I don’t know if this link will remain live for long, but it’s to an “Ask Amy” column appearing in the Washington Post on-line edition (free sign in may be required). The advice columnist printed a letter from a California knitter who was asking about the propriety of knitting at an informal gathering of friends.

The gist of the letter is that the writer’s friends gather for a lazy afternoon of chitchat, drinks and snacks on the porch of a friend’s cabin. At the last of these recurring afternoons overlooking the river, the knitter (gasp) brought her knitting. She brought something simple, was an active eye-contact participant in conversations (as opposed to sitting in a corner squirreled away with her yarn); and was a general all-around helpful house guest, assisting the host with whatever prep and clean-up was at hand. However, the knitter’s husband when asked about what he thought of the knitter’s activity voiced a negative opinion, saying it was rude of her to have taken out her needlework.

The Ask Amy columnist was very supportive of the knitter, saying that the activity within the bounds cited wasn’t rude, and “the world would be a more congenial place if more people laid aside their handheld devices and picked up some needles and yarn.” She suggested asking the husband why he found needlework in an informal gathering to be an inappropriate activity.

I for one don’t feel that the knitter was in the least rude, and I encourage her to raise the banner for public knitting.

Knitting at chitchat gatherings has a long history, and in the past genteel needlework was considered almost a required accessory for informal visits. I often bring needlework with me to social gatherings, judging when I get there as to whether or not the circumstance is comfortable for me to pull it out. But apparently some aren’t convinced about this type of behavior. (I also think the husband might have been annoyed because less attention was being paid in specific to him, but that’s another story.)

So – as an item for discussion – Would you feel comfortable knitting at a lazy afternoon gathering of convivial friends? Would your spouse or significant other object? Why?

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8 responses

  1. how many worms do you want in that can?

    My mother is firmly of the (neurotic) opinion that I am not paying nor can I pay _enough_ attention to her if my hands are busy during our interaction. This is, of course, complete crap. I am more at ease and perfectly willing to put the knitting down if the conversation starts to require it.

    She is the only person I interact with regularly who is of this opinion; as a matter of fact, my children make sure I have some socks along so I don’t turn into a nervous wreck and become ‘odd’. (They are old enough to be embarrassed by me–yay)

    Sounds from the original letter that the husband has previous issues like being home with her and not getting her attention b/c she was working on a more intense project.

    My opinions; worth what you paid for them.

    (as a first time commenter–from what I’ve read so far you have a lovely unusual knitting blog–thank you!!)

  2. Reading between the lines, I think her husband was bored, and either jealous of her having something to fidget with, or wishing his wife were exerting more effort to entertain him. The accusation of rudeness sounds like cover for a different squabble, and I doubt anyone’s going to assert that she’s actually in the wrong.

  3. I think people who don’t knit don’t have any idea what level of brainpower it takes to knit. I think it would surprise most people that I find it actually kind of boring to do on its own, and mostly just do it when I have something else to occupy my brain (tv, book on tape, movie, podcast, etc) lest I get too focused on the knitting and end up bored.

    But I don’t think she was rude in the least, and I would hope that her friends would understand it. I agree that there’s something else to this story with her husband telling her that.

  4. I agree with the other posters. It sounds like he feels that she’s using it as a means to ignore him or ignore the other guests.

    I do think that it’s better to be knitting a no-brain project than a complex one at a gathering, though. If only that you actually look up from time to time instead of spending all day counting until your decrease or something.

    Unless you want to attract the conversation to ‘OH WOW THAT LOOKS HARD TO DO’. At which point the husband feel neglected, I guess. >_>

  5. Guess I’m one of the few who questions if knitting is appropriate in social settings.

    I’ve taken classes in effective listening skills, as I work with troubled youth. Ideally, when you really want to be present and hear what the other person(s) saying, you give them your undivided attention.

    Of course no one can do that all the time, meals have to be prepared, served, cleaned up, etc.

    But I think this husbands has probably been bothered by his wifes focus on her knitting, yet never felt okay about bringing it up. Here he could in an indirect way, which isn’t ideal, and she reacted defensively, which isn’t ideal either.

    Communication is largely nonverbal. Imagine her husband comes home, and she’s sitting there knitting. He comes in, she says ‘hi honey, how was your day?’ without looking up from her knitting. He replies, ‘They laid of Ted today.’ And again, without looking up from her knitting, she says ‘Oh, that’s too bad. Dinner will be ready in 20 minutes.’

    But if she would have seen his physical demeanor, she’d have seen his shoulders slumped in defeat, his face strained with worry. But if you’re looking at your knitting most of the time, you’re going to miss a lot of nonverbal cues.

    Tis such a wonderful gift when someone gives you their undivided attention sometimes. We can’t know how often the wife gives her husband that, but I sense it’s not as much as he’d like. Does that make him wrong/needy? Does that make her cold/aloof? Again, without knowing how things are in their home, how can we know.

    But he has spoken up to her to say he doesn’t think she’s listening all that well when she’s knitting, and isn’t it ironic that she didn’t hear what was beneath what he was saying. haha, she was probably knitting when he said it, missing his nonverbal cues.

  6. As someone who blogs about knitting, I can’t see anything wrong with knitting in public. I knit in line at the post office, at my book group, waiting in the car, in church (but not during prayers!), waiting for movies to begin and out to dinner with friends. I wouldn’t bring a project that requires me to count stitches but that’s just because I don’t like ripping out mistakes.

    I don’t understand why people think I would be distracted by knitting. After all, people talk while eating, smoking, and driving yet no one asks them to stop. If I really had a hard time, I would stop!

    Now, if she was holding up her knitting and describing how hard, how complex it was – that would sound rude. Yet I’ve been in many a meeting or dinner where someone was hogging the conversation describing how hard it was to quit smoking or their dating life or even a new car. I think anyone monopolizing a conversation is rude!

    As for the husband, that sounds like picking a fight. Whatever he was bugged about, I’m pretty sure knitting was the cause.

  7. oops, sorry.

    That last line should have said "Knitting was NOT the cause!"

  8. I knit in social gatherings and especially at conferences, work meetings where I can. Last week I was at an annual conference i’ve been attending for years. One man introduced me to his wife, and described how I knit in meetings and I LISTEN and COMMENT and TAKE NOTES when necessary. Just amazing. I think that as long as you show people you are listening and participating it isn’t rude. At the same conference, most people spent lots of time in sessions on their crackberries.

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