News Sian teaching knitting - Knit in Public

Published on August 4th, 2015 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


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?

Knitting in public on the LoveKnitting blog

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.

7 free patterns to knit for charity - read more at LoveKnitting

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!

About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles.

Last updated: August 8th, 2017.

29 Responses to Why do people think it’s rude to knit in public?

  1. miss agnes says:

    It is definitey less rude than constantly checking your phone or texting while you’re with friends, something a lot of people do. I think your point is right: it is attention that matters. But only non-knitters could think it was rude, because they do not know that you actually focus much better on anything happening with needles in your hand.

    • Sue says:

      miss agnes is so right! Someone constantly checking their phone and reading messages shows that their attention is focused elsewhere. A knitter on the other hand can knit and focus on someone’s conversation w/out having either suffer!

  2. Savannagal says:

    Seriously? With all the problems in the world, this is the absolute least of worries. Knit away folks.

  3. Alison says:

    I would definitely knit at a classical music concert or opera, it’s the perfect occasion (as I might otherwise nod off!), but not at a rock concert!!

  4. Barb Brodsack says:

    I feel that knitting can be a wonderful stress-reducer and hobby. Knitting during a funeral or church service seems disrespectful.
    I agree though, at times non knitters don’t understand. Seeing a family member I hadn’t seen in 7 years, his response was ” Maybe you should find a knitter’s anonymous”. I found his comment strange as we aren’t close and he had his book and cigarettes to occupy himself.

  5. Jo Merriam says:

    I think that in some cultures, like North America and parts of EU and the UK, it might be considered rude to knit in public because non-knitters or non-crocheters think that we can’t participate in conversations if we are doing something with our hands. Goofy, right?!
    I lived in Texas for about 18 years and formed a knitting group at my church. We all used to sit in church knitting while we listened to the sermon. Our pastor even joked from the pulpit that he knew the knitting ladies weren’t falling asleep! Texas is a little more casual place, and definitely a more independent culture, so it wasn’t any big deal to knit or crochet in public.

    I left the U.S. nearly a year ago and moved to Ecuador, and the culture here is amazing! All the textile arts are celebrated here. By my second or third day walking around town, I was starting to think that knitting and crocheting must be some kind of Visa requirement! I mean, every female from the age of about 6 or 7 on to the end of life is working on some project or other out in public, in the parks, in restaurants, in shops, even walking down the street! Crocheting away lickety-split while walking and talking to friends! I was in heaven! And what a great way to be introduced to the local populace! When any of the locals saw me, a definite gringa, sitting in the park knitting, total strangers stopped, smiled and asked me what I was making! Spontaneous conversations sprang up, and now I have “park” friends that I don’t see anywhere else but knitting in the park!
    So, I guess it all depends on the culture where you live. Perhaps some of that laissez-faire attitude can be imported to less spontaneous cultures! Who better to import that than knitters and crocheters, as we tend to be quite a peaceful and cheerful lot.

  6. Lynne Hawkins says:

    I have knitted everywhere I’ve travelled and found that people are very interested, for the most part, in what I’m knitting and strike up conversations. I do the same to people I see knitting and like a previous commentator, have found that it really depends on the culture of the country you’re in. Peru was fabulous because men and women knitted openly! So, I see knitting in public as a passtime that actually brings people together.

    I used to knit in pubs when bands played, especially if I was alone and didn’t know anyone. It kept unwanted attention at bay! There was only one time that Inwas asked not to knit, by a close friend and I’m sure that it was because she felt I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on her. I knitted anyway.

  7. Maggie says:

    Crochet and knitting are a dying art. I tried to teach my daughters to crochet, but neither seemed interested. Mind you they did love the scarves and beanies I would make them. I love to see people knitting and crocheting in public. I’ve had people smile at me when I bring out my crochet. Great conversation starter. I say crochet and knit away. You will no doubt make someone smile.

    • Gill says:

      I have to disagree with the comment about knitting and crochet being a dying art.
      Over 5 MILLION crafters on Ravelry worldwide cannot be wrong and I know of many knitting groups just in my part of UK.
      I knit while waiting in hospital and doctors receptions and cafes and lots of other public places every day not just on Knitting in Public Day.
      It’s up to us all to spread the word. and there is always someone asking what I am making and as an ice breaker there is no contest. :O).

