Knitting Comfortably: Easy Chair Hacks
A properly fitted chair keeps you safe, comfortable, and productive if chosen correctly. But what about when you don’t have a “perfect” chair?
As I write this on National Knit in Public day I’m seeing loads of knitters squirm and flounder in chairs that are not designed for the task, but that exist in places we love to knit! That place may even be your living room or studio. What’s a knitter who wants to work in an ergonomically appropriate environment to do? It turns out, there’s lots you can do!
What’s in your bag?
Before we talk about chair hacks, I have to lay down this important ground rule: Knitting bags (or whatever you use to carry your work) are portable studios—and you’re the porter.
The space in your knitting bag needs to be considered high-value real estate. Bags shouldn’t be filled with anything not needed for the trip you’re about to take because you have to carry around all that weight. Think lightweight and functional.
Worth the Weight
Here are chair-adapting items worthy of space in your knitting bag.
A bath towel. You heard me! A bath towel can be used to adapt chairs for better spinal alignment or to increase seat height, used as supports for forearms, or, if the chair is alright in everything except being too high, a footrest.
A common error is making the roll too big and too loose. Anything larger than 2-inches is likely to be too much.
For realigning your pelvis, fold the towel into thirds lengthwise. Starting at one end, roll the towel very tightly. The amount you need to roll it depends on 3-variables: how much lower is the back of the chair than the front; if upholstered, how deep does it sink when you sit on it; and how much “upholstery” do you have on your tailbone.
In general, the back of the seat will be an inch or two lower than the front. Upholstered café style chairs are likely to have an inch or so of foam to compress. That would mean the initial roll of the towel is 2–3 inches. Then, if nature has endowed you with a curvy backside, you can unroll an inch or so off the towel.
position the part you’ll sit on so that the roll is going counterclockwise. This helps keep it from unrolling when you sit on it.
It’s important that you a) not make the roll too big (a common error), and b) position the towel below your tailbone and above your “sit” bones.
while the towel solves a posture problem it also introduces a focused point of contact against your buttocks. Only sit on the towel 20-minutes or so before taking it out, stretching, or otherwise releasing the contact.
Once you have the roll positioned, take the other end of the towel and roll in toward your low back to use as a lumbar support. Tada! You’re in great spinal alignment.
My next favorite impromptu fix is a 3-ring binder. They can be used in many ways. The obvious is to carry patterns, charts, and notes. But you can also use one as a footrest if you find yourself having trouble getting your feet on the floor. I explained the importance of foot-to-floor contact in my last article. (Have a look if you’ve forgotten why this is an important landmark to attain.)
If you’re among the vertically inhibited, you might be well aware of how far off the floor most chairs position your feet. Get a binder with a spine of that width and use it as your footrest.
If you find you’ve been lucky to find a chair that is the right height for you, don’t despair that you’ve carried the binder. It can be used as a document holder simply by standing in front of you and clipping your pattern or chart to it. This solves the problem of awkward head and neck postures, and reduces glare on your papers from overhead lighting.
Finally, many of us struggle with seeing our work when we keep our shoulders at rest, elbows flexed less than 90-degrees. This problem is easily solved with a support to the forearms that is positioned below the elbow and above the wrist. In other words, keep the weight off any more vulnerable structures (especially areas where nerves are more superficial like at your elbow). This allows your hands to be positioned more in front of you without requiring active and sustained shoulder flexion.
A Boppy or similar cushion is great to use at home, but probably too big to carry to a café. Instead, you guessed it—use a towel roll.
For many of us a big part of knitting fun is to meet up with others. Having a few tricks up your sleeve can make these outings safer and more comfortable. If all else fails, limit your sitting time in poorly fitted chairs by standing more frequently. After all, knitting was designed to be done on the go!