Chronic Pain and Crafting, Part 2: Fibers and yarns

Let’s talk about fibers. Wool is know for being squishy and bouncy with natural elasticity that makes it perfect for both knitting and crochet. However, it’s not perfect for every person or every situation. Wool or wool superwash blends frequently retain that elasticity while reducing allergies from lanolin (in the case of superwash), adding loft, or a dozen other characteristics depending on the project. Don’t forget that making items easier to care for can also reduce pain, fatigue, and stress in the long long. Synthetic or synthetic blend yarns often have a similar loft and elasticity to wool, while being easier to care for. There are trade offs, of course, and only you can decide if you are willing to accept them. 

Plant fibers like cotton and linen are inelastic and can put more strain on wrists and hands. If you need or want to use these fibers, look for blends that are at least 50% something else. They are often blended with a synthetic or bamboo to add sheen and elasticity. See my series on Non-Wool Fibers for a list of some of my favorite wool-free yarns and how they behave in action. 

How a yarn is spun can also influence how it handles and therefore, how elastic it is or how much strain it puts on your hands. Mercerized cotton, for example, is going to be tighter spun and harder and stiffer to the touch than dish cotton or cotton yarns designed for apparel or blended with other fibers. Look for smooth, lofty fibers that aren’t highly compressed. 

If you are someone who works mostly with lace or fingering weight yarn and finds yourself in pain, considering going up a needle or yarn size to take some of the strain off. By contrast, I tend to find working with larger yarns, such as bulky and super bulky, more painful because I’m not used to them. Keep a variety of projects on the go using different sized yarn and needles to allow for a good balance.

Like what you see? Check out Part I in this series.