“Knitting Comfortably. The Ergonomics of Handknitting” by Carson Demers, my review!

Hi folks, after a hectic and very enjoyable festive holiday, it’s now time to reflect, plan and focus on 2019!
Last year I watched Andrea Doig (of Fruity Knitting Podcast) interviewing Carson Demers about his book in episode 31, and knew I had to get a copy for myself.

After trying the usual online yarn stores, and then the popular online book seller to no avail, I understood that this was going to be a challenge. I googled the book and struggled to find anyone selling it. I then emailed the author, Carson Demers, and he gave me details of how to purchase it and what price. It would cost me a fortune to buy and have posted to the UK so Facebook came to my assistance. One of my friends, a former colleague from my nursing days, was visiting friends in Toronto, and they agreed for me to have the book posted to their address. Thank you so much then to Jason Snape who carried the book back to the UK and then actually delivered it my home. The book is a large hardback and substantial to say the least. Anyone who knows Jason, will know that he has the stature for such a weight-bearing task – he is a big lad! Seriously though, I really appreciated his time and trouble in delivering the much-awaited book! His thank you token of book token and beers seemed to go down well!
I dipped into the book straight away and knew it was going to be invaluable. I liaised with Carson and explained that I was going to write about it in my blog and he was both courteous and encouraging.
“Knitting Comfortably” is wonderful. Carson works as a physiotherapist and knits himself, so understands the various movements both minor and motor manipulations, used in this craft. The layout and print in this book is wonderful. There are numerous photographs, diagrams and tables to explain what is being discussed. He clarifies that the book is not a medical or diagnostic tool, but aims to aid the understanding of how knitting impacts on our body. He explains the different styles of knitting and how posture has a major impact too. He talks about bearing the weight of projects as they grow and the importance of spreading this – circular needles are great for this! One section looks at project bags and how to carry to load close to your body and gives examples of comfortable bags that leave the hands free for knitting!
There are a number of assessments where you can identify if you are at risk of developing problems. These are thought provoking! One assessment looks at the actual projects you are knitting, are they all heavy, what type of yarn are you using, what stitch, what thickness of yarn, what size and type of needles, and how much time are you spending? To be honest, we don’t tend to consider all of these variables do we? I know I am always planning the next project, and looking forward to what yarn I will be using next (preferably from my stash). I suppose that part of being mindful would enable us to take a moment to complete his assessment, and consider the weight, and impact of the knitting activity on various muscle groups. We should consider our posture and circulation and move and stretch to avoid deterioration in our joints.
Carson advocates switching to different types and sizes of project to include using a variety of muscles. This was mind-blowing to me as I am a monogamous knitter, I have to finish the project before starting another one. The only time that this is not the case is when:-

1. I am knitting or crocheting for Christmas, and so can only work on a particular project when the recipient is not around;
2. When I am travelling to see my eldest son, partner and grand-daughter in Lincoln which is at least 90 minutes and so straight forward small project is required.
3. When someone has a baby – everything is dropped to knit the tiny and beautifully cute garment.
4. Last of all, the traumatic experience of being unable to continue because you have run out of yarn!!!

The idea of having a few different projects on the go at the same time is challenging and liberating. I will then plan to have:-

1. Current project is a chunky cardigan for my sister and is heavy and large.
2. I have just finished a Norwegian Woods jumper for myself, another heavy and large item.
3. I will be knitting elaborate and small aran jumpers soon in grey dk, for my grandson and expected baby brother in June.
4. I also have some gorgeous 4ply and will knit some tiny baby things in shades of grey, duck egg blue, pale blue and white.
5. I have just received “Bloomsbury” by Marie Wallin and so will be knitting a fairisle cardigan in Rowan Felted Tweed DK for myself.

So thanks Carson, I will be starting the tiny 4ply baby things for when I am travelling about, sitting for 20 minutes in the car as I collect Grandson from school and am always early, and when visiting friends and family, going on holiday etc.,

Do you have more than one project on the go at the same time?

Well apparently, it is a healthy thing to do! Providing they are all different in weight, size, thickness of yarn, stitches etc.,
I must admit I am a mindful knitter. I do take a moment to be aware of how I am feeling both physically and mentally. I am usually filled with joy as I am handling the yarn, and feel a sense of achievement and great satisfaction as the fabric grows. I also am aware that I can bunch my shoulders up and become a bit tense in my neck. I tend to bring my shoulders forward and so make a point of stretching and pushing them back and down as I work every now and then. (I have just done some stretches as I sit at the computer.)
Carson advises us to increase our physical activity when knitting, doing more stretches and incorporating them into your techniques, he gives examples:-
“…when knitting ribbing, assign a movement to perform with each knit stitch (lifting a heel, for example) and another movement to perform with each purl stitch (extending a knee, for example). These movements won’t interrupt your knitting, but they will break up the repetitiveness of sitting”.

Page 129.
Demers C (2016)
“Knitting Comfortably. The Ergonomics of Handknitting”.
Ergo Publishing. San Fransisco.

He goes on to explain that further movements such as standing and knitting a single colour row when doing colourwork, will also benefit the knitter!
This book is a delight. There is so much information about how to do various techniques in a safer method to avoid strain or discomfort. There are tables, colour diagrams, photographs and clear explanations on every aspect of posture and movement in knitting and other activities too, such as sitting at a computer. Other systems are including with consideration on your heart and circulation for example. This book is a keeper, and I shall adopt the suggestions to maintain my health.
I asked Carson if he could name the most common posture / activity mistake that people make when knitting. His response was very interesting…
“You ask a very interesting question! I think though, that the most common “activity mistake” made while knitting is inactivity! What I mean is that we’ve taken a system designed for creating textiles away from the original intention – that it can be done while mobile, unlike using a loom, and made it sedentary. That isn’t to say that we should sit and relax while knitting, but it does become problematic when one considers the amount of time we spend sitting for most of our work days in this age of technology. Adding movement back to our craft is easy to do and truly makes a difference in both the short and long term.”
Emailed on 5th June, 2018.

  So there you have it, pick up one of your more portable projects, stick it in a bag with a strap across your body, and go for a walk!

1 thought on ““Knitting Comfortably. The Ergonomics of Handknitting” by Carson Demers, my review!”

  1. Shirley Sherratt

    Phew Jan! That is all interesting. I now only knit lightweight items because anything heavier makes my neck and shoulders cease up. There is certainly a lot to consider here. Great post.

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