Thursday, October 14, 2021


Today's post is more of a P.S.A.

Most of us are feeling the effects of aging.  This past summer, I noticed that I couldn't do as much as I normally accomplish.  It wasn't until 2 months ago when both of my hands were so painful, that I made an appointment with the hand doctor.  My neighbor complained that her hands were feeling awful too.  We concluded that something in the weather must be bothering the inevitable arthritis that comes with age.

Beth and I have had frequent conversations about preserving our hands.  For most of us, the things we love to do--sewing, gardening, and other hobbies require dexterity.

A 1920s redwork coverlet (maker unknown) features the maker's hand, initials, and wedding ring.

Last week I visited the doctor.  Dr. T is a great doctor and only does hands.  He performed my carpel tunnel surgery years ago.  Many of my quilt guild members go to him as well.  I finally got to visit him last week--yes, he is so popular that I had to wait over 2 months to see him.  By now, I felt better but I kept the appointment because I figured he could tell me how to cope with the arthritis.

Dr. T. begins each session by feeling your hands.  "I know it is probably arthritis," I told him.  "Some of the women in my family had terrible arthritis in their hands.  I was just hoping that I had inherited my Great-Grandmother Ester's hands.  She crocheted well into her 90s.  One day she said, 'don't bring me anymore yarn.' She passed two weeks later."

"Nope, not arthritis," said Dr. T.,  "I think you have tendonitis and it's in both hands."

From the same redwork coverlet, a motif that celebrated the birth of her baby with an outline of the baby's hand and birthdate.

X-rays confirmed the diagnosis and he injected steroids in each hand.  I cannot tell you what a relief it is to know that my hands are treatable.    

A few things surprised me.  With the exception of the one incident over the summer, I thought my hands were doing okay.  The progression of the problem was very gradual.  I have to assume that I am either obtuse (quite possible), too busy to stop and think about how I maneuvered my fingers, and/or just became accustomed to my lack of mobility.  I hadn't realized how swollen the top of my palms were or that I couldn't do certain things like meet fingers together, or make a tight fist.

So I'm sharing this with you today because maybe you too think that your hands are arthritic and that you too are being limited by the impact of aging.  If there is a hand specialist in your area, call them.  Even if the steroids don't work, there is a surgical procedure that can be done.

Since the appointment, I can't tell you how much I've thought about all the things I found difficult and now are explainable.  I tried machine quilting on my featherweight and found it difficult--it wasn't the machine, it was my hands. 
My embroidery had been frustrating because my hands seemed so clumsy and my stitches awkward.   Even weeding the garden was challenging.  I just accepted that I was older and that my hands tired more easily.

How did women preserve their hands before modern inventions like the sewing machine?  I don't know but somewhere along the line, I scanned this article.  It was originally published in 1890 and exemplifies the amount of work a woman's endured in just sewing:

So it will be a few weeks until I can tackle the garden again and do handwork.  Fortunately, Diann over at Little Penguin Quilts posted this tutorial for machine binding this week.  Both Beth and I have tried machine binding and didn't like the results.  This tutorial is different as you complete the binding in the front and not the back.  It's far from a perfect binding but at least I can work on my guild community project of placemats.  I'm sharing this in case you are experiencing similar problems. 

Dr. T. had one last gift for me.  "Looks like you may have inherited your great-grandmother's hands."  He brought up the x-ray to show me.  I have two small spots of arthritis on each thumb but my other digits are completely clear.  

Maybe I'll be able to quilt when I'm in my 90s!

Tomorrow is Flower Friday so if you have images to share, please email me at!

Have a safe and happy day!


  1. I'm so glad to hear it isn't arthritis and is treatable. How wonderful to you! (And probably others, too, now that you've told us.)
    "Number of Stitches in a Shirt" is interesting. I wonder who counted all those stitches! (Poor unlucky person.) Maybe they counted stitches in an inch and measured the length. I sometimes wonder how many stitches in a quilt but have never counted.

  2. The stitch list is so fun!
    Thanks for the PSA. I've been experiencing tennis elbow, but I'm calling it "sewing elbow" because that's where I got it. I have several exercises from the doc to perform, so whenever it shows up I start them again. No arthritis yet.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I too struggle with painful/aching hands. I love it when , after I have done an our of hand quilting for instance, that my kitty comes and goes to sleep on my lap and the heat of her body eases the pain. I've even got compression gloves that I sometimes wear at night that help. My thumbs seem to be the part most involved, the muscle at the palm.

  4. I'm fortunate that my hands seem to be painfree (Knock on wood). However, I can't believe how old they look!! I had a picture taken with a friend and one hand is down at my side. When did they get so old and wrinkled!