Knitting in Public


When I was a kid, I hated sitting in the car doing nothing.  It was so boring, so I always brought a book.  One day in second grade, I wanted to start reading books on the bus, but I was self-conscious.  I thought maybe the other kids would think I was weird for reading books on the bus, or that they would make fun of the book I was reading.  The first day, I held my backpack in my lap and read my book secretly while it was still inside my backpack.  I probably looked silly staring into my backpack, but at least no one could see what I was doing.  After a few days of this, I finally ventured to bring the book out of my backpack and read it openly.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that no one had any reaction.  I was now free to spend the boring bus ride pleasantly occupied.

When I first learned to knit, there was no way I could have done my knitting around other people.  Forming garter stitch took every ounce of concentration I could muster.  My friend who taught me said she enjoyed knitting during movies, and that completely astounded me.  I tried to knit a row every night before bed, and it seemed to take me forever.  After a few weeks of practice, my friend and I went on tour with our college band, and I brought my knitting.  Sitting on the bus that first day, I felt like a second grader as I slowly took my knitting out of my bag.  The bumpy bus ride made things challenging, but I didn’t lose a stitch.  A few months later I was knitting during movies with my friends, who were in awe of me.

I like to take my knitting with me wherever I can: in the car, to friends’ houses, or sitting around at home with my husband.  I like that my hands are always busy.  I once had an embarrassing knitting-in-public experience.  I was riding a city bus in Minneapolis, and I brought my knitting.  I had been knitting for a while when my ball of yarn rolled out of my lap, onto the floor, and towards the front of the bus.  That attracted some attention.  I would have chased after it, but it rolled past the yellow line at the front that people aren’t supposed to cross while the bus is in motion, so I had to wait nervously.  When the bus made its next stop, my yarn rolled down the steps and out the door, so I had to get off the bus to collect it and re-wind it.  I then realized I had gotten off the bus a few blocks early, so I walked the rest of the way, my yarn safely tucked away in my bag.

Sometimes I still feel awkward at first.  I have never liked to draw a lot of attention to myself, and when I bring out my knitting, people almost always ask, “What are you making?”  Our church is one place where I always feel comfortable pulling out my knitting, after the potluck lunch is over and everyone is sitting around talking.  Some weeks one of the women might be crocheting and another sewing while I knit.  It makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time, to an era when women used to gather with their neighbors to knit and teach their daughters.

Knitting in public often becomes an opportunity for a conversation that would not otherwise have come up.  Someone sitting nearby might tell me about her frustrations with trying to knit, or about her desire to learn, or about her grandmother who used to knit.  I think there are more knitters in the world than people realize, and sometimes being brave enough to take out my knitting has made me a new friend.

Knitting a scarf while watching a movie with college friends

My traveling knitting bag

Knitting on a camping trip