Public reaction

Last Thursday, I was sitting in a bookstore cafe waiting for some of my knitterly friends to arrive, working on my Hedera socks and flipping through the latest issue of Interweave Crochet. A woman came up and asked if I was learning to knit. I explained that no, I’ve been knitting for about two and a half years, and that I was working on a sock. I showed her the pattern, she admired my work, and then went about her own merry way. And that encounter got me thinking about some of the negative reactions knitters have received.


I’ve heard numerous stories about reactions people get while they’re knitting in public, from innocent confusion (“What are you crocheting?” when someone is actually knitting, or vice versa) to antagonizing and patronizing (“Don’t you know you could buy 12 socks for $6 at Wal-mart?” or the like). Thankfully, I have yet to receive any of those reactions while out and about and knitting.

The most negative reaction I’ve ever encountered was at another meet-up location. This time, our little group of knitters had a swift and ballwinder out, because at that time, one of us didn’t have a swift or a scale to measure and divide hanks of yarn (okay, I didn’t have them). As most of you will probably know, a swift can make a bit of noise while it’s being used, but not so much that a person can’t have a conversation while using it. A group of college students sitting near by kept giving us dirty looks and one of them made some snide comment about how we apparently hadn’t even bought drinks at the cafe but were taking up room and making such a racket (all while sipping from a bottle of a brand of water that wasn’t sold at the establishment). But we just kept on winding our yarn and making faces at them (at least, that’s what I was doing in my head).

I really didn’t mean to digress onto that. I meant to focus on the positive reactions.

Usually the reactions are really positive. Sometimes children will stare in fascination—probably because the needles are pointy and they know their mothers would never let them near such objects. A lot of people will sort of stare with a look of “Quoi?” “What is she doing? Knitting? What on earth is that?”*

Many times, people have begun conversations with our group. One night (actually, the same night as the swift incident, I think), a man came over and told some of the gals about the baby he and his wife were adopting. The baby was in the NICU of a nearby hospital, and he asked us to knit baby hats to give to the hospital as a way of thanks for all the work they had done for his baby. He even gave some money to be used for buying yarn for the hats. (I didn’t actually participate in that venture as I was struggling to finish things that other people had asked for, although the gals who did churned out some lovely little hats.) Another night, a woman came up and started discussing different kinds of yarn with us. Turns out she owned an online yarn store that operated in town. Some women have come over and said how happy they were to see us knitting or crocheting because it reminded them of their mother/grandmother/favorite aunt, etc.

All of those positive reactions are just icing on the cake of fabulous that is crafting. I’m not knitting or crocheting in public to provide entertainment to the masses or to make connections with people, but if someone chooses to say a nice word about what I’m doing, or it reminds them of a happy time in their life, that’s just extra awesome. While it’s easy to get indignant (and forget to forget) about the negative reactions, let’s all try to focus on the positive reactions, the extra bits of joy that our individual crafts can bring us.

* With apologies to Eddie Izzard.


4 thoughts on “Public reaction

  1. I’ve recently started crocheting on my bus journey to work, and then in my breaks, and so far I’ve had a very positive response. I expected the stereotypical response of it being just for grannies, but most people are very admiring of what I’m doing (only plain squares for an afghan!) and envious because they can’t do it themselves.

    • That’s awesome! I love it when people are actually interested and supportive of it. Kind of get annoyed when they say “I could never do that” because yes, if you think like that you won’t ever do it! But yay for positive responses! 😀

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