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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Natural Products for Knitters

In addition to being a yarn addict, I also work at my local Natural Health Food store in the vitamin department. Part of my job is advising customers on the best supplements and natural products. Once in awhile, I come across something that I think would be particularly useful for knitters and crocheters. Featured here are some products for hand health, stress and a few other little treats. Please share your own favourite natural knitting products in the Comments section below! 

Epsom Salts 

One of my favourite things to do when I'm stressed is to soak my feet. I have a special little tub and when I've had an especially long day I like to relax on the couch with a treat for my feet (with a knitting project, naturally). I add some epsom salts to piping hot water and keep a dry towel nearby for when I'm done. I also like to add some oils or some herbs. Toss in some chamomile flowers, rosemary leaves or a few drops of lavender oil. We have the most capillaries on the soles of our feet, so they are a great place to apply essential oils and then relaaaaax. You can find epsom salts in most grocery stores or pharmacies. For more information about epsom salts, check out the website below.

I would like to add that for a true spa experience that only costs a few bucks, you can line the bottom of your tub with marbles. Rolling your feet on them is the most delightful massage. Thanks to Carol for reminding me! (see Comments section below)


I became hooked on these after we started carrying them at the yarn shop. They are a moisturizing bar that you can use on your hands and keep on knitting without worrying about greasy residue getting on your fibre or waiting for a goopy cream to absorb. They are like a little soap that you rub on your hands and they are made with all-natural oils and smell amazing! For those with sensitivities, they are gluten-free. They are stored in a cute, little tin that fits so nicely in my Namaste purse and I don't need to worry about moisturizer explosions. My two favourites (so far) are Cucumber Melon and Ginger Blossom. They even have one called "The Yarn Bar".

Hagina Peppermint Oil

Essential oils are my first line of defense for first aid. If I feel like I'm getting a cold, I hit the oregano oil. If I'm having sinus issues, it's Eucalyptus oil. Mint oil is so great for so many things, that I almost don't know where to start. It's fantastic for headaches - just dab a drop on each temple and take some deep, easy breaths. But what got me really hooked was the day I realized how fantastic this product is for knitters. If you have ever knitted to the point of cramped and sore hands, or if you suffer from arthritis, then I encourage you to give this a try, especially if you need to knit "just one more row". Just rub some on your knuckles and joints (a little goes a long way).

Now folks...I know that wonderful numbing effect feels really nice on sore muscles, but I encourage you to recognize your boundaries so you don't injure yourself without realizing it. I know knitting isn't something we think of as an extreme sport, but injuries can still happen.

Curcumin / Turmeric

For those with arthritis or circulation issues, I usually recommend curcumin, also known as turmeric. Yes, the spice! Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric and it's a fantastic anti-inflammatory. Among other things, it is also an anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, making it great to take if you feel yourself coming down with a cold, or to treat chronic illnesses such as allergies, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Crohn's and even cancer. My favourite brand is Curamin.

Yarn Bowls

We recently started carrying these at the knit shop and we literally can't keep them stocked because they fly out the door so fast. Obviously I would encourage you to come to Canmore and check out our selection from Katie Borrowman, a local potter. Her designs are stunning and her glazes are so original. I got addicted to Katie's talent after purchasing one of her travel mugs about three years ago (see photo below). You can read more about my tea obsession below, but suffice it to say, this mug and I are inseparable. I was lucky enough to get a yarn bowl in a matching glaze (big nerd, right here). These bowls have a spiral groove carved out of them so you can feed your yarn through and it stays put. Containing your ball of yarn in the bowl also keeps your fibre nice and clean - this is especially perfect for pet owners whose pets are also yarn lovers / eaters. If you can't make it to the Rocky Mountains (I understand), check out your LYS or for other yarn bowls.

Funny story: I recently had some company for a few days that included a 6 month old baby. The only baby-proofing I did to my house was to put my yarn bowl away on a shelf. It was the only thing I could think of that I would be devastated if it got broken. I obviously didn't hide it well enough because the next day I came home from work to find my yarn bowl right in the middle of the floor!! This girl's boyfriend got some heck for that, I tell ya! But fortunately, the yarn bowl was not harmed. Tsk. Boys.

Rescue Remedy

A fabulous stress buster is Rescue Remedy, a flower remedy (flower essences distilled in an alcohol base). Their website says that this product is great for anyone with a "To Do" list, which makes me laugh because I usually have about six "To Do" lists on the go. But this product really is perfect and safe for anyone, even kids and pets (got a child who refuses to calm down or a dog who is scared of lightning?). It works almost instantly to calm and draw focus. Flower essences work on balancing our moods and emotions with the idea that if you have good mental health, then good physical health will follow. Is it any wonder that a lot of the products that I'm featuring here deal with stress? Look for this product in drops, creams, pastilles, gum and spray.


