Tired hands and crochet hooks

A very regularly asked question on crochet discussion groups is ‘what are the best crochet hooks’, often followed by a statement such as ‘I have arthritis/fibromyalgia/etc and get a lot of pain in my hands, I need a comfortable hook.

By accident more than design I have tried out every type of hook I have seen recommended for tired and aching hands.

If you want to jump straight to the punchline, my favourite crochet hook by far is the Etimo Rose crochet hook by Tulip. Although I suspect it’s very personal, and you might want to also look at some of the others listed below.

And if you ever want to get me a small but deeply appreciated birthday present, I currently have the Tulip hook is 3.5mm. All other sizes wanted, especially 4mm and 5mm, which are sizes I use a lot.

Other hooks I mention below are the Furls Streamline Swirl, Clover Soft Touch and Clover Amour, Drops soft grip and Susan Bates Silvalume.

But also will briefly look at why someone might need a special crochet hook, the features of a hook that might matter to you depending on your needs, and rant just a tiny bit about the ‘Disability Premium’ that makes life so expensive for people with extra needs.

I started crochet because I couldn’t knit any more. It caused too much pain in my shoulders. In many ways crochet is a more gentle movement, and better all round for the tired, the achey and the sore amoung us. But doing a lot of crochet brings its own hazards.

I started with an old hook that had been kicking around the house for years, followed my first online videos, and soon was off looking for hooks in other sizes, so I could do this more.

The first hooks I got were wood. I tried a beautiful beech hook in a big size and a multicoloured symfonie one for thinker yarn, and loved the feel of them both. But the problem was this …

Odin the golden doodle with a compulsion for chewing and sucking anything made of wood

A certain cheeky bow-wow can not leave wooden things alone. It’s amazing what I can train that dog to do. Bring me the phone if I fall over, unload the washing machine, it’s fantastic. But he can’t help himself with small wooden things. He knows he shouldn’t, but he’s just got to suck and chew. Pencils, wooden spoons, crochet hooks. If I leave them anywhere in reach (which basically means anywhere, he’s a big dog) he ends up getting hold of them and destroying them.

So I needed hooks that weren’t made of wood.

The first set I got was this one, from amazon. 14.99 and it contains every size possible from the tiny ones for very fine thread work for making lace, up to the big thick hooks for chunky yarn. Plus lots of miscellaneous junk.

The problem with working with these hooks is that after a short time, they hurt. My thumb would get inflamed and red from rubbing on the bit in the middle where the size is written, and I found myself unable to answer my phone or properly use my iPad, as they would refuse to recognise my thumb print.

But a bigger problem was the growing pain that came from working with these hooks. My shoulders didn’t hurt the way they did with knitting. Instead, my wrists hurt. My fingers hurt. When you find yourself afraid to go to bed, because you know that falling asleep means waking up in the morning, and that means hands frozen and locked in useless claw shapes, and you can’t pick up the pack for pain killers, or pop the pill out of it for at least the first half hour because your hands just won’t work, you know it’s time for action.

A call to the doctor produced nothing but a script for opiates. If that was all it took to solve all my problems I’d be king of the world by now. It was time to find my own solutions. As always.

I went looking for better hooks.

One of the first ones I ordered was from a US based company called Furls. They market themselves as the best/only hook for arthritic hands. With specially designed ergonomic shape they are marketed as being designed to reduce the need for hand and wrist movement and generally reduce pain.

They also sell their main metal hooks for over £50 per hook. So even a very limited set, for the most mainstream types of yarn is going to set you back a coup,e of hundred pounds.

They also sell a slightly more cost effective variant, in the identical shape, but made of resin or wood for about £20 each. Obviously, I opted for the resin variety.

That’s not the first one I got. It’s the replacement, because the head snapped off the original as I was using it, after only about six weeks. At least they replaced it without any quibble when I contacted them. But the head on this one feels just as fragile, and often feels like it’s straining and snagging against the yarn. I expect this one too to snap, sooner rather than later. I won’t buy any more of these. However, if I some day win the lotto or publish a best selling novel, then I look forward to trying the metal ones, because I really do like the feel of the shape, and do find it pain reducing.

Another hook that hookers rave about online and are willing to sell their first born child for a set of are the Clover hooks. More cost effective is the clover soft grip, which costs about 3.50 to 4.50 depending on the retailer, and a pricier variant, the clover Amour which is normally between £7 and £8 for one hook, depending on where you buy it.

I can’t comment yet on the Amour. Come on, Amazon, I ordered it weeks ago. I know you are prioritising some deliveries due to lockdown, but a crochet hook IS essential, don’t you think?

The Clover soft grip has a plastic handle. Something I avoid when I can. A key motivation in starting to crochet was my desire to reduce plastic and plastic derived fabrics such as acrylic in my life, and be more sustainable. But I settled for a small plastic handle if it enabled me to keep up the hooking. There is a rubber thumb pad in the handle, and this is highly effective. No difficulties answering the phone, and my iPad never refuses to believe I’m me using this hook. It’s much more comfortable on the fingers, and slightly pain reducing on the wrists compared to the basic metal set.

Another brand that actively targets people with arthritis, and claims to be ‘the only’ hook for us achy hands hookers is the Silvalume hook by Susan Bates. Usually idiotically expensive, and only widely available in the USA, so shipping costs end up added for any purchasers in Europe, these hooks present themselves as being scientifically designed for easy movement. They have no special handle, the focus here is all on the shape of the hook itself. With a pointed head, and a very tight hook, they are shaped to slide through the yarn with much less movement than a typical hook.

