SheilaSchnauzies is a Miniature Schnauzer rescuer, writer, crochet designer, gardener, crafter, wife, mom & friend living in Omaha, NE.
How to Crochet, Knit, or Sew With Arthritis, Low Vision, and Other Disabilities
Are you considering giving up your favorite needlecraft—crocheting, knitting, embroidery, quilting—because of arthritis or vision problems? Don't pack away your yarn or sewing supplies before you read this!
I love to do crochet, embroidery, and hand quilting. My greatest passion is crocheting. I have medical conditions that have affected my ability to do these.
One is myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease—a form of muscular dystrophy which causes me to have double vision at certain distances and problems with focusing my eyes back and forth quickly (like from pattern to work and back). It also causes issues with my hand and finger dexterity.
Another is the retinal stroke I had in 2009, causing me to lose the lower half of the sight in my right eye. I'll share with you in this article a few of the eyesight aids I have found helpful.
Carpal tunnel is something I fought many years ago and whipped without surgery—lucky for me. Mine was from computer mousing. A doctor recommended I put a firm 2' wide band around my lower arm about 2" below the elbow to compress the median nerve. It worked for me. It would temporarily relieve the pain. Check with your doctor and see what s/he says.
My fourth condition—and I consider it the worst—is the degenerative CPPD arthritis I have that is trying to take over both hands. My knuckles will swell and get really red, painful and stiff, and my whole hand will cramp up—making it hard to crochet.
But will I quit? NEVER! In this article, I'll share some of what I've learned along the way.
In This Article
- Using Copper Gloves to Craft With Arthritis
- Recommended Crochet Hooks
- More Tips and Aids for Hand Disabilities
- Tips and Aids for Eye Disabilities
Using Copper Gloves to Crochet With Arthritis
I'd watched the ads on TV for some time about all the copper products out there that are supposed to reduce pain, increase mobility, and so on for people with pain issues like arthritis. I decided to pick up a pair of gloves to try since my hands hurt all the time from CPPD arthritis. I am now able to crochet for much longer periods of time at a setting by wearing these gloves!
This is hard to describe... but when I put the gloves on, my hands almost instantly feel like they "glow." It's a slight, pleasant sensation. The feeling comes from increased blood circulation!
If you have the proper size of gloves, they should provide some light compression. When I take off the gloves, I notice that my hands have better color and I can tell the circulation is improved. I've been wearing them practically non-stop since I got them because I have an almost immediate reduction in pain after putting them on!
For several years now I have been making copper wire and magnetic hematite rings to put on my fingers for arthritis. I already knew that copper helped me so these gloves weren't much of a leap to try. I have since recommended them to everybody I know!
Where to Buy Copper Gloves and How to Care for Them
The particular brand I use is called "Copper Hands" and they are available in retail at Walgreen's for around $12 a pair. I've also made them available for you to pick up right here from Amazon. I hope you will give them a try whether you buy them here or elsewhere.
I have two pairs—one at home and one in my purse for emergencies when I'm out. When they get dirty, I just wash my hands with soap while wearing them, give them a good rinse and hang up to air dry. (Another reason having a spare pair is a good idea.)
Try Combining Copper Gloves With Prescription Lidocaine Patches
In the photo above, I've combined the gloves with another helper: prescription lidocaine patches. If you have a lot of pain you might want to ask your pain physician about trying some. They provide a numbing pain relief effect. You can cut the patches into pieces of various shapes and sizes if needed.
I had steroid injections done on my left hand at the rheumatologist's office. I woke up at 3 a.m. with my hand in screaming pain—that's a normal side effect of the shots. Well, it was so bad I had to get really creative:
- First, I cut out my lidocaine patches to cover around each finger and both sides of my hand.
- Then it dawned on me that to keep them in place I could put my glove on over the patches. That worked like a champ! I figured maybe the increased circulation from the glove couldn't hurt, either.
- Finally I wrapped a gel ice bag around my hand and secured that in place. It was quite the get-up!
A few hours later the pain was down a couple of levels from a 10 to about a 7. We all know what a difference a couple of pain levels down can make—it's the difference between coping, and not.
