Monday, December 11, 2006

Knitting Etiquette

A question was raised on a board I read as to whether or not it was appropriate to knit during a concert. So I got to thinking about it...and now, I'd like to know: when is knitting in public acceptable, and when - if ever - is it rude?

So I did what any woman of the 21st century does - I googled "rude to knit." Here's what I found:

Knit Together...Wonderfully Made asks, is it rude to knit while hanging out and visiting with the family? I think, no. The commenters on Knit Together noted, though, that people who don't knit may feel that the knitter isn't listening to them, so knitters should stop knitting if there are any serious discussions taking place. Knitting during more informal chit-chat would be ok, however.

Then there was this thorough response to the question:
Originally posted by azknitter

I think it's inappropriate to knit anyplace where your undivided attention is required or requested.


If I had worked for years to become a musician and was giving a concert and looked out into an audeience where one or more people were knitting, I'd find it disconcerting (pun intended).

If I were a minister delivering a message to the congregation after hours of study and preparation so that I might give the best sermon possible, I'd hope my congregation had the courtesy and respect to give me their undivided attention for that one little hour.

I've heard people proclaim they knit WHILE they drive and at stoplights while waiting. I hope to God I'm never hit by anyone doing that because I'll sue their ass off.

Funerals? No way! How self-centered do you have to be to even consider such a thing...unless, as previously stated, the deceased was a knitter and even then, I don't think I would unless it was a request of the deceased.

I can knit at home, I can knit in yarn stores, parks, friend's homes, sitting in the car waiting for someone who's shopping or whatever, in the hospital waiting room, doctor's office, lunch hour, picnics, etc....

I'm not so selfish or obsessed that I can't pay attention for a few minutes or even an hour when someone else has gone to special lengths to do something for me.

It's knitting, you won't die if you put it down for a little while.


The idea that we shouldn't knit in situations in which our undivided attention is required is a good point, granted. However, I'm not sure that I buy the notion that someone who is just sitting and looking is going to be paying better attention. I am the queen of not being able to pay attention to someone who is giving a talk. I frequently write essays and journal during conference presentations. I'm pretty sure that's rude, so I generally look up at the speaker from time to time, nod my head a lot, and try to look like I'm thinking hard about what s/he is saying as I jot it down. Heh. If I were knitting, I wouldn't be writing my next article, would I?

St. Scobie's Mock Whiskey maintains that knitting at a PTA meeting is ok. But other questions were raised: at a church meeting? (Alianne Knits) at a wedding? (A woman obsessed) How about during a therapy session (that one's mine)?

Weigh in, would you? I'm curious. And let us know if you're a knitter or non-knitter.

(BTW - check out the new addition to the blogroll: Pseudostoops.)


Sean said...

Yes, I do listen to Clannad. No, it wasn't in a soundtrack. I have their anthology of songs. I actually have heard them do Nil Sen La. My roomie looks at me funny when I listen to them. I must just be THAT cool. Amazing musicians.

Kelsey said...

I'd say any church service (wedding/funeral, etc.) is off limits. Lectures or adult concerts are okay in my book (expecially if you can look up while you knit). Kids concerts are a different because I assume kids and their parents are a little more sensative about people paying attention. Other than that, I think it's okay to knit just about anywhere. I'd knit in class except I know I'd get in trouble for that.

mgmonklewis said...

I have to agree with azknitter's post about knitting being off-limits whenever one's full attention is expected. It doesn't matter whether one *feels* that one is still paying attention while knitting; there is a social contract being broken. Such politeness might seem shallow, but if one is genuinely offending others just so one can pursue one's knitting, then which person is being shallow?

Or, to put it a different way: Would it be okay to wear dark sunglasses inside while talking to someone, listening to a lecture, paying one's respects at a funeral (unless one is blind, of course)? It's not inhibiting the conversation, you might say; however, you are erecting a barrier between yourself and the other person, just as knitting in certain social situations can make it seem like you feel others are imposing upon your time to knit, rather than showing that you are participating in a social exchange with them.

