Heavy and cooling at the same time – creating a summer cardigan for sensory issues

Last night I just finished making a cardigan for myself that I am utterly delighted with. I’m wearing it right now, and quite in love with my crochet skills as they have enabled me to solve a problem that was causing me a lot of stress and upset.
In this cardigan I needed to make something that was both light and heavy at the same time. Its been so warm recently. (It is the middle of July after all!) Temperature seems to be swinging between lows of 20c and highs of 30c. We have enough grey grizzly chilly foggy days in London. The short summer should be a time for tee shorts and shorts or floaty summer dresses. So who would wear thick heavy winter dressing-gowns? I would! Its an autism thing. And as the temperature increases, it becomes a more and more upsetting autism thing as I just want an need to cool down. But I also want and need the sense of ‘heavy’ in my clothing, along with ‘comfort’. So putting on the soft thick cotton dressing gowns I always wear indoors becomes a driving urge.

And that’s where this new cardigan comes in. Made from a fairly thick cotton yarn it feels quite heavy. In fact, its 635 grammes which is about average for a cardigan in a size medium. But the long draggy stitches and baggy size give it a sense of drag from the shoulders which give it that heavy-comforting-something-to-wrap-yourself-up-in feeling.

On the other hand, the lacy panels, loose tension and large open stitches make it as much open space as fabric and the cooling absorbent cotton works well to create a garment perfect for the hot weather which actively helps me cool down not heat up.

What are ‘sensory issues’?

Sensory issues affect neurodiverse people and can be considered a component part – or even a defining feature – of autism and dyspraxia, but can be present with other related diagnosis such as ADHD or dyslexia. Recently I also discovered that I had a mild heart rhythm abnormality known as Long Q T syndrome. To my surprise when reading up on this, I discovered that sensory issues and difficulty managing sensory over-stimulation can be an aspect of some of the sub-types of these cardiac conditions as well. Up to then I had always assumed it was a feature of neurodiversity only.
In short, its something that can affect quite a number of people, in many ways.
To understand sensory issues, its helpful to first understand what a typical person without sensory issues does. A typical person has an ability to select the sensory stimulation they pay attention to once they have had a chance to get used to it.
Imagine a person who moves to a new house near something noisy. A waterfall. A busy road. The first night they get no sleep, as the noise keeps them awake all night. And maybe the next night, and the one after that. But soon enough they are tired enough and they start to sleep through the noise. Then they begin the process of getting used to it. In psychology this is called ‘habituation’. 6 months later they hardly notice the noise at all, but one night away from home, they complain that it was hard to sleep as it was too quiet. People do this across all their senses. Hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell, and the ones we often forget about – balance and direction too. You can watch habituation at work with the sense of balance as people new to sailing find their sea-legs, and spot the person who struggles most. The chances are, there is some aspect of neurodiversity there. Or something else triggering a difficulty with habituation to this sensory stimulation.
For some people habituation happens only very slowly, or not at all. When that is the case, all noise, all sight, all physical feeling comes in equally strongly all the time.
An example of how this affects me with sound is a lifelong difficulty in places where more than 1 person is talking. If you sit me in a coffee shop with a friend, and expect me to chat, while people at tables around us are also chatting, I am always as fully aware of everyone else’s conversation as I am of my own. I’m in my 40’s, this had happened all my life, and still often I’m surprised at other peoples lack of awareness of their surroundings. I’ll be leaving a coffee shop, and say to the person I was with ‘gosh, that woman at the next table really just needs to split up with her boyfriend!’ – and my friend will look at me blankly. And I will be wondering, yet again, how they could not have been aware, and indeed quite stressed by, the loud difficult conversation going on right beside us. A neurotypical person can tune out the voices they don’t want to listen to, and only focus on the ones they do. A person with sensory issues can’t. Bad enough in a coffee shop, but horrific in a classroom when people are expected to work in groups. So it can make life quite difficult. But it can also make us more observant and connected to our surroundings as well. People who work as first responders for example are people I have known, and sometimes wondered to myself ‘gosh, do you know you are a bit aspie?’ but also seen them use these traits of being able to ignore nothing, and fully focus on all the potential hazards in a situation to very positive effect.


