I’ve heard the pen grip largely described as being unsuitable for most people from an ergonomics perspective; that it’s just bad ergonomics in general and should not be taught to beginners. I don’t like to discount any grip – for some people, that’s the only one that will work for them – so imagine my interest when I started to follow many non-English-speaking crocheters on Instagram, and found that there are many of them that use pen grip very successfully!
The basic issue with pen grip is always the same: it can cause repeated hyperextension in the back wrist, and over-work the muscles in the forearm. (The condition is called dorsal wrist impingement, I believe, which can be caused by injury or overuse.) In crochet, and in many motions with the hands, I’ve noticed that the extremity of motion is the issue. Pushing the joints to the limit of their flexibility, repeatedly and without rest, wears them out!
Now having said all that, I’ve posted before about modifying the pen grip to limit this hyperextension, effectively by transferring the motion into the elbow and shoulder, such that those joints do not push their limits. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because small motions at the elbow and shoulder produce large motions at the fingers. But this isn’t the only option, as I’ve discovered, and you can thank the many crocheters in Brazil, Turkey, the Middle East, and elsewhere who can work for hours at incredible high speed using pen grip with no ill effects. (If you’d like to follow them too, I highly recommend looking for crocheters from Brazil, and from there, your Instagram recommends will take you further!)
So let’s discuss what’s involved.
Here is the pen grip at rest, with no hyper extension. The hook needs to be rotated inwards, towards the table and up in this view, in order to grab the yarn.
And here is our issue! As the hook rotates, the grip causes the wrist to hyperextend backwards to make the pickup. This is the main problem which I’ve talked about in the previous post. This has to be avoided at all costs or you will definitely develop wrist issues later on.
And here is the method I’m now seeing. I’ve taken to calling it the “lever flick”, because it uses the forefinger and middle finger to rotate the hook on the right thumb, using it as a lever, and flicking the hook to make the pickup. Notice how the wrist does extend somewhat, but not to the limits of motion.
I’ve tried t0 move my fingers a bit here to make it more clear about what’s happening, so I’m not quite levering on my right thumb. The important part to notice is the forefinger pushing on the hook so that it moves in a scooping motion from the rest position, rotating down and clockwise, to execute the pickup. When finishing the motion, the middle finger pushes the hook to rotate in the opposite direction, and move it back to the resting position to pull the yarn through.
And there you have it. Hyperextension is avoided in this case because we’re transferring the motion in the opposite direction – into the fingers as opposed to into the elbow and shoulder. I think this is a more economical action, which is probably why it’s so popular. I’m very glad to have learned about it!