Toodling along on my current sampler…

…working on another pattern shared in my blackwork fillings collection, just stitching along. Once the base repeat is established, I find I can copy off my own work, rather than referring to the printed pattern. Sure, this one is on the complex side, but it’s a regular repeat and not what I’d consider particularly difficut; and without having to refer to a printed sheet, the project is totally portable. So I brought it with me to my kid’s school chorus concert. There’s always a long wait between the participants’ early drop-off time and the public concert’s start. Lots of parents stay rather than going home and returning later. I was not alone.

I’m used to knitting and stitching in public. I’ve gotten all sorts of comments over the years, ranging from real interest to veiled hostility. The overwhelming majority of people are interesting to talk to, and my project is always a convenient conversational icebreaker.

There are the folks who ask after the item being worked, or volunteer stories of their own about knitting or stitching. They’re usually pleasant and I enjoy talking to them. There are invariably people who say things like “Oooh. I could NEVER do that.” (What runs through my head is the reply, “With that attitude, I bet you’re right” but I rarely voice it.) Depending on how dismissive they are I either smile sweetly and don’t reply out loud, or try to explain that it’s not anywhere near as difficult as it looks.

There are kids who are fascinated by what I’m doing. Knitting socks especially seems to boggle them. I have fun with them, explaining he project and chatting about the craft in general.

Unfortunately, not everyone is pleasant. Some people say that they hate wasting time. I usually point out that at this very moment (mid commute, in the doctor’s office – whatever) I appear to be far more productive than they are. A couple of decades ago there were more derisive and ideological comments. Mostly from women, who were eager to point out that domestic tasks like knitting and stitching were ineherently demeaning, and should be shunned, especially in public. I would usually engage with them, responding that “freedom from” also means “freedom to,” that I had a highly technical career thank you, and that I found relaxation in traditional crafts. We usually parted on less divisive philosophical grounds.

But this week, just sitting there stitching, I found a whole new public comment beast. The ones who decide that anyone doing something alien to the commenter is clearly nuts, deranged, crazy, a lunatic, or otherwise mentally abberant; and should be pointed out to everyone else. It also seems that these folk (aside from their insenstivity towards the differently abled) delight in being loud and obnoxious. Maybe it was the ambience of the high school in which the performance was taking place, but I felt like I’d fallen back among locker room bullies again.

What did I do? First of all, I didn’t move my seat. I’d come early and sat underneath one of the few lights bright enough for stitching. When it became clear that glaring and not responding wasn’t working, I asked the commenters to kindly be quiet, that they were disrupting the people around us – in my best Miss Manners icy-haute tone. “Bitchy, too” was the reply, and they went away. Like vultures everywhere they probably flew off to circle over someone else’s carcass.

I won’t stop stitching and knitting in public. Idiots are everywhere, and I refuse to let them win.

Have your own stitching/knitting in public story? Positive or negative, feel free to share.

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11 responses

  1. I’m sorry that you had to go through that. You know, they are probably just jealous of your wonderful talent. You just keep on and enjoy doing it for yourself.

  2. I too have taken my needlework to my children’s concert events to use the lag time between early arrival for them and performance to best advantage. I am usually ignored. I have received veiled hostility (a grimace) on long plane rides for putting on the overhead light.

    Some of the work I have done can be found on my website:

  3. I wish someone would come up with an appropriate, non-threatening (well, not too much anyway) retort to the comment "I could never do that". What I’d like to say is something like, "How would you know if you don’t try." I’ve never tried it. I just smile too.

    However, to the comment, "I just don’t have the patience to do that" I SOOOOOO want to reply… "Then you are the very one who should try as it might teach you some patience." I saw that retort in print in a magazine somewhere and would love to use it but haven’t mustered my inner bitch yet to actually say to anyone.

    My experience of stitching in public is generally very positive. Most people are facinated or you make an instant friend of a fellow stitcher.

