I have a dilemma - a knitting dilemma

Toddler Leafy Hat

I am a knitter. I am not a particularly good knitter nor am I an accomplished knitter. I am a pick-up-easy-projects-when-I-can knitter.  You know, little easy baby hats in the round, that kind of thing.

Most of the knitting I do, I do outside my home. When I am home, my responsibilities demand my hands so I don't often pick up my knitting.

So most of my knitting happens in groups of women. Places where women are talking. I sit, and chat or listen, and I knit.

Little Newborn Beanie

I just learned something that totally surprised me. I can't believe I am learning this in my forties.

I learned that knitting in public is considered rude by many, if not most, people. I don't quite know how to handle this information.

Part of what is so upsetting to me is realizing that I have unknowingly been rude for years. I can't believe I have actually been going around offending people and not knowing it. And by knitting!

Itty Bitty Teddy Bear Dress

So I googled it and learned some of the reasons why people feel that it is socially unacceptable to knit in public. Some believe that the knitter is more interested in her project than in what the other person has to say. That it is rude not to make eye contact when someone is speaking to you. That by knitting you are distracting people around you. That knitting in public is all about the knitter and her yarn and therefore selfish.

And if I try to put myself in someone else's shoes I actually think I can see how people might think all that.

So why did I not grasp this until now? I just have no idea. Other than the fact that knitting does not distract me from fully engaging. And it does not distract me from listening when other people are knitting. I have had countless deeply meaningful conversations with people who are knitting.

I feel so unsettled by this. It is very disturbing to think back over the many many times I have knit in public and wonder who I have offended.

And I wonder now when I will knit.

Please give me your thoughts... do you knit in public?... if you're not a knitter do you find it distracting for someone to be knitting?... should I just knit at home?


  1. I don't think that knitting in public is rude. I enjoy seeing what people are knitting.

  2. O.K. Here are my thoughts. I see knitting in public as a great way to multitask. Now if you were texting or tweeting, yes, that's rude. Our homeschool group meets this afternoon and many moms bring their knitting. I can't knit, or just don't. I bring my coupons and cut, sort and chat with the others. At town meeting I see so many knitters. It's better than biting your nails or other boredom busters. Keep knitting, just don't do it at church.

  3. I think knitting in public is only rude in places where it distracts people negatively from what the focus is - like in church. Most people who think it is rude would probably also see nursing in public as rude - and most, I would guess, don't nurse, or knit, at all. If I'm in doubt - say, at a meeting or something, I'll just ask, and gauge the honesty of the response. For many of us, knitting is like taking notes - it helps keep us focused. And when else do we find time? Keep knitting with serenity and a smile!

  4. Oh my. As you might guess, this is really disturbing for me, too. Knitting is a way of keeping my hands engaged so my mind can really focus (also, to be completely honest, I'm addicted). If I don't have something to do with my hands when I'm sitting, I act like a fidgety 5yo. I suppose I could fiddle with play-dough, but the fact that I'm producing something useful is deeply satisfying.

    This next part is going to scandalize some, but I do knit in church. I try to bring a small project that doesn't requireany thinking. At my last church in PA several women (including a deacon) knit or cross-stitched in church. For me it felt like home. I also talked to our pastor (or whoever else happened to be giving the sermon) to ensure him I wasn't bored, but that knitting helped me truly concentrate. I did the same thing at CBS. I don't knit during prayer time, though!

    It would make me sad to think of you not being able to knit in public. Like so many things, I think it boils down to a heart issue. Why are we knitting?(I'm concious of how many times I've used first-person pronouns here, ugh.)I think open communication is important, too. So far, I haven't encountered any negative reactions when I explain why I knit.

    Okay, I'll stop now. I DO go on, don't I. ;-)

  5. Laura, I am glad that you enjoy seeing what people are knitting. So do I, which was one of the reasons why I was so surprised!

    Terri, well, this was exactly how I had been thinking. There are some places that it is obvious that it could be a distraction (although there are apparently some rare pastors who encourage knitting in church!). But what I discovered was that are settings where I had thought it was fine but some people feel it is rude. Thanks for your feedback!

  6. Jennifer, I think that's a good way to put it... it's rude when it distracts people from what the focus is.

    And perhaps keeping in mind asking people first would eliminate some issues for me. The particular situation that caused me to learn this was involving a large group of people and since it would have been impossible for me to make sure it didn't bother anyone I guess that would rule knitting out and takes care of my dilemma.

