How To Avoid Cramping and Fatigue from Crocheting

I’ve been crocheting for quite a long time, my best estimate is around 20 years. I’m 24 at the time of writing this, and I know I learned to crochet before I started school, so somewhere in the 20 years range.

During that time, I have made quite a few projects, spanning from plain squares to practice stitches, simple scarves, full afghans, amigurumi, to even monsters like the Sophie’s Universe afghan (which I really need to dig out and finish like the 15000 other projects I have started ha… ha…).

This has helped me to understand how to most efficiently, and painlessly, crochet anything my little hooking hands desire.

When I started making amigurumi 9 or 10 years ago, I really had to learn how to keep my hands from cramping. Hours on hours of tight single crochet was tiring. Which was part of the reason I moved away from that style. The other part was that I don’t like sewing the pieces together. I did appreciate that there were no ends to weave in, however, I just took the back end of the hook and poked them back inside the piece!

What would hurt the most after a crochet marathon was my right (dominant) wrist, and my right elbow. And my left hand would start to cramp a little. It would gradually slow me down to the point I had to stop for the day or at least give myself a break. If I crocheted too close to bed time, I’d wake up with swollen hands, which doesn’t happen to me on a normal day.

I’m of course not saying this advice will 100% fix your problems with cramping and fatigue, I’m just putting this out there to help you start to make changes to the way you crochet and the rest will fall into place. Some people will naturally be more or less tense than others, so you may just be doomed. I don’t make the rules.

But, here are some things that I’ve learned along the way that have helped me to crochet for hours on end with minimal discomfort, if any.

I have also made a video about this, showing you exactly how I hold the hook and yarn, I just have a little more explanation here.

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The number one thing that has made the most difference for me is how I hold the hook. Before, I would hold it like a pencil, and that’s the way my grandma showed me, and how she crochets to this day. She has arthritis and I have no idea how she does it, because I do not have arthritis and it kills my wrist!

I honestly don’t know where I picked up my new method, I think I just kinda figured it out. At the time I didn’t know there was an online crochet community so I suppose I just figured it out on my own. Yay me!

Now, I hold the hook more-or-less in my closed fist with my thumb sticking out, like a toddler holds a spoon. (I meant to say that in the video, but I said “how you hold a spoon/fork” and I definitely do not hold my utensils like that haha). Then really the only motion my hand is making is reaching for the yarn and slightly rotating the hook to catch it. Minimal stress on my wrist and elbow, not to mention I have a looser grip on the hook itself.

If you’re holding it like a pencil, you are moving your wrist and elbow, maybe even your whole arm, quite drastically. Or if not, your other hand is moving a lot to compensate for it. (Demonstrated in the video).

Now about the other hand. I have what some people think is a funny way of holding the working yarn, but it works perfectly for me. It’s really difficult to explain, so watch the video and practice. But basically, I have the yarn coming from my left side (or right if you’re a lefty), hold onto the end with your dominant hand, take your pinky of the non dominant hand and grab the yarn, use your pinky to wrap the yarn around, twisting it towards you, making a loop around your pinky, then rotate your hand so your palm is facing down, slide your index finger under the yarn, and hold your index finger up, and you’ll be working from the part that’s hanging off your index finger. Your middle and thumb will be holding the piece as you go. Like I said, sounds complex but is easy.

This method will help you keep a better and consistent tension, as the yarn isn’t just dangling there, it’s being pulled slightly taut. Everyone I’ve seen or have helped with tension or figuring out why their piece is all wonky, they all hold their working yarn in such a way that doesn’t help them keep consistent tension. I’m always surprised when the big-name crocheters on YouTube or Instagram don’t use either of these methods, but like I said, everyone is different.

Then as you’re crocheting and you’re drawing up loops, it’ll pull your index finger down a little. Just pull it back up as you stitch and it’ll draw yarn from the skein naturally. Pretty cool, right?

If you’re doing this method, remember to keep both hands fairly relaxed. This will help both ensure that you’re not going to cramp up, and that you won’t get yarn burn on your finger from your tension being too tight.

Another thing to remember also, is just like a desk job or anything where you’re sitting for a long period of time, pay attention to your posture. If you’re slumped over, your back and neck will start to hurt. I often find myself tensing up and my shoulders will go up and up, and I have to remember to relax. And if you’re a young’un like me, you definitely don’t want to start out the wrong way. Up until recently, I’d always sit with one foot under my bum, but stopped real quick when it was straining my knees and lower back and was making my legs stiff. Hi yes I’d like one senior citizens discount, please.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you try these tips, or if you have any of your own! Comment here or shoot me a message on Instagram @crueltyfreestitchery !