hand? What other kinds of daily tasks would become difficult? Simply getting dressed in the morning would suddenly become a battle with armholes, zippers and buttons.

  Perhaps in a way, my wandering imagination made me appreciate having both of my hands, even with a disability. Among other tasks, I decided to try crocheting with one hand. Impossible! I couldn't complete a single stitch. Short of using my feet, I couldn't figure out a way to hold the yarn and the hook with one hand. This problem led me to an internet search for crochet tools.

  I found a few different tools useful to knitters and crocheters. A knitting loom is the best solution for knitters, and readily available at most craft retailers. For crochet, two helpful tools are the Clamp-It (under $40) and a holder by Maddak useful for both crochet and embroidery. For help with either hobby, I found this useful article about knitting and crocheting with one hand. Through these resources, I've learned how the technique changes when working with a crochet aid. The usual concept is to move your hook, but with one-handed crochet, a tool holds your hook while you move your work around it. These are great resources and can be useful to stroke victims, amputees, and people with general injuries or disabilities.

  If you have an injury, crochet could be a healing or a hurting hobby, depending on the type of affliction you have. Crochet is already being used to help some sufferers of strokes re-learn coordination and use of their hands. But crochet could cause more injury to someone with an ailment such as carpal tunnel syndrome, where repetitive motion can be damaging. A discussion with your doctor or physical therapist would quickly determine whether or not you should pick up a hook.

  Even if you're not personally affected, have you ever thought what it would be like to live daily life with a handicap? I challenge you to try your favorite hobby with one hand. It may leave you wondering what you could do to help others overcome their impairments.

  Do you or someone you know knit or crochet with a disability? What do you struggle to overcome, and what are some ways you know to help others with this problem? Are there other tools available to assist with crochet?

  The most important thing to remember is: Know you limits! Stop when you need to, don't take on projects that are too difficult for your abilities, but don't get discouraged, either. There is help for many disabilities, whether it be tools or tips. And if all else fails, you can always put your knowledge to good use with helping others learn your skill. Seeing a beginners "ah-ha" moment or the successful completion of somebody's first big project is a great mood booster even when you can't use your own skill. In my opinion, finishing a project of my own isn't always as rewarding as watching someone else gain confidence and skill with the information I have given them.

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