Pushing the old stitches off with your index finger will give you a sore finger

How to knit and not hurt your fingertip

If you seem to have a chronically sore fingertip from knitting, then you are not alone. One way of sliding the old stitch off the left needle is to push it off with the help of your right index finger, but unfortunately pushing a sharp knitting needle repeatedly into your finger can hurt quite a bit. Luckily, you don’t have to use your index finger at all. All you have to do is make a small adjustment to your knitting style.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong in knitting. If it works for you, go with it. For example, if you are a loose knitter, and you usually knit with unsharp bamboo or wood knitting needles, then you can probably push stitches off with your index finger without any pain. But if your fingertip is always sore, then I would argue that it’s not working for you. It might be worth it to try a different way.

Pushing the stitches off with your fingertip

When you knit a new stitch, you insert the right-hand needle into the old stitch on the left-hand needle, wrap the working yarn around the right needle to create the new stitch, and then you slide the old stitch off the tip of the left needle, leaving you with the new stitch on the right-hand knitting needle. If you are a finger-tip pusher, then you slide the old stitch off by placing your right index finger on the tip of your left needle, and then you push the right needle with the new stitch (and the old stitch in front of it) towards the tip of the left needle until you can slide the old stitch off. It’s easy and it works. However, if your stitches are really tight then you will have to push so hard against your fingertip that it will hurt. It will also hurt if your knitting needles are extra sharp, or if you knit for long periods of time.

If you push old stitches off the needle with your index finger, it can cause your finger tip to be sore.
Pushing old stitches off the left needle with your index finger can cause your finger to hurt.

Sliding the stitches off without using your fingertip

I recommend teaching yourself to knit without using your index finger to move the old stitches off the needles. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s a surprisingly simple solution.

When you are ready to slide off the old stitch, you insert the right-hand knitting needle a little further so that the new stitch is placed securely on the full-width part of the needle rather than on the tip. Then you slide the old stitch off the tip by pushing it with the right-hand needle, without using your index finger. It sounds so simple, and it is!

The right-hand knitting needle should be fully inserted
If you insert the right-hand needle a little further, then you can slide the old stitch off without using your index finger.
Sliding the old stitch off without the use of the index finger
As long as your stitches are not too tight, the old stitch will slide off easily. Tadaa!

Here’s a short video showing how it works in practice. It’s exactly the same for a purl stitch.

Tight knitters

If your stitches are super tight, then the old stitches may not slide off quite so easily. There’s nothing wrong with being a tight knitter (confession time: I’m a tight knitter), but there is such a thing as too tight. Your stitches should be able to move freely on the knitting needles, and you should not have to push and pull them with force. It is very common for new knitters to knit too tightly, and in time you will relax more when you knit and the problem will solve itself. In the meanwhile, there are some things you can try to loosen your tension.

  • Relax! Sit comfortably and relax your shoulders. Relax your arms and hands. Take breaks and shake your hands and shoulders.
  • The tight stitches begin already with the cast-on, so try to cast on more loosely with one of these tips:
    • Cast on to two knitting needles held together, then remove one of them.
    • Cast on to a needle a size or two larger than what you will be knitting with, then start knitting with the correct needle size.
  • Stop thinking the stitches will fall off the needle tip – if you are knitting on bamboo there’s so much drag the stitches are not going anywhere.
  • The stitch should be at least as big as the diameter of the knitting needles, so don’t tension the working yarn while the new stitch is still on the tip of the needle. If you follow the directions in this blog post, you will automatically size the new stitch on the full diameter of the needle.
  • When you are about to push the old stitch off, give the right-hand needle a little tug in your direction to make the new stitch a little bigger.
  • Stop tugging on the working yarn after you complete a stitch.
Casting on to two knitting needles for a looser cast-on
You can cast on to two knitting needles to make your cast-on stitches looser. When you have enough stitches you simply remove one of the needles.

I hope these tips will help if you would like to loosen your tension. The topic deserves a blog post of its own – I will write one soon! Please leave suggestions in the comments below if you have any other tips for tight knitters. I will try to include all your best tips.

If knitting is causing you more serious pain than a sore finger…

Knitting is a wonderful hobby. It can be almost meditative to move your hands repetitively while concentrating lightly on a pattern. Sometimes we lose all sense of time and we knit for many hours without a break. Sitting still, moving our hands repetitively! That’s not healthy, and it can cause some serious problems with pain in your back, shoulders, arms, or hands. It can also be that you have a preexisting condition that means knitting can cause you pain even when you knit for a short period of time. If knitting is causing you more serious pain than a sore finger, you should read this article by Chloe Benjamin. And please take care of yourselves! Remember to take breaks.

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2 thoughts on “How to knit and not hurt your fingertip”

  1. Great post! I subconsciously started using the right needle to slide my stitches off and it felt so strange, but also revolutionary.
    I love the tip about casting on with a larger needle size! Will definitely try this, thank you 🙂

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