You know that girl that knits in public? On the metro, in one of your lecture classes, or while ostensibly hanging with friends? Well, before you judge her, see if she’s a small Asian girl. And then come say hi to me. I’ll be knitting.
Knitting in public can garner a positive response, but you generally have to be one of two things. First, an old lady. Old ladies knitting—that’s expected, and also heartwarming. (I myself learned to knit from my grandmother, who made me sweaters that I still own.) Or you could be a bohemian hipster type on a subway car to Brooklyn, knitting with undyed hemp in nubbly fingerless gloves that you made, while listening to a band that is known only to acceptably few people.
But as a nerd who has never made a rebellious fashion choice in her life (except by accident), my knitting in class, the library, or while waiting in line at the DMV has met with mixed reviews. People ask what you’re knitting and who it’s for (a beanie, and I don’t know yet, probably a classmate). Old men smile fondly upon me and little old ladies talk to me about their knitting, which generally puts mine to shame. Guys my age ask, “Are you knitting? How old are you, eighty?”
I knit pretty steadily all throughout the fall and winter; something about the cold weather triggers my impulse to make cabled beanies and thick woolly scarves. My yarn “stash” only fills one modest Rubbermaid bin, which is a good thing for my thin student wallet, but since I turn over knitted goods about as quickly as I buy new yarn, I am too afraid of the sum to figure out what I’ve paid for yarn over the years. I make mostly beanies, because they’re quick—about 5 hours all told—and take minimal yarn, and people actually use them, which makes me happy. So far this year, I’ve made 28 knitted hats in rugby stripes and cables, and four scarves (while scarves are easy they’re also boring and take longer, so I do them less often). I taught Denise how to knit back in undergrad, and I remember just sitting and gabbing with her and one of our guys friends who knits—our young teen version of a knitting circle*.
I do actually knit during serious things like class, or as my friends drink beer and socialize. But through the years I’ve learned to do it without looking, so I can pay attention! And doing things with my hands prevents me from surfing the web during lecture. Incidentally, I was actually called out by a professor this year. I came up after lecture to ask a question, and he said, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were listening during class,” and gave my yarn a look.
I guess my rather arts-and-craftsy hobby does seem a trifle domestic. Maybe it’s as if I suddenly whipped out some crosstitch embroidery, or started quilting. Is it just slightly weird to do housewifely things in public as a young woman? I guess as “modern women” we’re sometimes conditioned to reject things that smack too strongly of being subjugated in the home. So it might be a little embarrassing for me to enjoy knitting, and not as a statement of irony—I don’t knit because it’s alternative, I do it because I like making things…and also to practice my fine motor dexterity for MY FUTURE AS A SURGEON! Just kidding, I’m not gunning to be a surgeon. And actually, if I had to pick now, I’d probably do geriatrics. Not because my knitting and other old lady habits align me with the older generations. I just really care about treating old people with respect, and being kind to them as a doctor. But that’s another whole post.