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Would you attempt to run a marathon wearing snowshoes? Of course not. You’d research shoes designed for long distance running, that perform well on the terrain of the course, that fit well and feel comfortable, and that provide your feet the support they need. For your safety and performance, you’d find the right tool for the job.

So, why is it that most knitters put little thought into selecting a chair to use for knitting? We tend to sit in a comfy chair designed for relaxing, not working. We probably use these chairs because knitting is usually a leisure activity and comfy chairs are for lounging. But—from the perspective of your body—knitting is work, and chairs designed for relaxation make working in them much harder thereby causing muscle fatigue, discomfort, and even soft tissue injuries.

A chair good for knitting—or any work—is one that:

  • aligns you with gravity;
  • provides even force distribution across the thighs and buttocks where weight bearing occurs;
  • and allows your feet to be in contact with the floor to further decrease force and to provide stability.

Chairs that have reclined backs are so designed because that recumbent position relaxes us and makes us less alert. Knitters who aren’t alert are good at frogging.

Put it in Neutral

Ergonomics talks a lot about neutral postures; these postures feature joint angles that align you with gravity to reduce the need for additional muscle contraction, thus lessening the work of simply being in a position to perform the task of knitting. They provide the least strain on joints and soft tissue, and they allow for minimal obstruction to circulation and nerve conduction at both the gross and micro-anatomic levels. This is a huge benefit, because this disruption is a major cause of injury. When tissue isn’t well oxygenated due to compromised circulation it doesn’t perform well and it will fail sooner.

Not sure about this? Try doing two minutes of knee squats and then hold a knee squat for  two minutes. Tell me which is more difficult. You can bet it’s the latter. Now let’s learn about these neutral postures and how to select a chair that will provide and support them.

Chair Savvy

Always start with a chair that will allow your feet to touch the floor. The reduction in the force on your thighs, buttocks, and lumbar discs this provides is significant. Choose a seat height that provides a 90-degree angle at the hip and knee (assessed with the ankle positioned under the knee). Another way to say this is that the knee joint should be slightly lower than the hip joint, and the pelvis needs to be tilted slightly forward.

The lower back needs to be supported to maintain a lumbar curve and to support the ribcage, but the backrest should not be higher than the bottom of your shoulder blade lest it obstruct your ability to sit tall, and to align your shoulders, back, and neck. Your shoulders should be at rest with elbows at your sides.


The ORANGE line shows the direction of gravity. The TEAL ANGLES show neutral hip and knee posture (90-degrees). The knitter uses a cushion on her lap to support the forearm so the shoulder muscles can relax and she can see her work in front of her.

A chair that encourages a recumbent position will require you to actively hold your arms in front of you while you work, causing shoulder fatigue and contributing to a static and sustained posture, adaptive muscle shortening, and postural changes. Those sore spots between your shoulder blades are related to holding your arms in front of you for long durations. Your elbows can be flexed to about 90-degrees, wrists slightly lower than elbows. This position reduces strain on your finger flexor tendons which are busy holding your needs, and your ulnar nerve (aka, funny-bone).


The ORANGE line again shows the direction of gravity. The TEAL ANGLE shows postures not aligned with gravity causing the need for active muscle contraction to be maintained. Extra work for the knitter’s body. Note the crossed leg which compromises circulation, and the lack of floor contact.

We like nerves to be stress free to avoid numbness, tingling and all sorts of other unpleasantness. If the ulnar nerve is upset you’ll likely feel discomfort at the elbow and numbness and tingling in your pinky and ring finger. Because of the vulnerability of this tissue, arm rests are verboten. When you’re knitting, your hands and forearms need unencumbered circulation to muscles and nerves, so use arm rests only to rest!


Different posture, but still problematic: the ORANGE line again shows the direction of gravity, and the TEAL ANGLE shows postures not aligned with gravity, causing the need for active muscle contraction to be maintained. Extra work for the knitter’s body. And again there is the lack of floor contact AS INDICATED IN PINK.

Finding a chair to fit this bill can be challenging especially if you’re looking for it in the living room section of your furniture store where you’re not likely to find one. The style of the day is low and soft—great for relaxing, but not conducive to supporting working postures. Mid-century modern furniture is more likely to meet the criteria because of its defined angles and minimal upholstery. If that’s not your style, office chairs offer what you need to attain these neutral postures because they are designed for working at a desk. Office managers don’t like sleepy workers who are going to get injured on the job.

Now this is not to say that you can never sit in a non-neutral posture, curl up on the couch, or chill out in your recliner to knit. But non-neutral postures shouldn’t be your default, most-of-the-time choices for knitting. Injury is related directly to our exposure to risk, so the more time you spend in these awkward postures working, the more likely you are to wear yourself out. Get up and stretch more often while you knit if you use this furniture. And if you have a known injury or trouble spot, you’re wise to stick to a neutral posture for most or all of your knitting time.

A physical therapist with over 30 years’ experience studying and treating musculoskeletal injuries, Carson has brought ergonomics to knitters around the world both in workshops and in his path-forging book Knitting Comfortably. Follow him here on Instagram.

For future reference: Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click. And here is Carson’s first article in the series.

About The Author

A physical therapist with over 30 years’ experience studying and treating musculoskeletal injuries, Carson has brought ergonomics to knitters around the world both in workshops and in his path-forging book Knitting Comfortably.


