Ravellings

On expectations

How do people react to you knitting in public? Interest? Scorn? Do you think it confirms or confounds any particular gender/age/whatever stereotyping? How do you think your knitting affects people’s opinion of you, if at all? For that matter, how does it affect how you see yourself?
I came across an old Yarn Harlot post on the subject (scroll down to 6 May, I don’t seem to find a permalink) in which commenters note that knitting makes them seem more approachable. This doesn’t appear to be the case in London, though, where the Do Not Talk To Strangers taboo is stronger than any friendly knitting mojo.
I have noticed the following reactions in people who see me (30) knitting in London:
Looks of mild, vaguely disapproving curiosity, suggesting the thought process, “Why would anyone do that? Why?”
Looks of slightly friendlier curiosity, suggesting, “I wonder if I could do that?”
Looks of scandalised hostility, suggesting, “How DARE she do that here! This is LONDON! She is SULLYING THE COOLNESS OF THIS LONDON EXPERIENCE!”*
Looks of gentle, polite amusement.
The first two generally come from women of (roughly) 25-45. The third generally comes from younger women. The last from men.
Oh, and in the office (when not running this fine establishment, I have a part-time editing job), the knitting is something of a standing joke. The Boss in particular seems to find it delightfully bizarre and can barely contain his mirth when the subject comes up. One or two younger colleagues have dabbled in the fibre arts, but generally it’s still a thing of inexplicable mystery (the why, more than the how). But a couple of men I have worked with absolutely love it when I whip out my needles. They say they find it comforting. Which rather supports the “knitting = grandmother” idea.
Personally, I’m fine with that. I have made my peace with my inner granny. Right about the time I realised I can get at least as excited about staying in with the cats, the knitting and a pile of DVDs as I can about going out for drinks. Developing a mild interest in gardening didn’t help either. The lovely Ana (happy belated birthday, Ana!) mentioned a while ago that she felt like “a born spinster who’d somehow accidentally got married”, and baby, I relate. I relate.
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* I’m not kidding about that, as bizarre as it seems. I got a lot of those at an outdoor film festival recently.

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4 thoughts on “On expectations

  1. It seems to me that it is a particularly British/English thing to view activities like knitting, when done in public, to be “Strange”/not normal behaviour and so deserves stares and ridicule. From all of the American / Canadian / Scandanavian blogs that I have read, activities such as knitting done in public don’t appear to be treated with the same level of peculiarity. But it is a recent development in our society, this what is and isn’t seen as the norm. Perhaps it is seen as a low class/country bumpkin activity. During my early school years all my knitwear was hand knit and I can remember being almost the only one wearing hand knits when I entered secondary education. My mother was from a country background although my father’s people were well to do town folk. From my mother’s perspective hand knit would have been the best while my school mates, being from town, mostly wore shop bought clothes. It is only recently that hand knitting is starting to re-emerge as quality with celebrities leading the “discovery” of this stress busting activity. The British are being their usual reticent selves at being reserved in public, except for those of us who are independently minded like KNITTERS.

  2. It’s definitely true that knitting is still more of an oddity here than in the US, but we’re catching on. Interesting point on the possible perceived class issue… although I’m constantly being asked to make things for people. I think the idea of *having* handknits is very appealing, but somehow the actual process isn’t supposed to happen out where anybody can see it!

  3. When I lived in London I knit on the Tube a lot and I found that people often stared at the knitting, or talked to their travelling companion about me knitting (as if I couldn’t hear them because of the needles!) but never, ever talked to me about me knitting.
    Here in the North East the knitting causes no less amusement but at least people do talk to me about what I’m making.
    As for making peace with my inner granny – I like that idea a lot!

  4. I really wasn’t knitting much when we lived in London, and that’s a shame, because our move up north cut me off from a lot of the social knitting activities I’d really quite enjoy. (Not to mention the shops!)
    But here on Merseyside/Wirral, I’m perfectly happy to knit in public, and I do it all the time. Frankly, I’m hoping to lure other knitters to me! But, so far, the only real comments I’ve got have been from sweet little old ladies, who seem pleased to see a younger (to them, anyway, alas) person knitting. For some reason, socks are what really draw them to comment. They definitely approve.

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