17 Mar 2010

My empty hands mock me

I’ve done it again. Gone and overworked a whole new set of muscles that are now plaguing me with tiny shoots of needling pain. Apropos, really, as I acquired this most recent set of hurties via needling.

The story is this: Tonia’s mum moved into an assisted living facility earlier this year. In the course of clearing her mum’s house, Tonia happened upon a small stash of craft projects, in varying stages of completion. One of them, a lovely partially embroidered linen tablecloth, she brought home for me to finish.

It’s a very old project, only about 25% done when it arrived, though now it’s closer to 40%. The linen has yellowed with age, and it’s been sitting so long I fear the creases from folding have become permanent. My embroidery skills were a bit rusty, still, I decided to take it on, grateful for something, anything, with which to fill my hands.

So this is the project with which I’ve been lately keeping my non-knitting hands busy during the dead zone of evening telly watching. It’s coming along beautifully, and my embroidery skills are growing, thanks in no small part to my battered copy of Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. (First Edition. A boot sale score. I paid 50p. Rejoice with me.) I’ve been using the table cloth as a sort of sampler, to practice new stitches on, and I suppose I’ve been a bit… well… “obsessive” is such a strong word. Let’s just say, “Carried away.”

Yesterday evening I noticed shooting pain at the base of my thumb. Not good. In the old days, before I got smart about pain, I’d have popped a pill and carried on. But I am learning. Oh yes, I am.

When I purchased the Frozen Shoulder Workbook, I also ordered it’s counterpart, the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, a more general guide to identifying trigger points in parts of the body other than shoulders. The current cause of my wrist pain, I read, happens to be a trigger point in my flexor carpi radialis, a muscle in my forearm. I read the cause of the pain aloud to Tonia.

The hand flexors are abused by excessive gripping, pulling and twisting actions with the hands.

General hilarity ensued, as there’s not much one can do but laugh, and of course that description pretty much sums up the motions of embroidery, right there. I am a hand flexor abuser, apparently.

I’m working on the new trigger point, as trigger point therapy is working in other areas of my body, and my shoulder is much better for it. I’ve put the embroidery away for a while. Really away; with the knitting, where I can’t see it, and won’t be tempted. And I’m in the market again for a something to do with my hands in the evening, besides sit on them.

Posted on March 17, in Blog


  1. Marion wrote:

    It’s awsome So sad its hurting you.. I tweeted a suggestion to you: how about spinning? 🙂 I hope you feel better soon and your hands find something to do again.

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  2. Carole wrote:

    The table cloth is gorgeous!
    I know how it feels to be unable to do anything with a hurting hand… I’m a bass player and I’m right now on a music playing diet due to a carpal tunnel syndrome. I do knit a bit, sew a bit, embroider a bit and cook a lot! Yes, I’m the one who bakes cookies until 1 AM. My kids actually love my illness 😉

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  3. Chiropractor?

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  4. Marie wrote:

    Oh Brenda! What a shame! It looks so beautiful too. About eight years ago I had severe RSI in my right hand and had to give up knitting. It was so traumatic.

    Thanks again for mentioning the return of KnitCast on your blog and hope that it’s not too long before you find something less painful to occupy your hands.

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  5. Valerie wrote:

    I am so sorry! I have given up doing more than a few minutes of most crafting for similar issues – though I often get numbness instead of pain. I started hand-sewing small bottlecap pincushions lately – example:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/upnorthcindy/sets/72157604138944514/ (ok – maybe not the heavily embroidered ones!)

    and these less intense ones:

    It’s not as intense as embroidery – so maybe it would work for you. Though I’m not sure what to do with all the pincushions…

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  6. Sharon wrote:

    Brenda, might I suggest trying a different treatment: http://www.bowen-technique.co.uk/therapist.php?tid=11&tidc=Carmarthenshire Bowen’s treatment has worked for me with a chronic shoulder pain and RSI in my right wrist.
    I have a friend who has had her shoulder replaced and only regained her mostly full movement after the replacement with this treatment.

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  7. Tabitha wrote:

    Jealous! On the book score, that is. Sorry to hear about your hands. I’m having the beginnings of carpal tunnel and EVERY stinking THING I do is going to aggravate it. My husband, the string player, has shared some stretching exercises, and I have braces. That coupled with the Ibuprofen has worked pretty well, but we’re not in gardening season yet here in Ohio. What’s a mother to do?

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  8. Donna Hrynkiw wrote:

    Suggestions for crafts that won’t hurt you (or at least wildly different from knitting so that they don’t use the same muscles):

    Watercolour painting (develop your colour sense, get outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine)

    Bobbin lace (not nearly as difficult as it looks, cool tools, even cooler product, amaze your friends, can be done in front of the TV)

    Tablet Weaving (band weaving, with a huge potential for non-repetitive patterning which means non-repetitive motion, but don’t do the backstrap thing — get yourself a loom)

    Good luck (from someone with RSI issues and has a very small inkling of what you’re going through)

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  9. I’m so sorry you’re having pain troubles. I have tendinitis in my wrists & a pinched nerve in my shoulder and have to rotate my crafts and really watch myself to keep it in check. I have to second the recommendation for spinning. Once you have the right wheel & chair I find it relaxes my muscles rather than tightens them. I often fall asleep spinning it’s so relaxing.