And speaking of stress, my absolute, hands-down, favourite product for easing anxiety is Stressmune. If you can't find this specific product at your local health store, just try a rhodiola supplement. Rhodiola is an amazing adaptogen and helps with focus, fatigue and how we respond to stressful situations. This product is very fast-acting and you only need one capsule. I don't take it every day, but if I am anticipating a busy day or am in a stressful situation, I just pop one of these babies and things start to seem brighter almost immediately. No one likes a cranky knitter!

Umbra Book Stand

Okay, this is not exactly a "natural" product, but it's so amazing, I had to share. It's a fairly new product in my house, but I'm already over the moon about it. This book stand allows me to combine my two loves: knitting and reading. A dream come true!! It is perfect for holding a novel or a knitting pattern. It is designed for recipes, so you may need one for the kitchen and one for the coffee table, but I prefer use it to prop open a juicy novel while I knit away at something simple. It even holds a pocket paperback open! I  also find it useful to hold a pattern open while I knit. I recently used mine to follow a complex cable chart and found it so handy to have it propped up in front of me (instead of on the floor or flat on the couch). There is a plastic "cover" that will hold your pages flat for you and the whole thing folds down if you want to travel with it - it will even hold your book inside. I waited four months for our local kitchen store to order this, so I would recommend buying it online if you can't find it in stock somewhere. But it was worth the wait!

P.S. My favourite read this summer was Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. Just give yourself a good window of time before you start, because you might not want to put it down!

Magnetic bracelets

I haven't actually tried these out yet, but I wanted to mention it and get you thinking about them. I just can't offer an actual testimony. A rep was recently showing me these at the store and I immediately thought about how well they would work for knitters. Many people wear copper bracelets and rings to help ease arthritis and magnetic jewelry works on the same principle. Check out the website below for more information.


Travel mug by Cabbage and Kings
This "product" hardly needs mentioning, but I love to talk tea. The only thing that challenges my heart's true love (knitting) is the joy of drinking tea. Start with a mug you love to look at and that feels comforting to hold in your hands. Choosing the right mug is a very personal thing and finding the right one can be more challenging than you think. I buy at least one a year at the local craft market from a local potter. Even though I now have a big collection of gorgeous mugs, I always know exactly which one I'm in the mood for. Does that make me a tea geek? Yes, absolutely!

As for water, I would recommend spring water if you can get your hands on it, or filtered water (and I'm not talking Brita - try Santevia or Berkeley). Otherwise, I always use tap water over bottled. (Don't even get me started on the evils of bottled water. That's another blog article in itself.) Anyway, depending on the kind of tea you are drinking, you will want to boil your water at different temperatures. For black tea, use boiling. For green tea, shut your kettle off before the boiling point or boil and let it sit for a moment so you don't scald the tender leaves. For herbal teas, I usually run some cold water over the leaves before adding boiling water. If you're a real tea lover, invest in a kettle with different temperature settings. 

I am really a loose tea lover, but I have a massive collection of bagged teas when I just don't feel like fussing with tea balls. A favourite of my colleagues is Pukka tea. I have to admit, I wasn't keen at first, but I'm coming around on the Pukka teas. My favourite is Three Ginger. For loose teas I really enjoy Vastu Chai, a fair trade organic company that is local to me, as well as Natur'el Tea from Banff, which has a broader selection of teas including oolong and green teas. My favourites from them are the ImnuniTea (great for when you're sick or for sinus issues) and the Organic Cream Earl Grey (I don't drink much black tea, but this one is so delicious!).

Funny story: Since I was young, I loved to drink black tea (Red Rose) and by the time I was a teenager I drank upwards of five cups a day. After having some severe heart palpitations, I visited my doctor who thought it must be an issue of having too much caffeine. He very seriously asked me how much pop I drank. "None, I swear. I hate pop!" "Coffee?" "Nope, hate it. I've never even had a whole cup." He frowned. "Do you drink tea?" The look on my face must have been priceless. So in an effort to cut back, I switched to green tea (which I still drink a lot of) and about four years ago in an effort to cut back on that, I started drinking yerba mate (pronounced, yair-bah mat-tay).

Mate is a Brazillian tea that is traditionally drunk from a gourd through a straw. Although I have never been to South America to drink it in situ, I adore my little gourd and straw (called a bombilla). It warms up so nicely and feels wonderful to hold when it's full. Mate can be steeped in hot or cold water and does not contain caffeine. It does, however, contain mateine, which is a form of caffeine that gives you a perk without the eventual crash and jitters. Many people who are trying to quit drinking coffee switch to mate because of the rich, smoky flavour and the pep it gives them first thing in the morning.

I hope this article gave you some ideas for natural products that might ease some stress, help your hands, or just something to put on your holiday wish list. Happy knitting!