    I don't think I'll stop knitting at our homeschool park day... I've been knitting there for years and I think everyone expects it (I suppose if I have offended anyone they are used to it by now). And I have had people ask me to teach them because of it, who are now knitters themselves.

    Actually, come to think of it, two of the pictures I put up in this post are items that were made for people who asked me to make them because they saw me knitting in public! That is kind of funny.

  7. Oh and Jennifer, you were among the people who came to mind when I thought of having meaningful conversations while knitting. {{{hug}}}

  8. Sandy, yes, definitely the communication is the thing. I don't know why it never occurred to me to ask people if they minded if I knit. Knitting just seems so, so... harmless! I would (before today) have been shocked if someone asked me if I minded if they knit!

    Honestly, if I answer the question about why I am knitting, it IS selfish... I like to knit. Yes, usually I am making something for someone, but I have never made something that someone couldn't live without. I feel peaceful when I knit. So there ya go... it's about me. :-(

    I don't know that I am really BETTER at listening when I knit, so that is out as a valid reason. I just feel calmer in general, and that is not worth offending or distracting others. I guess it is akin to twisting your hair repeatedly or something. Possibly soothing but also possibly annoying to others.

    I have resolved now not to give up public knitting completely, but I do realize I have to be more aware of the context.

    The context of being with you DEMANDS knitting, my friend. :-) You also were much on my mind when I wrote of meaningful conversations while knitting! Love you!

  9. Oh, I don't think it's rude at all. (Taking a non-urgent phone call, playing a game on a smart phone, having head phones in when you are supposed to be spending time with someone, those qualify!)
    But knitting. It only makes me jealous that I can't do it. I think there are things, like knitting for some people, that actually do help you to concentrate and focus on other parallel activities better, by keeping one part of your brain busy.

    It just would have never occurred to me that knitting (kind of like nursing in public, in my book) is rude! Please don't stop!


  10. I don't think it's rude at all to do it in public. If, I was a speaker I might notice it but I don't know that it would distract me. But it definitely wouldn't distract me if I was in a conversation with someone. I know where this topic stemmed from so I guess that in a large group setting, it'd be better not to do it. Just because you can't check w/everyone if it would distract them. I don't knit nor do I have an interest in it but I say, keep knitting.

  11. Thank you all for taking the time to comment. The first wave of sadness that I might have offended someone has been replaced with a general awareness that not everyone regards knitting in public the same way. I am glad to know it.

    I will still knit in public but be more sensitive to this and avoid it if I have any reason to suspect it might bother someone (such as in a large group). I would knit around any of you ladies! {{{hug}}} You have all been very sweet. Thank you!

  12. Hi Patti
    Saw your blog for the first time today and like it. As to your question,I enjoy knitting. I'd do it at home, at friends if I needed to finish something. Would'nt do it at a conference though because I feel you should be giving your attention to who is talking and what they're saying. I Once saw a woman knitting in church and thought it a bit weird! But if it works for her...
    Knitting keeps my hands warm and busy in winter, and, you know, away from the fridge!! Anyway, look forward to your next post. happy knitting and typing. God bless

  13. TKT - I should take up more hand project to keep myself away from the fridge as well. Dearest sweet Patti. I just want to give you a big big huge hug. I so enjoyed talking week into the hours with you this weekend. Here's my take - for anyone else who might care: knitting is wonderfully good. Knitting in church would terribly offend me or my pastor (my husband would pass out on the floor and my children would think I'd gone nuts, especially since I ask them to take notes). Knitting in small circles (or large circles) of friends is totally completely cool. That would never offend me. Never. In a conference, no. I think it's rude and I think most speakers would say the same - unless the group was 500+ people and they couldn't see anyone knitting. I'm glad you did some research. How interesting that something like this would be on a search engine. We can find anything on google, can't we? Love you friend. You are precious to me and your sweet spirit is a rare jewel. :)

  14. My dad was just telling me the other day that Katie and I needed to learn how to quilt - he has fond memories of his grandmother, aunts, and cousins sitting around in a group quilting, knitting, etc.. while chatting. Funny that it was not only socially acceptable then - but they saw it as a way to pass the time while they worked - I dont believe they ever thought they were not "being listened" to as they worked.
    I suppose it might be seen as rude to someone in a conference type setting. Of course my personal take would be (if I was speaking - and I never would speak in public :) ) is " if she spent her money to be here and she does not want to listen...". But really I think I would see it as something you must be doing and listening at the same time or you probably would not be doing it..


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