Sore Hands, CDDs and Suet Puddings

Happy unwrapped suet pudding

Several weeks ago I did something I forgot I shouldn’t: I knit many hats all at the same gauge, using the same needles. I always try and vary needles and yarn from project to project to avoid repetitive strain on my wrist and hand joints, but lately I forgot because 1. I was too excited about the hats; 2. I just love my 2.5mm 40cm needle so much, and especially how quickly a hat emerges from its speedy tips and 3. So much productive knitting felt great for my mental health. I was blocking hats and baking bread, and all was going well until it wasn’t.

BOO.

Managing psoriatic arthritis is a delicate balancing act of activity vs. rest. If you don’t use arthritic joints, they lose strength and mobility and can, over time, fuse into immobile positions, causing permanent loss of joint function. Conversely, if you overuse them, it can trigger an auto-immune response of massive inflammation and further pain and swelling. Recently, I have been *just so obsessed with making hats* that I forgot about the impact of excessive knitting on my wrists. This is very frustrating because there are many hats I want to make. As in other times over the last twenty-four years of living with, and managing, life with psoriatic arthritis, I must accept that my body cannot keep pace with my mind; find ways to look after it more carefully; and redirect my creative impulses away from the desired path of KNIT TEN MILLION HATS.

ALL HAIL THE SNAIL - a drawing of a snail from my Bullet Journal, sitting on a munchy leaf

Things are not helped by the fact that all my recent hats have ended with a centred double decrease stitch – CDD for short. This is the aesthetically delightful decrease used to close the crown of a hat in strong, radial lines. Its visual appeal is undeniable…

A view of the hat and its glorious glowy blue crown

Jeanette's hat - a pink and orange version of the lovely Bonnie Isle Hat by Linda Shearer, this time in vivid pinks and oranges for Jeanette

The Shetland Flag crown - a perfectly symmetrical white cross closes in against a ground of warm blue, light navy and dark navy

…however, those strong lines involve a lot of slipping two stitches; knitting one stitch; then passing the slipped purl stitches over the knitted stitch. As the hat crown closes, the circumference of knitting in which these demanding manoeuvres are occurring becomes increasingly small and tight. The combination of the finicky series of motions and the decreasing circumference of live stitches asks a lot of the hand-joints involved! I’m wondering if there is a clever workaround involving a crochet hook or some other series of actions I can do in the future, to avoid this kind of hand-trashing? I’d love to hear from anyone who’s found a way of working the CDD that lessens the stress on the wrists of working this lovely decrease. If you have ever adapted the CDD to accommodate hand pain, please share your discoveries in the comments.

I’ve been in this situation lots of times before and hopefully the week of rest and relaxation and NO KNITTING on our recent holiday (more of which soon) will have helped… and hopefully I can get back to knitting my joyous mitts soon.

In the meantime, since I can’t knit hats, I thought I’d tell you about one I baked using fruits picked out of our garden and some spare blackberries from our Oddbox.

Damsons and Blackberries in a colander

apples and rhubarb from the garden freshly washed and lying on a linen tea towel

This recipe is from Elisabeth Ayrton’s book The Cookery of England.

Fruit Hat

Serves 4

For the suet crust:
250g Self Raising Flour
90-120g chopped suet (I used vegetable suet)
a good pinch of salt
cold water

For the filling:
250g fruit: cooking apples, plums, apricots (fresh or dried), cherries, rhubarb, etc.
30 – 60g sugar, depending on tartness of fruit and personal taste (I prefer less sugar but YMMV).
about 1.5 tbsp cold water

Prepare fruit as for stewing – core, peel and dice apples; slice rhubarb; stone and halve damsons etc., and mix together in a bowl with sugar to taste.

A collection of cut up fruits - apples, rhubarb and damsons - with blackberries; everything is covered in sugar, making it wet and shiny and it's all well mixed together

To make the crust, sieve flour and salt into a bowl, add the suet and water and lightly mix into a dough – don’t overmix: you want to smush the ingredients together until they *just* hold together. Grease a 1L pudding basin and line with the dough, leaving a quarter for the top. Fill with your fruity/sugary mix and add the water. Flatten the remainder of the dough into a lid and fit over the pudding, wetting the edges with water to make it stick and seal all around. Cover with greased paper and foil, and tie with a string.

Pudding basin containing FRUIT HAT and topped with greaseproof paper and foil, tied about with string

Steam the pudding for 1.5 – 2 hours (I popped mind in a metal colander and placed this in our biggest cooking pot over boiling water). After two hours, carefully unwrap the package.

Happy unwrapped suet pudding

Place a plate over the steamed pudding JOY and turn it out onto a plate, ready for slicing. My Fruit Hat collapsed at this point, but no matter as this is definitely a content > form kind of pudding.

Tasty golden suet crust with little stewed fruit joy bursting out of it like garnets

ENJOY YOUR FRUIT HAT!

I really enjoyed making this, because it was easy, played to the strengths of the various fruits in our garden, and enabled me to produce a hat without hurting my hands. Also: IT WAS DELICIOUS! Suet is thoroughly underrated.

I’ve got two lovely courses saved up – Carson Demers’ class from Knit Stars Season 3.0 and Ana Campos’ Portuguese Knitting class from the Fiber Retreat that she ran and produced in 2020. I’m hopeful that finally getting to grips with the Ergonomics of Knitting and learning a different method for holding and tensioning my yarn will enhance my toolkit for managing future flare ups. Also, I’m going to spend some time with a crochet hook exploring what can be done to make the CDD less taxing.

In the meantime, there are FRUIT HATS to enjoy and our restorative funshine holiday in Mykonos, Greece, provided lots of chances to swim – something that always helps my body out a lot.

More soon,
YOURS IN SUNSHINE, SEA AND SUET –
Fx

Glorious blue Aegean seas

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