Food issues are notoriously difficult to deal with when you are constantly bombarded by all the sensory information, and its very common for people with sensory issues to develop fears of trying new foods, restrictive eating patterns and strict brand loyalty. For example, I will only eat one brand of baked beans. And only if I have heated them myself. Because if they taste wrong, or the bean isn’t the same temperature as sauce I can become inordinately, irrationally upset. But that’s a huge issue in its own right. I could say a lot about how difficult it can be, and also the life skills I’ve picked up along the way to learn to deal with it and eat a varied diet.

Touch and skin sensations are what are most relevant to clothing though. Neurodiverse people are all unique, no two of us are the same, but some common patterns are there. On the one hand, there is the phenomenon of high pain tolerance, coupled with a total inability to manage discomfort. Its an irony that leaves typical people scratching their heads in wonder. They look at us and think ‘you walked down the mountain after your fall, and walked into A&E on a broken leg with hardly a word of complaint, and now you are having a tantrum on the floor like a toddler because there is a label on your clothes digging in to you? What is your deal?‘ Welcome to the wonderful world of neurodiversity! And yes, needing to wear a pair of nylon tights which really must have been invented by the devil, truly is more distressing to me than a clear pain I can understand such as a sprained wrist.


That brings us to what neurodiverse people can do to manage this constant overwhelm of feeling every inch of their skin in their clothing, hearing every noise, being aware of every crack in the pavement. We can retreat fully from it by shutting down.
You can demand I wear nylon tights if you must, but don’t expect me to make conversation with you when I’m wearing them, because the only way I can pull back from all that feeling of discomfort on my legs all day, is to pull back from everything. This is shut-down, where everything is switched off. Its disastrous for getting by in life.


Alternatively, comforting senses can be used to support, comfort and distract. This is where neurodiverse people can become very sensory seeking. The presence of comforting colours, textures, tastes, smells, sounds, balance and movement can all become tools for channeling awareness. Many neurodiverse people seek out the sensations they find positive and calming. It becomes a lifeline to coping, and not finding a shut-down or a melt-down descending even when other sensations are there and overwhelming.

For me, that’s where my dressing gowns come in. I’ve become far worse with this as I have become older, with is also a common experience may autistic women describe, that age makes sensory issues slowly a little tiny bit more dominant each year

So often I have tried to go out for a whole day, but half way through just give up and go home so I can put my fleecy jammies and dressing gown on and feel comfortable.
And a large part of it is the sense of weight, which is also a very common sense sought out my neurodiverse people. That’s why weighted blankets were invented, but some of us also like it in our clothes.
And that’s why I can make myself so upset in very hot weather. Putting on a ridiculous winter dressing-gown, feeling ill from the heat, taking it off, putting it back on again within minutes. Its daft, and I had to solve this problem.

And so I made my cardigan. And so far, its working! Hooray! I’m comfortable, I don’t feel the urge to find a dressing gown, I’m not too hot – or at least, I’m no hotter than I would be if I wasn’t wearing it.

I used the pattern for the ‘Brunch Cardigan’ because I had been looking for an excuse to finally figure out the hexagon construction technique. I knew it cropped up in patterns, and every time I crocheted a hexagon shape I would sit looking at it, and folding it, and muttering to myself that there was no way that could create a cardigan. So, to give myself relief from THAT annoyance, I decided to just follow a pattern, and solve that mystery.

The 2 hexagons this cardigan is made from do not lie flat, they are made deliberately ‘floppy’
When folded over, they magic into L shapes giving a sleeve, one front, and half the back

And what an easy mystery it was. The hexagons are not worked flat like an afghan square, they are worked wider, and that way they do fold into a perfect cardigan shape. It made for a quick easy pattern I was able to create in a couple of days. I tweaked the pattern, used a very different yarn, and altered the lacy panels to be v-stitches with back and front post trebbles to create lots of weight and drag.

Next up, I have a plan to try out a design based on a top-down construction, with chevrons alternating with flower stitches, which I think will give even more weight for a cardigan combined with open lacyiness. If it works I might even get the pattern written up and published on ravelry, although the pace I work, and the amount of other projects I have on the go, that’s unlikely to be before next summer

https://makeanddocrew.com/hexagon-crochet-cardigan-sweater-pattern/

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.

The Winter Warmer Complete Set

Winter is Coming! And you would be Stark mad not to be ready with the Winter Set. This is an extra large set, with large wheelchair blanket, large hat and mittens and neck warmer.