  8. Lyn OHara says:

    As an actress/ singer who loves knitting Id be pretty unhappy if people were knitting next to me as an audience member ! I want to be absorbed in the performance .I hate hearing people eating,opening packets ,drinking whilst I’m watching or performing so the clicking of needles,constant shifting of body,head etc whilst knitting Id be unhappy about . HOWEVER on the tube, train , in the park, on the beach by a pool I can see no problem . Good manners is all about having consideration for others .

  9. Geraldine says:

    I was highly amused when I came across a programme for a classical music concert that took place in Dublin about 100 years ago as it included the instruction “No knitting”!

  10. Ellen says:

    I take my knitting everywhere. If I didn’t it would never get done. I always have a small project I can throw in my handbag, just in case I’m stuck waiting around somewhere. It keeps me from getting bored and gives me a feeling of accomplishment, not to mention enjoying the beautiful yarn and is flows through my needles! I work from home and often knit during meetings if I don’t have to write too much during the meeting – it helps me focus much more on what’s being said than if my hands aren’t occupied. Non-knitters can feel what they want to feel, that’s their prerogative. Or they can get to know knitters and how they work. It’s up to them.

  11. SPHK says:

    I have always knitted in public or when visiting people. Even knitted when at Home Births ( I am a Midwife) and that has an amazing impact on reducing the tension in the room! If people tell me they think I am rude and not paying attention, I usually give them a verbatim repeat of the last 15 mins of the conversation/s. That usually shuts them up as they can rarely remember everything that has gone on. I explain the physical act of crafting improves the concentration and memory and is a great stress reliever. In other words – I don’t care!! ( they usually ask me to make something for them then ) 🙂

    • Ruth waters says:

      So lovely to hear from another midwife who knits while waiting for a home birth. I found it helped to relax the mothers, they seemed to think that everything had to be fine or I wouldn’t be knitting

    • Anji says:

      I agree knitting does reduce tension. I knitted while waiting to go into theatre for my 2nd c-section (I can’t have babies naturally) and after having my baby, I hate hospitals and needles… I think it helped reduce my stress levels before going in and afterwards. Also knitted after I had my 1st baby when I had an infected c-section wound for 4.5mths and couldn’t do much, I’d finish a project and feel like I had accomplished something and done something worthwhile instead of watching TV all day.

      I knit in the car especially on long journeys, in the library where I run a knitting group each month, in hospital when visiting people and at the drs. I think it would be rude to knit at a funeral, wedding, in church or in a business meeting.

  12. Jen says:

    I often crochet while listening to music, it helps with the relaxation and stress relief. I found that I can’t have the TV on if I’m crocheting, as I look up to watch something interesting, I lose track of where I’m at if it is an intricate pattern. Same if someone is talking to me. I don’t mind stopping and chatting with someone, I always say, ‘I need to mark where I’m at first’, then I can give them my full attention.

  13. margaret says:

    We knitters can pick and choose where to knit and talk…..

  14. Ellen says:

    My husband used to get Sooooo mad at me when I brought my knitting to a baseball game. Now let’s face it, there are long stretches of total boredom durring a game. That’s when the guys all go to a vendor and buy a hotdog and a tall cool one, right? I wasn’t dragging a huge complicated sweater to the stadium, I was toting a sock, discreetly in my purse, on bamboo needles, so I wouldn’t freak out security. Then the ball park started having theme nights, and one of them was “stitch and pitch”!!! I have been redeemed!! My honey is all over the Internet downloading socks with his favorite teams logos on them and (not so) discreetly emailing them to me to try out as my next ball park project. Sometimes being right has its down side 😉

  15. Rovve says:

    My quietly knitting beats out listening to people yap about nothing when I sit at doctor’s office, etc. Just because they are interacting doesn’t make them more interesting. I am productive and find that my knitting often causes others to sit quietly themselves. If I can catch someone’s attention and perhaps cause them to ask questions, I feel I may have sparked an interest and tell them all that knitting is, is just two stitches to learn and they are surprised.

