Knitting in public

Most of my knitting is done in public.  I simply don’t have enough time at home to sit and knit much, except when I’m sitting in front of the tv.  There’s too much to do in the house.  Sometimes, when I’m reading something online or listening to a podcast I can knit, but otherwise the knitting gets done when I’m outside the house. 

The commute to work is ideal – almost 1-1/2 hours each way guarantees me 3 hours of knitting a day.  I have clothes pins in my knitting bag so I can clip a chart or instructions to the back of the seat cushion in front of me, the driver puts the interior lights on over my seat so I can work. (I don’t knit at work, except sometimes during my lunch break.)

Besides that, I usually pull my knitting out on the bus.  The wildly different reactions I get are part of the fun, but it’s the best when someone else sees me knitting and pulls out their own project!  Many people ask me what I’m knitting, some tell me about their own knitting, or about someone who knits or used to knit for them.   There are those who stare.  Then there are those who take one look and decide to sit as far away as possible.  Today on the bus a woman started to sit down next to me, saw my knitting and said, “oh!  no, no….” and got up to sit somewhere else.  (Huh?)  On Ravelry there’s an entire forum to discuss public transport knitting, funny experiences, infuriating experiences, dropping yarn that rolls the length of the bus/train car/subway car (been there…..oops) or even out the door.  Knitting a sock that’s almost complete, or a scarf that’s already 5 feet long,  and having someone ask if I’m knitting a sweater… (Um….what?)

Then there is knitting other places.  Many a discussion has been held concerning knitting at someone else’s home, whether it is considered rude or not.  I feel as long as I can participate in a conversation, make eye contact with others, etc, then there’s nothing rude about it.  This has been an occasional bone of contention between partner and I.  Is it ok to knit at a party?   Why not?  But when we’re with family, and I wait a while before pulling out the knitting, someone is sure to say “Whew, there it is, for a while I thought maybe you were sick.”     As for knitting in a lecture or a classroom,  many knitters are much more focused while knitting.  They fidget less, daydream less, and can easily take part in any discussion or ask pertinent questions.  In any case, most people I know who knit in lessons check with the lecturer or professor first.

Waiting rooms are a given.  Doctor’s office, dentist, vet, any place where I have to wait my turn.  If I’m knitting (or reading, my other addiction), then that time is not wasted.  And there’s even something useful to show for it.  If I read, I can’t really talk with other people, but if I knit then I can.  Depends on the situation what I choose to do, but I make sure that I always have at least one book and one knitting project with me.

Restaurants.  If I’m alone, I knit until the food comes, then I read while I eat, then back out comes the knitting while I finish my drink and wait for the bill.  If I’m with others, I omit the reading part.  For some reason, though, my knitting in public tends to embarrass some people I’m with, I’ve no idea why. 

Ravelry also has many a discussion and sharing of experiences of knitting in hospitals, on airplanes, in movies, in concerts, in meetings at work.  There’s an ongoing argument over whether it is possible to knit in church/synagogue and where the line is drawn.  Some people I know have project bags they can hang on their wrist or waist and they knit while they walk.   A friend recently found a book  with classical art covering the fiber arts, and there were even paintings from centuries past of women knitting/crocheting/doing needlework while walking!

Stitch-n-Bitch groups are by definition groups for knitting in public places.  We meet at cafés to knit, not in each others’ homes.  We have managed to teach quite a few waitresses to knit.  We provide support for each other in our public fiber artistry.  And we have a whopping good time doing it.

My daughter and I laughed aloud and both totally identified (each in her own way) with the following excerpt from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s book At Knit’s End (Another Chanuka gift from partner!):

There is absolutely no escaping it.  The daughters who once thought me clever,  beautiful and fun-loving have finally reached an age where they care about what their mother is doing in public.  They ask me if I really need to wear “that” or if I could try not to speak to their friends.  They have concerns about the way I laugh and my “dorky” shoes.  The worst thing, worse even than the coffee spilled on my jeans or the way I forgot my lipstick again, the proof that I care nothing for their social standing is the knitting. 

“Mother,” my 15-year-old groans as I take out my sock at the concert.   “Could you pretend to be normal?”

I will continue to freak out my children by knitting in public.  It’s good for them.

Happy fifth candle! 



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