Why do people think it’s rude to knit in public?
From Knit-in-Public Day to yarnbombing, knitting and crochet are coming out of the closet and into the streets. Elizabeth Bagwell wonders why some people find stitching in public rude.
A close friend hates it when I take my knitting out in the pub. She thinks its inappropriate. I’ve always found this slightly baffling, as we met at a knitting group, in a pub. Recently though, another friend sent me a link that made me think harder about the whole issue and wonder: is she right? Is it rude to knit in public? Assuming you’re not disturbing others with loud knitting needle clicks or a constantly straying ball, is there any reason not to bring your knitting to the pub, the theatre or a gig?
What knitters know
Knitting or crochet is certainly no harder than driving a car, and most drivers will happily listen to the radio or chat even when navigating busy city streets. On the smooth path of a motorway (equivalent, perhaps, to garter or stockinette stitch) boredom and tiredness from repetition are actually hazards. If it isn’t rude to drive while talking, why would it be rude to knit while talking to a driver?
What non-knitters see
If you’re paying attention to the knitting or crochet (or cross-stitch or mobile phone or newspaper) in your hands, you’re not giving your full attention to the person or event in front of you. My personal feeling is that if you’re paying to go to an event (like a music festival or a film) and choose to ignore the event itself, that’s your choice: as long as you don’t snore, you can even sleep through the opera, right?
However, if you’re in a face-to-face conversation with a person or a group, it’s a more difficult issue. Each crafter will have to judge whether they can give enough attention to both tasks at hand (chatting and knitting, for example). Just as conversation tends to stall when a good meal arrives, the knitting might be put down when someone starts talking seriously about a deep problem.
Are non-knitters right?
It’s rude to fiddle with your smart phone during a meal with friends because it shows your attention isn’t on the main event. Many knitting, crochet and embroidery projects require a lot less attention than a smart phone, although most non-knitters won’t realise this if you have to look at your work. After all, if you spent a whole lunch date staring out the window, that would be considered rude even if you were talking normally.
So, should you knit in public? Is it rude?
Since it’s paying attention that matters in this context, then the difference between a happy friend and a disgruntled one may be as easy as making more eye contact. Teaching yourself to knit or crochet without looking at your hands is a good first step – and will let you go back to watching movies with subtitles, too!
That said, if we continue to focus on paying attention and giving the appearance of attentiveness, it becomes clear there are some times when giving your whole attention is a mark of respect – times when doing anything other than sitting still, fully alert to the situation at hand is rude. It’s hard to give strict categories, as many formal events have become more casual over the last few decades, but I wouldn’t knit at a wedding ceremony (save it for the bar!), funeral or religious service, for example. There are also some events where social convention suggests that anything other than still silence is unreasonably distracting for your neighbours – the opera and serious classical music concerts tend to fall into this category, while rock concerts certainly don’t!
Is it rude to knit in public? What do you think? Tell us in the comments!
Last updated: August 8th, 2017.