Posture + Portuguese Knitting

Last week we discussed the signs of RSI vs Carpal Tunnel in the average knitter. This week, we'll explore examples of posture while knitting that can help alleviate pain and fatigue as well as explore my NEW FAVORITE THING--- Portuguese Knitting! As always, if you are in pain, please seek the advice of a doctor before trying any of these techniques. 

There are so many contributing factors to poor posture while knitting or doing any craft with your hands, things that you may not even register or be aware of until it's too late! When it comes to my health, my scoliosis affects my day to day life as a knitter in a fairly drastic way. It has become so debilitating because I ignored the signs of RSI for SO long. Over a period of about six months, I had begun to adjust my posture to make my continental knitting even faster. I was knitting 5-8 hours a day, slumped over on my couch or at a desk chair, I would even knit in my bed, practically doubled over. 

 I know this looks so exaggerated, but even after an hour of knitting, I actually start doing this. The key is to be AWARE and monitor your posture. Notice how I am lowering/arching my neck and bringing my hands up.

I know this looks so exaggerated, but even after an hour of knitting, I actually start doing this. The key is to be AWARE and monitor your posture. Notice how I am lowering/arching my neck and bringing my hands up.

What I had begun to make my body do, is lean towards the left side. I would bring my right hand above my left, making my collarbone totally disjointed and the (already present) curve of my spine even more drastic than it was---btw these images are all mirrored. I started realizing that I always had my right leg crossed over my left and that my left hand had started to develop this sort of death grip on my needles. I was knitting VERY tense without being aware of it at all. I love continental knitting, but here's where I think Portuguese Knitting (PK) can be beneficial to everyone.

 The adopted posture for Portuguese Knitting (without pin).

The adopted posture for Portuguese Knitting (without pin).

In Portuguese Knitting, the yarn is either wrapped around the neck or around a pin that you pin to your chest. This keeps the yarn tensioned for you so you only have to use the thumb to flick yarn around the needle. This is not going to be a full tutorial on PK, I would highly suggest this tutorial video if you're ready to try it, or better yet, support a local yarn shop or community center and take a class on it like I did! Because your yarn is wrapped around the neck (see above) you're made to keep your hands at the same height, it also keeps you from lowering your neck, as you would lose the tautness of the yarn which is required to knit properly (you can't have any slack or the flick of the thumb won't let you create an actual stitch). 

So what exactly is the takeaway from this? For me, PK is a game changer. It forces me to keep my shoulders at the same height, alleviating the pressure and discomfort I feel in my neck, shoulder blades and collarbone from continental knitting. I wouldn't say I am going to CONSTANTLY use this technique, but I'm definitely going to switch between the two as much as I can. The most common things I hear from people when it comes to pain in knitting is due to incorrect posture. Here is my checklist for the ideal knitting posture:

  • Sit in a straight back chair---feel free to put a pillow under your bum or behind  your lower back
  • Have both feet flat on the floor---don't cross your legs! This automatically curves your spine and moves your shoulders
  • Be aware of where you are holding your needles---they should be naturally resting somewhere in your midsection (between the chest and lap)
  • Keep your eyes down if needed, but not your neck down---your neck should be in the same position if would be if you were talking to someone at eye level and looking directly at them. If you do need to move your chin, it should be tucked in, giving yourself a little double chin is what it's all about! 
  • Keep your shoulders at the same level---if you're throwing your yarn, make sure your shoulders are still always at the same level, this will help avoid strain on your neck and clavical

I hope you got something out of this little mini-lesson! Next week we will delve further into this topic and discuss good exercises for the knitter!

RSI, PostureRachel Barish