Just my two cents' worth. I'm not a knitter, but the social aspect of the post interested me.

Lara said...

As someone who did knit at a concert this weekend, and who does not knit at funerals (although knitting in a near-frantic way helped me keep my cool that weekend), I have to say the person who wrote the quote clearly doesn't have the attention issues that you and I share. You do want to choose knitting that's just "hand knitting", simple stockinette, little or no shaping, definitely no charts or patterns, not "brain knitting", like lace. Like you, I have to be doing something to really pay attention, or I drift off into fantasy, speculation or writing.
I do make a point of hardly ever looking at my knitting, trying to knit as quietly as possible, and, for good measure, I'm often doing a charity project, so if anyone asks, they get to feel a little good will for not complaining about the hat I'm making for the homeless.
To be honest, I was so tired from work and my nascent cold that if I hadn't had my knitting on Friday night, I would have been passed out cold, no matter how much I was enjoying the very charming concert. I think that would be much more rude.

Linda said...

I knit pretty obsessively, but I wouldn't dream of doing so at a wedding, funeral, etc. However, I have no qualms about knitting at a large gathering where one person (or a group of people) is presenting to a bunch of others. Simple knitting, nothing complex. Quiet (bamboo, wood) needles so I'm not clicking.

I can talk, look around, pay attention, etc while I knit. If I'm just listening to someone, I tend to get sleepy. Which is more rude - watching my head jerk as I struggle not to fall asleep, or seeing my hands move while I look up and make eye contact with a presenter? If they're so insecure about what people who are listening to them do, perhaps they need to find a new line of work?

I'm not talking about a six member meeting or something like that - although people who know me well know I can knit and be an active, attentive participant in a meeting - I'm talking about large gathrings.

Sean said...

No, sorry I'm not that cool, unfortunately. In repsonse to your post, I think I would get very upset if someone was knitting during live theatre. A movie, okay, but since there are live people there on stage, it is very rude.

plain(s)feminist said...

Sean - it's good to get the actor's perspective!

All - it sounds like what it comes down to is the perception (whether or not it's correct) that the "audience" is not paying attention, regardless of whether or not the knitters in question actually are. (This is pretty much mgmonklewis's point.)

I think, too, that it's a matter of formality. At a formal concert, knitting might not be ok. But in a more relaxed setting - like a concert on the lawn sort of thing - I would think lots of activities, including reading, might be ok.

I'm not necessarily agreeing with the above - just stating what I think the context is. Part of me feels that the social contract is in flux and that it can adapt.

It strikes me, too, that we could make many of the same arguments about breastfeeding (for or against). Does this discussion in any way have to do with what is perceived as women's work?

ken said...

I am a knitter and I knit "in public" all the time. I always knit in front of my family. After cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, I put on my PJs, and sat down to work on some holiday projects while we were all chatting.
I have heard it said, and I fall into this category, that knitters are actually paying really close attention to what is going on. I know of people who knit at faculty meetings and will be very quiet and then say something brilliant.
I knit at author talks, at NWSA (but not North Am. Soc. for Soc. of Sport) conferences, at hockey games, and I have even knit in class during final presentations after asking permission of the professor and the presenters.
So I say knit and be happy!

Linda said...

Hi Sean.

I'm curious - what size venue are you talking about? It sounds as if you mean a smaller one where you (or any other actor) would actually be able to see what's going on. I'm talking about very large gatherings - like when I'm sitting in the mezanine. I really don't want to argue, but I also don't see how that could possibly be construed as being rude to you? I've paid for my ticket. I'm paying attention. I'm not disrupting your performance. I honestly don't understand why it's so wrong.

Sean said...

I see your point. The theatre I currently use only seats 281 at the most and the audience is raked, so any movements can be seen by the actors on stage. I can just picture a white scarf being knit and the white color waving like a flage. It would be very distracting as the audience is never farther than 25-30 feet away from the actors. I can understand seeing something in a large venue of 1500+, but in a small theatre, I would take offense. Out of sight, out of mind is something that comes to mind with this topic.