  16. KnitQueen says:

    There is nothing better than to knit during long boring stretches of anything. I bring my knitting everywhere and get a lot done in the process. I concentrate better and not daydream or fall asleep
    during the boring things I’m sitting in including meetings, conversations, parties and sports games. I have watched people on their phone and computers, texting, emailing, playing games and not paying attention to what they should be with others. While I am knitting or x-stitching I am absorbing every word of what is going on. It is as if I have to be doing something with my hands in order to concentrate on what is being said. Knitting is the best stress relief of all and I don’t care if people are offended, they obviously have no clue. Most people are just fine with it and smile or even ask about what I am doing. I was waiting for food at a restaurant and I had a young boy ask me what I was doing and his father yanked him away and said don’t bother her. I calmly went up to the boy and showed him the x-stitch I was working on and explained what I was doing. He was very sweet and looked carefully at my work. Later I saw the dad look at me as they were leaving and he gave me a shy smile and nod of his head. I know I made a big difference with those two!

  17. Collette says:

    Knitting & crochet are definitely not dying arts! I take my knitting almost everywhere, and happily share techniques and patterns when I can. Note: bamboo needles make no noise whatsoever – for those who are concerned about the “clicking” sounds on metal needles.

  18. Alison Cartwright says:

    My kids live in Yellowknife, NWT. When we drive up to visit them (1430k) it’s one sock north and one sock South. I had established this ‘pattern’ when we lived in the NWT(for 28 years) and have many pairs of socks, each one carrying a different memory. I also carry a ball of yarn and five 4″ needles in my pocket when I have medical appointments, meetings, visiting friends, etc. I find that giving my hands something to do frees up my brain for focusing on where I am and with whom.

  19. Jayne says:

    Lots of people start a conversation with me while I am knitting or crocheting that otherwise would ignore me. Since the younger generation started obsessing with their phones and ignore face to face, I do not think it is rude to knit since I can talk and look at them and do not tune them out like those with phones do. I especially find it is not offensive since most guests like to talk so all I need do is listen. They are fascinated with finished projects so I HOOK them in by first showing off all the beautiful gifts I make for them and charity.

  20. Betty Schweickert says:

    My husband LOVES baseball. For many years we had season tickets to the Angels. I was bored sitting through so many games (there’s a lot of ‘down’ time in a baseball game – scratching, spitting, selecting the right bat, waiting to have home plate swept, conferring with the catcher, conferring with the umps, or managers conferring with the pitcher, etc.) until I started taking my knitting along. Then the only problem I had was if a boisterous fan spilled beer on my project.

  21. Sue Dale says:

    I also always take a small project in my handbag wherever I go, usually socks. I find that it creates interest in the people around me. I knit on planes, in trains, waiting at doctors or dentists, hairdressers…anywhere in fact! I have never had an adverse comment but have had lots of strangers talk to me and are curious to know what I’m making. When on holiday I have at least 3 projects with me and in Tunisia I was able to help out a fellow knitter from Holland who had lost a needle by donating a replacement. It’s a great icebreaker around the world.

  22. Dusky says:

    Hi, I realise this may be a bit irrelevant but reading how many transport their knitting around with them. I just want to say to carry them carefully, i’m sure most do. It’s just that a friend of mine had hers in bag with points sticking up and as she sat down on the bus one went into her side. Keep safe and keep knitting. I wish I could get back into it properly but my ex hated it and made me stop 🙁 . Would be great taking it to hospital appointments etc . I think it depends on who you are with and what the situation is as to whether you knit with them or not . Have fun xx

  23. gigi says:

    I think with everything going on in the world, my knitting while talking with you would be the least of your worries. If you are THAT insecure that you need THAT much attention, then you need to go hang out with someone else. I can knit and listen and talk at the same time. So utterly ridiculous for anybody to get upset over this…. My niece brings her crochet to the movies. Never had a comment from anyone. As for a place like a theater or something? If the person on stage is that interested in what I’m doing, maybe she isn’t that into what she is doing????

  24. Linda says:

    I don’t feel it’s wrong to knit in public!!! I went to a baseball game to knit for charity!!! They have a charity groups, where you knit cancer caps at a baseball game. They will even supply the needles and yarn! I think it also depends where this is happening. It’s not appropriate to knit in Church!!

  25. Princetonprune says:

    Knitting or crocheting is absurdly disrespectful during any kind of public even t. If you all can’t give 100% to the topic at hand, stay home, get into your jimjams, make a cup of tea, and leave the higher order thinking to those more willing and able.

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