    Posted on 3.17.10 ·
  10. Sadia wrote:

    I’m also searching for something else to do with my hands while I recuperate from a pinched nerve and chronic shoulder/arm pain. Spindling is totally out for me as is knitting and farming. I’m actually thinking of learning a new language w a different writing system, and am going to take on Hindi for a trial.. 🙂

    Re the tablet weaving suggestion, you can make a simple loom for it using a 2 x 4 piece of wood and 3 C-clamps. Google up Linda Hendrickson and tablet weaving.

    I feel your pain, Brenda!

    Sadia, an old knitsib

    Posted on 3.18.10 ·
  11. Jessica wrote:

    Perhaps you could pick up a few new crafty hobbies and an egg timer and rotate through them each night so as not to become repetitive. Would take more will power than I’m capable of, but an option to keep you creating without pain.

    Posted on 3.18.10 ·
  12. Erin R. wrote:

    Lovely, lovely tablecloth. My gran had one like it stashed away in her crafts drawer. She started it as a wedding present for my oldest cousin, and rediscovered it a couple of years ago only 25% done. (My oldest cousin is firmly Not Married to the father of her four children – interesting hmmm?)

    I wish I was smarter about pain things and had something really insightful to say, but I’m not. I’m proud of you for respecting your body and not pushing through pain. Generally that’s just making everything worse.

    I KNOW your not knitting, but I very much miss your dulcet tones. Pretty Please, if I ask you very very nicely, will you please take another wild ramble about your home and tell us all about it? I really love your voyages out to talk to people. I KNOW it’s not a sit in front of the telly thing, but even 15 minutes of travels with Brenda would be wonderful.

    Posted on 3.18.10 ·
  13. Debra wrote:

    I’ve always found weaving easy to do for a while and then walk away from. You can get a rigid heddle loom fairly inexpensively.

    Posted on 3.18.10 ·
  14. The embroidery is lovely — and do hope you’ll enjoy it while you rest your hands from knitting. Have you also gone back to more watercolour? How about playing with collage? (I know, harder to do both of those in front of the telly) — or spinning…?

    Posted on 3.18.10 ·
  15. Annetta wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    I enjoy checking in with your blog, although I do sympathise with your struggles to be productive without causing yourself further harm. I, too, would be scampering about finding creative outlets for myself. The tablecloth, by the way, looks exuberant. Thank you for the beauty.

    As a fibre artist I second the calls for weaving projects that might be smallish-biggish enough to leave and return to easily (weaving is forgiving of loooooong breaks! Just ask the knotted pile carpet that’s been on the loom for, oh, about 2 years now…). Or, what about dyeing projects? You could alternate those with the spinning others have mentioned here and have a rotational system. Maybe not all of it will be for you – holiday and birthday gifts hand-dyed with caring paws, perhaps?

    At any rate, continue to be kind to yourself, and thank you for your honesty when you are sharing details of your recovery journey.

    I wish you and Tonia the best of weekends,


    Posted on 3.18.10 ·
  16. Kent wrote:

    How frustrating to have to sit on your hands at night 🙁

    Are you able to spin instead?

    I hope your hands / shoulder feel better soon 🙂


    Posted on 3.19.10 ·
  17. Mary wrote:

    Have you tried needle felting yet? Results can be kind of like embrodiery, but looks to me like that wouldn’t be as hurty…but I haven’t tried it either.
    Re the podcast production, what parts cause the most strain? If you really wanted to get one out, maybe you could send a few audio files to Sage or Dave to put together? Hmm, what would a collaboration there look like??

    Posted on 3.22.10 ·
  18. Kristi wrote:

    I am a big believer in diet as answer to many problems (speaking from person experience). So, Two things,…

    1. I read in a book that my grandmother gave me about Amish household tips, that if someone has Arthritis, Warm cabbage leaves and wrap them around the joint and wrap the leaves securly with a dressing and leave overnight. What it does is draw out the toxins from the joint which is apparently causing the pain. Both my father and grandfather have tried this and it works.

    2. I know a woman who has rid herself of Carpal tunnel syndrom though her “raw” food diet. Here is her site if you’d like to read about her http://www.rawpirategourmet.com/about/
    Personally, I’ve found for my health problems that when I follow a raw food diet, I feel amazing!!! But it makes sense to me if toxins in your system are the culprit then “cleansing” them will help.

    Let me know what you think. Hope it helps. Smiles ~ K

    Posted on 3.24.10 ·
  19. Hallie wrote:

    I just wanted to say thanks! I enjoy your postings and podcasts. However I never expected to find a solution to so many aches and pains on a knitting site! I got the triggerpoint work book a few days ago and my hands and shoulder have already improved a great deal. More surprizeing is the relief for some of the problems that have been atributed to my ashma!

    While I had found I could do some of everything each day, I had to keep each to a short stint to get thourgh the day. Merely in pain, but not in agony now, I have real hope of getting my life back and all due to you and Knitting! Who would have thunk it.
    Hallie in south east Florida

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  20. Thanks for the book links. I may need these!

    Posted on 4.3.10 ·
  21. Digitaldiina wrote:

    You know the wax thing you dip your hands in when getting a manicure? It does wonders to hurting hands

    Posted on 4.3.10 ·

Comments are closed.