Although my left hand was extremely stiff wrapped in the patches and glove, I thought I'd give crocheting on my current doily a try. And in the process I learned something new! You have to put quite a bit of tension on the third finger of your left hand holding your thread tension tight. I discovered that with the copper glove, I had to use almost no pressure at all! The fabric of the glove simply gave the thread some traction and kept it from slipping. Awesome! I was able to crochet for over an hour.
Recommended Crochet Hooks
I have managed to keep crocheting with the help of these wonderful crochet hooks by Clover:
Clover Soft Touch
The "Soft Touch" variety is my life support. Somehow they just magically allow me to crochet without my hand cramping up. They are a true godsend!
They come in almost every letter size of the alphabet, and Clover makes a different Soft Touch in thread sizes. Yes, you can keep doing thread crochet! Clover Soft Touch steel hooks have a handle that allows me to keep crocheting in thread. The handle on them is a bit different and a little smaller than the letter-size hooks.
I own Soft Touch hooks in every size—from the tiniest thread hook to the biggest yarn hook. Buy them here, search for them on eBay, on Google, wherever you shop—even at your local yarn store! But try one. I could not believe the difference it made as I was no longer able to use regular straight round hooks at all. And forget about the tiny steel hooks for thread! But now I am happily back to crocheting anything I want.
I have also just started trying the newer Clover Amour rubberized crochet hooks, which are amazing. They are even better than my beloved regular Soft Touch because the handles are rubberized! Looks like i'll be investing in lots of sizes of these hooks too.
More Tips and Aids for Crafting With Hand Disabilities
Let's look at some more options:
Other Types of Gloves
- Heat Gloves: For people having trouble because of their hands—pain, dexterity, etc.—there are a couple of things that help. One is heat. They sell these stretchy gloves that provide heat and compression to your hands. I know they sell them usually at the front checkouts of Hobby Lobby and probably every other craft store. They're called thergonomic hand aids, I believe. There are other aids out there like the arthritis gloves you wear to compress and warm your hand. I have used those on occasion.
- Machine Quilting Grip Gloves: These machine quilting grip gloves can be used for more than just quilting. Although they are great to grasp fabric with, you can use them for doing any crafting activity with your hands.
- Medical Gloves: Myasthenia makes my hands and fingers somewhat clumsy. I have found that wearing latex gloves (or the non-latex kind) when they're acting up seems to improve my dexterity, especially when working with small objects like beads. Try it! Yes—when my dexterity is very bad, sometimes I will wear plain old non-latex medical gloves! It's amazing how much better I can grasp things with them on.
Sewing and Crochet Tools
- "Third Hand" Sewing Clamp: Need a third hand? With the help of some very smart crochet friends out there, I've located an amazing device called the "Third Hand," which holds work in place on a hard surface for people who have lost the use of one of their hands due to stroke or other illness/injury. This sewing clamp is an amazing little device. It can be used for sewing or crocheting, and I'm assuming for some other crafts as well. Can you do your craft with one hand? Yes!
- Needle Gripper Dots: Needle gripper dots are a great aid for sewing and embroidery. They actually helped me complete my quilt. You just grasp the needle with the rubberized dot. They will help you hold the needle to push and pull it through the fabric.
- Quilt Needle Threader: A quilt needle threader is indispensable for helping you thread needles despite bad eyesight. Anything to help get that thread through the eye. Thread that needle!
- Gripper Scissors: I love these great gripper scissors. So comfy to grasp—awesome!
Tips and Aids for Crafting With Eye Problems
Here's some suggestions for crafters with vision-related disabilities:
- Design Your Own Patterns: On the eyesight issue—unfortunately nothing can help my particular situation except a LOT of patience, patching one eye to alleviate the double vision, and a lot of other things I don't want to do either. Sadly I'll never be able to work from printed patterns again because of my eyesight issues. It's just too frustrating. My solution was to stop trying to work by patterns and take off to do my own thing—I design my own! I do still keep all my beloved vintage patterns and drool over them now and then. If I really wanted to make one, I'd fight the eyesight and find a way. But for now... nope.
- Create an "Audio Pattern": If you really want to work from a printed pattern and have the refocusing issue like I do, or even other eyesight challenges, you can read the pattern aloud and tape it, replaying as necessary.
- Improve the Lighting: In my opinion, these Ott lamps provide simply the best lighting you can find—period! Lighting makes all the difference when it comes to bad eyesight.