Heavy Blanket

Weighing more than a ‘weighted blanket’ this monster isn’t heavy because it’s been filled with polystyrene balls, but simply because it contains so much wool!

It is hand crocheted in a double layer of thick yarn, 60% wool, 20% Alpaca, 20% silk. It has a pocket to fit a phone, waste band to hold in place, and footplate straps to secure to the wheelchair.

Slouchy Beanie Hat

Double thickness extra large hat, can also be worn for the slouchy look by a smaller person

Neck Warmer

Designed to button around the neck, this short scarf will never trail down and get caught in the wheels of a chair, but keep you just as warm. Two ways to button, for a looser relaxed wear, or tight around the neck for storm protection

Extra warm mittens for the phone addict

No warmer thicker mittens anywhere, perfect for when you need your hand out to drive an electric chair, these mittens also have finger access and unique thumb access for phone users. No more fumbling to take gloves off and dropping them to buy a coffee or answer the phone.

Wheelchair Cushion Covers

We custom make cushion covers in the style and colour of your choice. A good cushion cover for a wheelchair sits absolutely flat and smooth and fits tightly over the cushion to avoid any risk of the fabric bunching up or rucking while being sat on.

They are created from absorbent material, which keeps the user feeling dry and comfortable. This is especially important in summer, when slipping around on a waterproof nylon wheelchair cushion can feel like a sticky, sweaty torture. The same covers in winter add a slight layer of extra warmth and comfort to an otherwise cold plastic-y experience.

A good cushion cover needs to be washable, and for this reason we generally use 100% cotton. These can be washed on a normal cycle and dry quickly. We recommend tying them into a pillow case to protect the cover in the machine, using a gentle non-biological washing power, and no fabric conditioner. They should not be tumble dried.

‘Fungie the Friendly Dolphin’, based on a graphgan design by DeepRootedOriginals (search for their wonderful designs and patterns on Etsy) This cushion cover is 20 inches by 20 inches, which is the largest standard size. Similar covers can be made in a wide variety of sizes and colours. 100% cotton
The classic ‘Farmhouse Square’ in pastel stripes for a 16 inches by 18 inches cushion
‘What shape is a quarter of a square?’ Surely that’s also a square? This geometric design has been converted to a rectangle anyway, and fits my own cushion at 15 inches by 18 inches.
A cheerful little owl brightens up the front edge of this cover

Fitting your wheelchair cushion

Wheelchair cushions come in 3 ‘standard’ sizes – 16*18, 16*16 and 20*20. However, these are just the standard sizes ‘off-the-peg’, and most wheelchair users will have a specially sized cushion. If your wheelchair comes from the NHS, Motability or other supplier, the wheelchair user will likely have been fitted carefully for exactly the right size chair, with matching cushion. Pushing yourself along in a chair that doesn’t fit perfectly is, after all, quite exhausting! it’s important that your cover fits your cushion exactly, as bunched up fabric could lead to pressure sores, or at least a lot of discomfort.

To order a cushion cover, we recommend finding the size information which should be on the back of the cushion, and sending a photo from your phone of what that label says. If you have no label, you can measure with a tape measure, but be very careful to hold the tape taught and take an accurate measurement. Remember, the old saying, ‘measure twice, cut once’. If you live locally to south-east London, you can also ask to meet up to have your cushion sized up personally.

My wheelchair cushion is 15 inches by 18 inches, and this photo shows where this information can be found on the back of the cushion

Wheelchair Blankets

Our wheelchair blankets are custom made to use as a lap blanket in a wheelchair. Made from sustainable materials, each one is tailor made to be used with a wheelchair has unique features which ensure it is significantly superior to a generic lap blanket, or other wheelchair specific rugs available on the market. On this page you will find information about some of the features of our blankets, and information on how to order.

‘Snowfall blanket’ in pure British wool, cotton lining

‘Snowfall at Night’ blanket, in hand spun British wool

Cable Stitch Blanket in wool, silk, alpaca mix yarn

Cable Stitch blanket in 60% wool, 20% silk, 20% Alpaca

’Susan’s Blanket’ in cotton and silk

’Susan’s blanket’ in 70% cotton, 30% silk, a light, summer time blanket

How to Order

To buy a ready made blanket, please visit our Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/NaturallyAdaptive?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=767511707

To order a custom blanket to your own specifications for size, colour, style and features please send us a message by email on NaturallyAdaptive@gmail.com, or through our Facebook page