  • Thank you, Carson! I appreciate the reminders. Definitely will try putting my knitting on a cushion like the first illustration, so I stop hunching over it.

  • Clearly we all need to knit up superspecial Cushions For Holding Up Our Handknits! Such a game changer, Carson–thank you for this.

    • Oh I like this idea; will add it to my “want to knit” list!

  • Do you recommend chairs with arms ?

    • If you read carefully you will see he says arm rests are verboten and explains why.

    • Hi CJ–Carson writes about this in the post.

      • Hi Anne, Great article as one would expect from Carson! Thanks for the great content in Snippets.
        Is there a suggestion for the size of the pillow? Are both elbows to be supported but the pillow or only the wrists? And I’m a bit flummoxed by the “ Boppy” references – it seems this pillow is moved from side to side while nursing and that the “hole” would be too small to be worn front and center? My “ baby” turned 46 on Thursday, sorry I missed the Bobby innovation but I am more than willing to adapt one for knitting!

      • Whoops! Short one cup of coffee. Thanks!

  • Thank you! Love the idea of a cushion!! Now is my chance to knit some cushions in those gorgeous Kaffe Fasset patterns from the Field Guide!! I’ve gotten a head start from your book! And now do almost all my needlework in a wonderful dining table chair that is a farmhouse style amd happens to fit my proportions well. AMAZING how much longer I can knit/crochet/stitch when using proper posture!

    • I had been rearranging my little quiet space room for months, with the idea of purchasing a comfy chair. In the room, I have my sewing machine, with a bump (sewing) chair One day, I sat down just to knit a couple of quick rows. I discovered the chair was extremely comfortable for knitting (no sides), the closed top of the sewing machine cabinet is a great surface for knitting supplies and the light from two windows was amazing! PLUS dear hubby sees me sitting there and does not interrupt my concentration.

      This chair is pretty sturdy, having a wooden frame, more traditional, no hydraulics. I’m using it more for knitting and needlework than quilting at the moment.

  • Thanks AGAIN Carson. This article is going straight to my knitting group in my weekly email to them. As a retired PT I am well aware of this of course – and do talk about it when asked – but you have written it so well and they can refer to it repeatedly..

  • Thank you! I have a horrible time finding any chair or couch that fits me. I am a couple of inches short of 5 feet and dangling feet is rather hard on my whole body. I have a fold up foot stool that is easy to pack with my knitting. a real life saver for short knitters.

    • Check resale shops for an adjustable office chair. I found one that adjusted down to my size, bought it, unscrewed the arm rests, and am so happy with that find.

    • I use a very thick back cushion that moves me forward enough for my feet to touch the ground. I can’t stand dangling feet!!!

    • I share your pain. Also a short stature knitter. On the couch I use a pillow behind my back and I’ll try the footstool.

  • My massage therapist has been preaching a cushion on my lap to me for ages. Have I listened? Maybe MDK needs to create the perfect lap cushion for knitters!

  • For a cushion to rest my knitting on, I use my old boppy, a support pillow for breastfeeding.

    • That’s what I’ve been using for the past 4 years to knit!! It has the perfect support for knitting. Bought my cousin one when she saw how well mine works

    • Boppy! Boy does that bring up some memories!

  • After reading Carson’s book four years ago, I bought a Stressless brand chair. It is a Norwegian company with lots of styles and is expensive. But the comfort makes it so worth it! I’m 5’1” and have a near impossible time finding comfortable upholstered seating. Fortunately, there was a nearby store where I could try sitting in them. I settled on a size medium Consul model and have never regretted my purchase. It allows me to knit comfortably, pain-free!!! Good luck to all trying to find a chair that fits:)

    • I also have a Stressless chair that is my most frequent chair to use for knitting. As long as I don’t lean back and close my eyes, I can get a lot of knitting done!

    • I second the Stressless chair as being wonderful for knitting. I bought one five years ago and it’s still in perfect condition and very supportive. Pricey, yes but these chairs last forever!

  • Thank you, Carson! This was eye opening and explains more about why I’m always most comfortable knitting and stitching at our breakfast table. The table and chairs are family furniture pieces from 1962 and besides the warm, happy memories associated with them, they meet the ergonomic requirements you’ve described.

  • I’ve been using a Boppy since Carson mentioned it during the Knit for Food marathon, and it is a life changer! I really appreciate the commitment to helping all of us take better care of ourselves so we can knit longer!

  • Truly helpful! Never had a bad back, but last summer it came to visit and it won’t leave. Didn’t know where to look for a comfortable chair, or what to look for in a comfortable chair. Now, I’m going shopping!

  • Carson! I’m stalking you. I really want to take a class with you in person (I took one over Zoom during pandemic days). Can you please update your website with where you’re teaching? I know you’re at WEBS in September, but that’s too long to wait!

  • Thank you Carson! I need to keep reading and re-reading your advice to make it stick

  • Umm … what’s perfect for one isn’t necessarily for another.
    During my first pregnancy, my doctor (and others since) told me to keep my feet elevated as much as possible. Wasn’t possible at work. Isn’t possible when doing housework, travelling, etc. Is absolutely necessary when knitting, watching TV, etc. At 77, and knitting since 1954, my body is happy knitting with my feet up – on the recliner, on a suitcase, on whatever I can find to support them.

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