  4. I _always_ take being called ‘bitch’ as a compliment. : )

    Older men are the ones who appreciate seeing needlework being worked. They come over to see what I’m working on. They will sit tell me about how their grandmothers did needlework. And oddly enough it just makes them happy.

    I also stitch at the car repair shop. There is one guy who will open the floor to ceiling vertical blinds so I have enough light. He told me about his daughter who re-creates historical costumes. So we chatted about that. Very cool. : )

    A lot of women are very dismissive of needlework. I stitched a sampler for a bridal shower gift. The gifts were passed around for everyone to see. When my sampler went around I heard several ‘it’s _only_ ‘x’s’ from a snotty group of women. Others couldn’t be bothered to look at it at all. When the bride-to-be left the shower she took one gift with her….mine. : )

  5. All the push back I’ve gotten has concerned what I should be doing instead – supervising my children "better" or "being social". My in laws have been rather unforgiving on the latter; apparently opting to sew instead of participating in the board game, despite the fact that I was sitting at the table and taking part in the conversation, was an offense they were still stewing about a year later.

    For your situation, "my therapist recommended that I keep my hands busy to keep my rage episodes under control" would have tempted me. Not exactly the high road.

    How many of them were there?

  6. I’ve found that comments run the gamut from admiration of a skill they don’t think they can acquire to curiosity about something they’ve never seen before to disdain that I’m wasting my time to outright hostility at something they have neither the cerebral fortitude nor manual dexterity to understand.

    By and large, the response I get is positive – older ladies and gents love seeing people doing handwork, my contemporaries ask thoughtful questions and kids want to help do it (I usually let them help with a stitch or two). When someone genuinely says, "Oh, I couldn’t do that…" I say, "It’s really a lot easier than you think. If you can thread a needle and count to two, you can do this." When I encounter someone who is rude to me, my general response is, "You know, I don’t tear you down for just sitting there, wasting your time doing nothing. Perhaps if you were more productive with your hands and brain, your mouth would feel less inclined to say inappropriate and insulting things." Then I smile sweetly and suggest a few hobbies they could take up. That usually sends them away.

    Generally speaking, I feel sorry for folks that have no hobbies such as this. Having something to keep your hands and brain engaged has been a constant source of peace and relaxation for me. Can you imagine how tightly wound they must be?

  7. Oh, I did forget about the other sort of obnoxious that I’ve met: people who argue with me about what I am doing. I’ve met several adults who insisted that I was crocheting and not knitting, and one who argued (incorrectly) the opposite; one with a piece of finished work in her hands who insisted that it was crocheted and not knit. It doesn’t bother me if they’re wrong in the way that children often are, and simply apply the only label they have, but if they don’t accept, "well yes, people do crochet with this thread quite often, and it looks similar, but…" and keep insisting that I admit that I’m wrong, I get really frustrated.

  8. Melspeth…I love your ‘general’ response! : )


  9. Here in Holland it is the same. There are a lot of people who thing I’m mentally degraded if I’m working on mine prodject.I almost never talk about my passion,because people look at my as somebody who is very pathetic.That is why I was very suppriced on all the comments I got when I exposed my work. Realy a lot of people who came, were very complimentary. That is why I dont’n understand that if I work in public, the comments that I get is never very nice, and when I expose somethings, the public is realy very nice.
    But with my colleagues I never tolk about it, because then they look at my with that look of………..

    Anna from the Netherlands.
    (and I have become your book New carollingian modelbook from my 2 sons for my birthday. I try to educed them to have respect all kinds of craft.)

  10. Kate in Somerset | Reply

    Like twerp I’ve found that older men often comment favourably when I’m knitting in public. A couple of weeks ago I was knitting a sock in a local coffee shop when a man caught my eye and apologised for staring. He said that he hadn’t seen anyone knitting with DPNs since WWII when his Mother would unpick old sweaters and make socks for him and his siblings. We had a delightful conversation.

  11. I’ve only had favorable comments so far. I’m a little sad about that, since I’ve prepared my answer, which is that "I have to knit, because I can’t clean my gun in public." Darn.

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