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Circular Vs. Straight Needles

Our discussion over the past two newsletters regarding how to deal with knitting pain has spawned even more mail. Many of you weighed in on the circular-needle versus straight-needles debate, and I'd say the circulars have it! Here are just a few of the letters we've received on the subject.

Francoise L. writes:
"Responding to 'I'm not sure that anyone has actually verified scientifically that using circular needles causes less strain. Is this just an old knitter's tale? Are you just repeating something you read somewhere else without any basis in fact?' Well, here's my story: A few years ago I was diagnosed with a De Quervain's tendinitis (occurs when the tendons around the base of the thumb are irritated or constricted) that had to be operated on. After the operation, I got physiotherapy that helped me recover the use of my hand. Nevertheless, there were things I could no longer do such as crocheting, knitting, writing, painting, etc. I was devastated. I'm a multimedia artist, and for me not being able to create was like cutting my wings. But I'm a stubborn woman. Around that time I discovered circular needles; they were easier to manipulate and not such a strain on my wrists. I won't say it didn't hurt at first, but I persevered. I knitted for just a few minutes, and after several months, I was able to knit as I used to do. Now, because of this, I'm able to do all the things that I used to enjoy with only a few restrictions. Let's just say that those circular needles save my hands."

Carolyn W. writes:
"I totally agree with Barbara regarding the Denise needles. I have used them for years. I did once switch to straight wood needles; my hands got really tired, and I experienced enough pain to have to quit knitting for the evening. After I switched back to my Denise needles — just like a miracle, no more pain! One little afterthought: I do not work for nor have any connection with the Denise needle company. Just thought I would share my experience. Happy knitting!"

Margaret N. writes:
"Speaking from experience, it is definitely easier for my wrists and fingers to knit on circular needles than on straights. I injured my fingers on my right (dominant) hand and was forced to switch to circulars. The other responder is right, the weight of the work is still the same; however, the big difference is that with circulars, the only part you're actively holding up is that which is on the short, nonflexible part of the needle. The remainder of the work is on the flexible cord and doesn't weigh a thing as it's just flopping around and not involved in the process of making stitches. Without circulars, I would have had to give up knitting. And that's not a viable option for me!"

Judy W. writes:
"I just read some of your comments on fatigued hands from knitting. I have just been knitting for 1 1/2 years. I was taught to work with straight needles. However, I started to feel a lot of pain in my hands. My friend suggested I try circular needles — I made the switch, and boy, my hands are just great now. I have no pain. I use circular needles for everything. Oh, by the way, I'm a retired hairdresser, 63 years old. Thanks for your time, and I hope this will help others."

Judy M. writes:
"I've used Denise circular needles for years. I love them! The garment is distributed evenly over the needles, thus you do not have the whole thing hanging off one needle."

Editor's Comments

A big thank you goes out to all of you who weighed in on the benefits of using circular needles. There may be a contrary argument to be made for straight needles (besides the one that advocates a long needle that can be tucked up under an arm), but we've yet to hear it. I look forward to more newsletter discussions!
—Judith


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