Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thumbs Down

towels cut off ready to be wet finished - three different wefts

Since September I've been attending a dance conditioning class.  It's been great - my balance has improved and it works on flexibility.  It seems dancers get muscle spasms/injuries in much the same places as weavers.  :)  (Although I already knew that, having studied dance when I was younger - much younger!)

My instructor is obviously very knowledgeable about body mechanics and co-incidentally, yesterday she talked about hand positions.  She observed that any time the hand is in the thumbs down position, this is very hard on the body, in particular the shoulders (rotator cuff).

I immediately thought of all those weavers I see all over the continent who hold and throw their shuttles like this:

Any time the thumb is in the thumbs up position, the arm, shoulder and neck are in neutral alignment.  This reduces the stress on the muscles which, if you are a weaver, you are stressing by the sheer repetitiveness of the weaving motions.  Much better then to hold the shuttle like this:  

When you hold the shuttle thumbs down the shoulder is raised out of neutral position and the lower arm is twisted.  With the thumb in the up position the shoulder can stay in neutral reducing stress on the muscles of the shoulder and neck and the lower arm is not twisted but straight.

If  you have shoulder problems you might want to think very seriously about changing your shuttle holding position if you hold the shuttle in the thumbs down orientation.

Likewise you might want to look at how you hold the hook for threading and sleying.  I use a Harrisville brass hook and hold it this way:

Even if you only pull one thread through one at a time, a mere flick of the wrist will do the job rather than having to move the entire arm and shoulder.

If you haven't watched my video clips on You Tube you might want to take a few minutes and watch them.

The happy result of changing your hand position is that you can do more weaving with less fatigue and sometimes people share with me that they can accomplish more with less effort.  And that has to be A Good Thing?

Currently reading Threadbare by Monica Ferris


Susan Harvey said...

Great post Laura!

I've been trying to change newbie weavers one at a time from doing 'the claw'!

Even if their neck and shoulders survive, it simply isn't comfortable to hold and throw like that!

The best purchase I made was the Harrisville brass hook. Very comfortable in the hand.


Laura Fry said...

Yes, one at a time! :) As we age we have to be kinder to our bodies. We only get issued one and while I want to use it up, I don't want to use it up before I'm done with it. ;^)

Sue said...

I hold a lot of things in ways that many people think is weird, but now that you mention it, many of them do put me in a "thumb up" position. Nice to know I'm doing the right thing for my body!

Anonymous said...

Laura, I had to teach myself how to throw with the thumbs up orientation after I watched your videos. Thanks for your great advice!

Peg Cherre said...

Although I'm a regular reader and have watched your videos, I hadn't paid attention to my thumb position till I read the post on this particular issue. I was a bit surprised to see just how I DO hold my thumbs. I posted my full response on your blog.

My left hand - the thumb is in the neutral position - neither up nor down. It's on the side of the shuttle while both throwing and catching.

My right hand - the thumb is in the neutral position while catching, but rotates to the down position to throw.

I will have to really work hard to learn the correct position, because the position I use is not only habit, it allows me to do something else that's probably bad - my index finger moves to lightly touch that bobbin after it's thrown -- it stops it from turning and letting out too much thread. I've used this to help ensure beautiful selvedges.

I see that you use the same kind of bobbin I do, not an end-feed, and you have the best selvedges, so clearly it's not necessary; again, a habit. I did learn to do your motion of lifting the shuttle just above the beater. I guess I just have to play/practice/learn that that's all that's necessary, if done correctly & consistently. Perhaps it works best for you since you weave rather quickly? I'm relatively fast, but not as fast as you. Would that make a difference?

Laura Fry said...

Speed isn't the issue - I weave fast *because* I am holding and throwing the shuttle in an ergonomic/efficient manner. :) I always start my students out slowly, asking them to pay attention and work on building new muscle memory. Always easier when an observer is there to point out when muscle memory kicks back to default!

I'll be doing The Efficient Weaver topic at several guilds and NEWS next year. Perhaps somewhere close enough for people to see in person?


Peg Cherre said...

Ok, I've just finished my first warp holding the shuttle 'correctly' - thumbs up. Granted it was a short one - only about 3.5 yards, but hey, everything counts. One slow warp down, 6 to go, if I use your '7 warps to change your habits' rule.

I also just watched your video on the warping valet, which was great. I couldn't get it from looking at the blog post & description. I do have a few questions...
Do you only have or use one loom? If not, do you have more than one valet ceiling set up?

Thanks for always being willing to share your expertise!!

Laura Fry said...

I have two looms in different areas of the studio so they each have their own valet set up.


Kayleigh Garner said...

I watched your videos online and ever since have made sure that I hold my shuttle like you suggest and thread my loom like you do. It makes threading 4 times faster than how I was doing it previously!