Like Grandma Moses


My left hand first started hurting after making 15 chicken potholders for the opening of 3 Pears Gallery in Vermont.   It’s that muscle between the pointer and thumb.  I lowered my stool so there would be less pressure on my hand and was mindful of relaxing it while sewing.   I tried repositioning my hand, but found I  didn’t have as much control.    I thought of all the Carpal Tunnel nightmares I’ve heard about and knew I didn’t want this to get any worse than it already was.  What would I do, I thought if I couldn’t make anymore streaming pillows or stitch draw on my potholders.  And what about all the ideas I haven’t even come up with yet, If I couldn’t draw with my machine, they would never happen.  I thought of Grandma Moses, she was in her 60’s when her arthritis got so bad she couldn’t do her needlework anymore.  So she started to paint. I always told myself  I’d be like Grandma Moses, if for some reason I couldn’t sew anymore, I’d do something else.

I wasn’t at this point yet, but my mind was.  And off it went, not to the creative place of all the other directions my art could take, but to the dark place of the possibility of not being able to do  what I wanted to do.  I kept at it for a while, until I was all worked up and really starting to scare myself.  So I took my complaint to Jon, knowing he could at least calm me down.  And he did.  I rested my hand for a few days, sewing Jackie’s quilt, the kind of sewing that doesn’t hurt my hand, put heat on it at night and made a appointment with, Roseanne, my Chiropractor.  I know if you catch this type of injury early it’s easier to heal.  And as much as I admire Grandma Moses, I’m not ready to give up drawing on my machine yet, if I don’t have to.

And it looks like I’m not going to have to give it up.  I saw Roseanne today and she adjusted my wrist and massaged some muscles in my arm and elbow and did some other stuff that I can’t explain.  I might have to do some more massage on my arm and elbow, but the damage is minimal and I should be good to sew.   Tomorrow I’ll try it out on a pillow I’m making for Wendy.  And I’m trying to remember that anything can happen at any time, and to be grateful for what I have.

7 thoughts on “Like Grandma Moses

  1. Maria – I have a set-up at work that is very ergonomically incorrect, and using the mouse for hours has given me nightmares also. My husband bought me a magnetic bracelet – it works like a charm. I can also recommend Curcumin as one of Mother Nature’s best anti-inflammatory! Good luck!

  2. My sister had to have both of her wrists done eventually because of carpal tunnel. She’s had a 100% recovery and wishes she hadn’t waited so long. She had tried everything but surgery.

  3. Being proactive is so worth the trouble…glad that your hand is feeling better, Maria – the photograph shows the splay of your hand, and one can see how that sort of prolonged tension could lead to aches and pains. Rest up!

  4. Ms Maria, I’m a hand therapist and have practiced specializing in upper extremities for a wide variety of diagnoses. The area between the index finger and thumb is referred to as your 1st webspace, which encompasses small intrinsic muscles controlling the thumb. Carpal tunnel symptoms are numbness in the thumb, index, middle and radial side of the ring fingers, the median nerve distributed digits. Your complaint appears to be more muscle soreness in the 1st webspace. Your work is everything to you and us! Please take my advice and consider seeing a hand surgeond that specializes in hands–you will be relieved to see an expert. Hands are incredibly complex and and damn good doctor can guide you in the right direction, including conservative hand therapy. By no means does it sound like you need surgery or have arthritis. But the right doctor can guide to down the right road. If you need guidance in locating a top hand surgeon, let me know and I can do some research for you. PS a paraffin unit can do wonders for sore muscles. That makes me think of a new pot holder!! Take great care! Sarah in Richardson, Texas :))

  5. Hi Maria, I agree with Sarah – I’m an occupational therapist (OT). Although I do not have a hand therapy speciality certification, I agree with Sarah that seeing a specialist (MD and certified hand therapist) is important. There is a Website – – that has a directory of certified hand therapists so that you could find one near you. I’m sure if you called one of them, they could recommend a good doctor near you. I work at Mass General Hospital in Boston. I’d be happy to recommend an MD at MGH if you wanted to come down to Boston. In the meantime, you could try wearing a soft neoprene thumb spica splint, like the one pictured here: It may help by providing your thumb some support. Good luck – your work is so beautiful!

  6. Hi Maria – sorry to hear about your hand problem – I’ve had similar issues with a lot of repetitive computer use and have found acupuncture also helps – either alone or as a support for physical therapy if massage doesn’t fix it up. Hope that rest and a change of activity will help!
    I love the 2 potholders of yours that I have and your latest creations seen on your website are beautiful!
    Have a nice day!

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