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Knitting in Public: Yes, no, maybe – What say you?

December 15, 2009

I’ve been reading a long line of posts on a knitting related yahoo group and have noted that there are many knitters who love to knit in public (I confess that I am one of them).  However, a few posters are dissenters amongst the ranks of public knitters.  They take issue with knitting in public and see KIPers (knitting in pubic) as rude and inattentive.    They’ve posed the question of whether knitting is a social activity or  not. I feel the need to offer up a retort to this view.

I used to knit on public transit (when I took public transit).  This torch has now been passed to my daughter, who regularly knits on the bus on her way to school.  I knit in doctor’s offices while waiting to have my turn with them.  I knit during conference calls.  I keep a simple piece of knitting (usually a sock) in my desk drawer to aid in overcoming writers block or just to have close at hand to take the edge off of a particularly stressful moment.  I belong to this group, the Saskatoon Knitting Circle, and knit on Sunday afternoons at a local coffee shop.  I have knit through many a grade school concert.  I have knit my way through conferences and presentations.  I confess, I am a public knitter and I am not ashamed of it.

Some posters on said list, have noted that they choose not to knit in public.  They either do not like the attention nor do they appreciate the interruptions as on lookers “oh” and “awe” over a task that is both beautiful and complicated to them.  Knitting, they say, is not an activity that invites social behaviour.  These knitters keep their talents closed to the open eyes of the public.  Other posters noted that knitting during conferences, meetings, or the like is rude and often conveys a message of inattention.  Let us explore the latter a bit.

Knitting at work, in church, during a long drawn out annual general meeting, or what have you helps pass the time.  Knitting, rather than being an attention grabber, can often aid us in paying even closer attention to the topics at hand.  To me, knitting in these situations is actually an aid.  Think about the fidgeter in church who is moving constantly to avoid falling asleep.  Should this person have had knitting their hands would be kept busy and their mind would be open to the sermon rather than picking at the hem of their shirt or dress and disrupting those around them.  Make sense?  I think so.

Let us think through this a little more, shall we?  Knitting has made it into the board rooms where both women and men partake in the practice to aid with their concentration levels.  I have been in a number of meetings where a number of the participants are busy on their blackberries or their lap tops accomplishing work not even closely related to the topics at hand.  They are openly not paying attention and it is obvious to everyone (especially when we receive emails from them about unrelated topics…yep, this is a tell tale sign of inattention). And, what about the “doodler” who fills a page with unrelated scribbles and artwork?  Is he/she paying attention to what is going on in front of them?  I’d tend to say, no.

Many of knit through a number of events in our lives, both professional and personal.  Knitting helps us focus.  It helps us process complicated and emotionally charged information.  Knitting, or any other simple and repetitive activity, can actually aid in our processing of information.  Knitting keeps our creative brain busy and out of trouble, while other parts of brain actually do the work of the moment.

Now, back to the original question that sparked this posting.  Knitting is not a social activity.  I must disagree somewhat here as any activity that I do in a social setting is indeed a social activity.  I knit to be social.  I have made friends for life because I knit for social interaction.  I have met interesting and lovely people due to my knitting in a number of social settings.  Knitting makes it easier to like people and no matter what the background of said people there can be a common thread over knitting.

If they are a knitter, and KIPing (knitting in public) is a sure way to seek them out, conversation flows from the needles as surely as the fabric.  We “oh” and “awe” over the yarn or the project or…well you know the drill.  If said people are not knitters we can consider this a teaching moment.  They often begin by staring intently at the knitting and eventually work enough courage to inquire about process.  Rather than seeing this as a bother or an interruption, I take it as a “teaching moment.”  What better opportunity to spread the love of a craft that is near and dear to me.  I may just add one more knitter to the clan who will aid in avoiding the dying out of the art.  What could be more beautiful?

Knitting.  Whether we do it in solace or in public, should we take it to family or grade school functions, if we knit during long drawn out meetings or just a few moments at our desk, or whether it accompanies us throughout our travels on public transit or while riding in a car it serves us well.  It keeps our hands and minds busy and out of trouble.

Happy stitching and I hope I shared some insight into the brain of a knitter.  If just one non-knitter comes to understand us a little better then I can rest happy tonight.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2009 9:22 am

    Similar to quilting, it used to be quite common for knitters to come together as a group and knit, not just as a social event, but to conserve heat and light. Imagine that, knitting as a group is environmentally conscious and friendly. Most of the time it took place in one another’s homes rather than in public, however.

    I have heard something about knitting or some sort of tactile craft being used to help ADD and ADHD kids focus in school.

    The problem is that crafting in the boardroom is very obvious as not work related and not as easily hidden as a crackberry.

    • bonniezink permalink*
      December 15, 2009 9:26 am

      I agree, knitting is environmentally friendly in more ways than one.  However, I disagree in that I have successfully made knitting part of my work related activities.  I’ve dyed yarn in our work colours and knit socks, I’ve knit our logo into sweaters, I’ve created warm woolies for co-workers, etc.  All this I see, and can validate, as part of KT (knowledge translation / exchange).  I’m still working on getting everyone around here to sign onto that particular theory but I shall persist!!

      True enough about the crackberry.  If others find knitting in a boardroom as irritating as I find those working away on their crackberries then I shall apologize for my activities right now!

  2. December 19, 2009 1:48 pm

    I once had an arthritis flare-up such that my doctor noticed I was not knitting when he came in, and he asked about it. You’re not able to knit? This is serious! We have to DO something!!!

    Good man, good man. But it also tells you something about how much the people around me expect me to be knitting–and that it comforts them that I do.

    • bonniezink permalink*
      December 19, 2009 2:20 pm

      When health issues interfere with knitting…well…let me just say that I’ll up the drugs and try anything else but giving up the knitting. Osteoarthritis can sometimes cause me issues too!

      Everyone I know, even colleagues at work, seem to quite enjoy it when I knit. They love seeing the stitches flow from the needles and are amazed when I knit socks and don’t even look at what I’m doing!

      I love it 🙂

  3. Lynn permalink
    February 2, 2010 4:21 am

    I crochet in public every chance I get especially when I go for ice cappochinos at Tim Hortons. People are always interested in what I am making this time. Always something different! I have met some interesting people. and have directed them to our local Gelato and Knitting Store where we meet twice a week.

    • bonniezink permalink*
      February 2, 2010 7:27 am

      Hi Lynn:

      I am same, whether I am knitting or crocheting (and I do both quite a lot). I find it quite inspiring to be able to share my love of the craft with interested onlookers. Sometimes the onlookers are knitters & crocheters themselves and other times they are interested in the process as they are not knitters / crocheters. It is always fun to discuss what we love and even more fun to see a similar passion in others eyes. I once had a little girl watching me at a local coffee shop who was completely enthralled with the 5 DPNs I was manipulating as knit some vanilla socks. She could not look away and asked her Mommy if she could learn to that someday. Her Mommy replied, “Only if I can learn it with you.” I think this moment inspired (at least I hope it did) two more knitters.

      Thanks for replying and taking a moment to stop by my little home on the web.

      Happy Stitching…

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