Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On Knitting in Public

I had an interesting discussion with a couple of newer knitters last week.

I've been knitting seriously and shamelessly since the mid 1990s. And with that, comes knitting in public. I knit in public all the time - most often when commuting around the city on the TTC.

I used to knit on the TTC every weekday when I still had a day job at rush hour, and on the New York subway when I lived there. Sometimes, the vehicles were a bit crowded, but working on a sock project doesn't need much room.

picture courtesy Brent Gilliard, on a Creative Commons license
Now I use the TTC at least four or five times a week, most often on streetcars.

Streetcars - also known as trams - are, IMHO, the best public transport vehicle for knitting. They have them in various cities around the world, and I've personally ridden them in Toronto, Boston, Stockholm, Helsinki, Portland, OR, and Manchester - all while I'm knitting.

Streetcars are great for knitting because you're most often above ground - natural light! And if what you're knitting doesn't require much attention, there's always something good to look at. Streetcars are significantly steadier and smoother than buses, being on rails. I tend to motion sickness, so this is a huge advantage to me. It's also useful if you're trying to balance a chart on your lap.

The other knitters in the conversation are newer knitters, and have taken up transit-knitting only recently. They were telling me that they feel that knitting on the TTC draws attention - that they get stared at.

I've had the odd odd exchange with an interested fellow passenger, it's true, but I think that I've been knitting on public transport for so long that not only do I not notice whether people are paying attention to me (usually because I'm paying attention my knitting), but I'm not even sure I remember how people reacted to me when I wasn't knitting. I can't remember the last time I was on/in any kind of vehicle without knitting...

I'm riding trains a few times this week - Tuesday heading to Kitchener Waterloo to speak to my friends at the Guild today, and Saturday off to Spun in Burlington. You know I'll be knitting up a storm the entire way.

Do you get stared at when you knit in public? Do you notice?

15 comments:

Mim said...

I knit at my 2 son's ballgames. I think at this point most people there are use to it. I get the "what are you knitting" comments. But other than that I don't really notice if people are staring. I'm usually working on something easy so I can watch the game while I knit. There are places I don't take my knitting even though I really want to-Church & other meetings. I wouldn't want to offend the speaker. Even though I know I'm totally paying attention they don't know that, so I reserve my knitting in public for other occassions.

Erin said...

I do get stared at when I knit in public. People will comment with things such as, "Are you crocheting?" or "I wish I had the patience for that!". For some odd reason I've had a couple of commenters lately say, "Knitting?! Wow, you don't see that very often these days!"

Grace said...

I do take my knitting everywhere and knit on public transport, subway and streetcars only(on buses I get motion sickness)and yes I get stared at all the time but pay no attention,many times I'm asked the question "where did you learn to knit?" because according to them I knit differently and too fast which I don't think it's true, there are other knitters who knit "my way" and even faster.

Nancy said...

I don't knit at work meetings, but I do confess to knitting at church meetings. I always make sure I'm doing something simple and look up often, participate in the conversation. Frankly, once a meeting goes beyond 2 hours I figure the speaker cares little about my time anyway!

Nancy said...

I don't knit at work meetings, but I confess to knitting at church and social meetings. I always make sure I'm working on something simple (last night was a gauge swatch), and I look up often and offer commentary. Plus, I figure once a meeting goes beyond 2 hours I need to reclaim some of my time!

Laura said...

I've been knitting on public transit for years, not to mention in waiting rooms, movie theaters, park benches and lobbies. Occasionally I notice people looking, but it doesn't bother me - there's not much to look at on a full bus, so what the heck. It seems to me that while adults might give quick glances, children will watch for a good while. I like the idea that a kid might find it interesting.

Every now and then somebody will say something (My aunt used to do that....I wish I had the patience.... What are you making?...Is that knit or crochet?....Are you purling?). I think comments are rarest on public transit, where strangers rarely talk to each other.

Anonymous said...

I'm watched while knitting on the bus all the time but I think it's more interest than the novelty of the act here in waterloo as public knitting isn't super unusual here. I was once on a bus with two others also in the act of knitting.

Wanderingcatstudio said...

I knit in public frequently, on my lunch hour in the park, at appointments etc - I've had a few people stop and talk to me about it, but that's rare. Most people look - but it's not a look that conveys I'm doing anything crazy or outrageous - definitely nothing to be embarrassed about. It's no different than reading a book or talking on your cell phone.

May said...

I travel a lot and I like to use the time on airplanes and airport lounges to knit. Also, in waiting rooms. People will look but rarely make any comments.

Carol Pack Urban said...

I take my knitting to my granddaughter's dance classes. The little girls and one curious little boy occasionally ask what I'm making and if I could teach them how to do it. :) In the last four months I've made sweaters, mittens and socks which they've enjoyed seeing.

Emma said...

I knit on trains all the time, and people often ask me about it. Normally it is elderly ladies, who can't believe that I'm knitting, particularly on DPNs and like to tell me so. Still given the average length of my journey (a trip home is 6 hours) one or two comments isn't bad. I often see other people on the train knitting too.

Anonymous said...

I do all kinds of needlework in public...knitting, quilting, embroidering you name it. I am always the quiet one in the doctor's office who doesn't care that the doctor is running two hours behind, because I am working on my needlework. Some people comment, some don't, but I have never been one to care what other people think. To be honest, I think there is something wrong with people who sit with idle hands for long periods of time, that is what I don't have the patience for!
Happy Stitching,
Becca

Maryjean said...

I knit in public but rarely on moving vehicles. Something about it seems awkward to me. Bulky winter coat, dropping yarn on yucky TTC floor, people encroaching on my personal space, etc. I do knit in the car (not while I'm driving, of course.)

I do knit while waiting for various appointments, waiting for my children's lessons to finish and school council meetings, and in cafes

Teresa McClain said...

I knit everywhere I can: work meetings, waiting rooms, etc. I'm a younger knitter, and where I live it isn't often that people knit in public so I think of it as raising awareness and I enjoy the questions I get as people marvel at the idea of making my own socks. I'm also a Montessori teacher, so I make sure to have all sorts of fiber work in my classroom (and that the children see the I keep my knitting with me always) and there are older children in my school who are knitters because I taught them how. It's an awesome feeling to pass on the craft (and that they know how to occupy their hands with something that isn't a screen).

Acrylic-Girl said...

Mostly I knit during my lunchtime and during naptime (when my toddlers are asleep and I need to stay awake). But I've been known to knit in waiting rooms, public library, parks, at the beach . . . anywhere where I might have some free time. Sometimes people stare or ask questions. I hope that my craftiness inspires someone else to take up crafting too . . .