- Try Magnification: Lighted hands-free binoculars are great if you need some lighted magnifying to see. Another handy eyesight helper is a full sheet magnifier. It is a quick solution to magnifying a pattern in a book, to check your stitching, or lots of other things!
Some of My Crochet Work
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Sheila
Please Stop & Say Hello! - Love to meet fellow crocheters!
Debbie from Georgia on April 26, 2020:
I have severe progressive rheumatoid disease. I have very little to no grip in both my hands. I cannot hold a hook. I miss crocheting. Do you know of any devices that might help me crochet again?
Rebecca gabbitass on May 14, 2018:
Please help a have got a disablitiy on my right side and am thinking of giving up crochet as cant find a way to crochet and keep tension
Dane on April 04, 2018:
Hello...any advise for persons with essential tremors
Beverly on August 31, 2016:
Hello: I do a lot of crocheting and I am having trouble with my baby finger on my left hand, I am sure it is arthritis cause the joint on the finger seems abit swollen. I have been icing it but I was wondering if you know of any product such as a finger splint that I could buy that would keep me from bending my pinkie when I am crocheting.
VonshakesVonshakes on April 03, 2016:
Thank you for the clay idea! I have a weak right hand as a result of having a stroke, and this was the answer I was looking for!
Fay from Cornwall, UK on November 10, 2015:
I hadn't heard of these gloves before. I will keep them in mind and mention them to my sister.
love2loom on June 28, 2014:
@SheilaSchnauzies: you can always crochet by wraping the yarn round the hook like you would if you were knitting it takes time to learn to hold the hook and wooll in one hand it can be done
its just a matter of balacing your hook as your rapping yarn
im disable and ive tried it
also try a supprt splint or grip strap that on your hand a where your thumb comes bet the straps put the crochet hook or there as well
the splint will hold the hook
and you can still crochet
Sheila (author) from Omaha, NE on February 10, 2014:
@kimsha300: Hi Kimsha! I am so sorry to hear of your stroke. I hope you are well now. I am sure it is very hard not to be able to crochet or knit! I'm going to put out a Facebook post about your question to try to see if anyone has a great idea. The tricky part with crochet, obviously, is that if you're a right handed crocheter, you control the yarn or thread tension with your left hand. Crocheting without that tension would be unpredictable at best (but maybe still enjoyable?) What you need is a way to hold the yarn firm and then you could do it! I'm thinking if there were a way to clamp a heavy object onto the yarn itself to produce the tension you need, it might work. Secondly, you hold onto the work itself with your left hand which presents yet another challenge. I'm picturing in my mind a setup where you crochet on a hard surface (i.e. table, tray) with the work weighted down. It would be very slow and tedious of course trying to get used to a different way of working, but if it would give you the joy of having your craft back that could well be worth it! I'll post back here if I get any great ideas. And you please post back if you find a different solution too! Thanks and blessings to you, -Sheila
kimsha300 on February 09, 2014:
hello i have recently become disabled due to a massive stroke i lost the use of my left side and it's driving me crazy is there any way that i could knit or crochet just using my right hand please let me know thank you so much
CanHealthInsure on August 31, 2013:
Sheila (author) from Omaha, NE on August 27, 2013:
@jura: Awesome! I hope you do!!
jura on August 27, 2013:
Crochet is a great skill I am trying to learn .
Sheila (author) from Omaha, NE on August 19, 2013:
@WeeCatCreations1: I really appreciate your comment! Please do feel free to share a link to this lens with your friends, Facebook, Twitter, wherever! We need to spread the word that we can keep working at what we love!
Susan Caplan McCarthy from Massachusetts, USA on August 19, 2013:
It's nice to see that there are so many tools available to allow people to continue crocheting. I often hear people say that they'd keep crocheting if they didn't have (insert health issue here); now I can tell them about the tools that can get them back to hooking!
anonymous on August 15, 2013:
Thanks for the great ideas!
Lorelei Cohen on August 15, 2013:
An extra wide crochet hook really does make crochet much easier. I still do not crochet very often but now I am able to still complete a few projects just a little slower than I used to.
AgingIntoDisabi on May 19, 2012:
Lemming13 on September 29, 2011:
I have arthritis and poor eyesight too, so I really appreciate your tips here; very helpful lens. Here's to us stubborn hookers!