I was lucky enough to find someone selling a set very cheaply on eBay. I could see that the hooks did help with issues of tension and speed of work. But they did nothing for me, due to the lack of an easy hold handle.

On places such as Etsy, it’s possible to get all kinds of custom handles attached to these hooks specifically, as many hookers will seek out the Silvalume metal shaft and hook, but like me need an ergonomic handle. They are never cheap. If someone is a skilled crafts person and has put hours of skilled labour, love and care into crafting a wooden or clay handle for a hook like this, they are not going to give it away. The cost will reflect the high purchase cost of the hook used in the first place, other materials, time and labour, so they are expensive. Like with the metal Furls hook, it’s something I can dream of, but not something I can try out right now.

When my Furls snapped, I was in the middle of several projects, all of which took a 4mm hook, and I was desperate. I tried but couldn’t take the pain of switching back to the old normal one. I did what any crocheter does to relieve anxiety and distress, and shopped for yarn, of course. As a stop gap, I also ordered a couple of sizes of these Drops brand comfort handle hooks. I wasn’t expecting much, but wanted an emergency hook I could actually use. They were much more cost effective than most comfort handle hooks.

As a set of ‘spares’ they didn’t disappoint. They are perfectly good basic hooks, and reasonably comfortable to hold. Plastic handles, unfortunately. They didn’t cost as much as any of the others here, and they arrived in less that 48 hours of me placing the order. Thank you Purple Sheep Yarns, you are endlessly reliable. Take that, Amazon, and smoke it!

And now we get to my favourite of all, the Tulip. I love this hook! I aspire to have a set of these, although I can only afford one at a time.

Why is this photo so blurry? It looked fine on my phone. I will try to replace it.

The tulip has a lovely rubber handle, wi5 a little notch at the top that your thumb sits into, much higher up than the thumb pad on the clover soft grip. It’s got a good feel in the hand.

The shaft of the Tulip is longer than the one on the clover, and this makes a big difference when doing complicated stitches where you end up with several looks on your hook. The head of the hook is more pointed with a tighter hook, which makes it similar to the hooks like Furls or Silvalume where they focus on the shape of the head to reduce wrist movement.

The colour of the shaft also makes a difference in how long I can work for. The more tired my eyes get, the more the wold becomes undifferentiated blobs of colour, and I find it easier to see the yarn on the light silver shaft, reducing eye strain.

The handle is also longer, giving a more comfortable hold. I find the clover bumps into the base of my little finger and gets quite sore after a while, the end of the Tupi handle sits much further down my hand due to different grip, and lets me work for longer.

So that’s my conclusion. The tulip is the best for me, at least until I win the lotto and can try out a metal Furls or a custom handle Silvalume. But I strongly suspect that this is one of those dilemmas where there isn’t an overall right or wrong answer. If your hand is a different shape to mine, or your eyesight issues or pain issues affect you in a different way you might find a different hook better for you.

The best advice therefore I can give is try before you buy, if at all possible. Not easy I know, but maybe you have friends or family who also crochet who will let you try their favourite hooks. The sets of the main sizes can be hugely expensive, running to hundreds of pounds for all sizes, so buy hooks individually until you are sure you are getting the right one. And rant and raise awareness when you can about the disability premium, because how could I wrap this up without briefly mentioning that?

The disability premium is a term we use to describe how much more expensive it is to live with disability, and the fact that a disabled person needs far more money to do the identical things. Scope estimate that a disabled person needs £2.20 to have the identical spending power for every £1 that an able bodied person has.

Initially, this is why the U.K. disability benefits DLA, later changed to PIP was developed. But over the years the underlying idea ‘are you someone who needs to spend a lot more money to do the same things because you need special equipment’ has got lost. Instead, the process has turned into one which is a humiliating, degrading judgmental process. Ironically nowadays a person can get the judgment “well, you say you can’t do that, but we say that with some specialist equipment (which you can’t afford, and we won’t help you buy) you could, so we judge you NOT disabled.

Some of the disability premium comes from raw profiteering. Go onto a specialist disability equipment retailer, and try to buy gloves with the right grip for using a manual wheelchair. You will get a pair for £25. And they will have the words “wheelchair gloves” on a little sticker. Peel it off, and they will say “cycle gloves”. Head in to any bike shop, and you will find the identical product without the sticker for £2. That’s what profiting from disability looks like, and it’s everywhere. If you ever need a wheelchair for short or long term, become pals with your local bike shop. You’d be surprised how helpful they can be. What is the difference between a wheelchair any a bike anyway? They are just different shapes, both ways of speeding up by pushing yourself around on wheels. From gloves to clip on lights, lots of the extras work for both.

But some of the disability premium comes from this kind of issue with the crochet hooks. You can’t use the normal version, you can keep hooking if you have the good version from the top end of the market. So, a young, fit, healthy person can spend £15 and get 20 hooks, with lots of extras. Those of us with tired achy hands, blurry eyes or both need the hooks that cost as much for one hook, and a full set is hundreds. But the hooks actually are better, and are better for everyone. The Young fit healthy person might want them sooner or later too, it’s just they can put off the purchase.

Looking at all the hooks I’ve talked about here, and the fact that the less expensive ones simply market as “ergonomic” and comfortable, while the most expensive of all market as “for arthritis” without actually being any better, I suspect there is a bit of both going on with crochet hooks.

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