Knit & Crochet in Public Week: Talking to Strangers

To begin, I’d like to share an exchange that occurred in a waiting room last year:

Young boy: HEY! What are you doing?
Me: Oh, hey there. You mean this? I’m crocheting a scarf.
Young boy: CROW-saying?
Me: Right, close! I’m crocheting. See, you use this hook to make loops with the yarn.
Young boy: (yells across room) MOM, LOOK AT WHAT THIS GIRL IS SEWING.
Young boy’s mother: Honey, that’s not sewing. She’s knitting.

Public crafting—like anything you do that’s not “staring blankly at the ground”—opens you (and your work) up to an immediate and directed dialogue with strangers; as most of you have experienced, this is both good and bad!

BravaBlanket1

In honor of “Knit & Crochet in Public Week” (which kicked off last Saturday), I’d like to present the best stranger comments I’ve heard over the last couple of weeks (from parks to cafes), all in relation to the same in-progress Brava blanket pictured above:

“That’s beautiful! And it’s nice to see people doing REAL work in here—not just checking their Facebooks and blogs.”

“Are you making a curtain? Like, a giant 1970’s curtain?”

“I used to crochet when I was a girl! My mother taught me and all my sisters. I even started making little skirts and little tops. But then I had kids! They stain everything nice.”

“That looks like my favorite polo shirt. I mean, those are the same colors. I don’t think that actually looks like a polo shirt.”

BravaBlanket4

And now I turn it to you: What’s the best thing a stranger has said while you were crafting in public? Bonus points awarded for extreme humor or horror.


42 comments

  1. Rachel / June 10, 2013

    What are you making?
    A blanket
    Looks like a purse.

  2. SheilaM / June 10, 2013

    Question from a bystander while I was doing a drop spindle demonstration: How many times can you skin a sheep before it dies? I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be utterly horrified.

  3. Louise / June 11, 2013

    Two elderly women watched me knit while I waited for an oil change.
    EW: What are you making”
    Me: A sweater for my Dad.
    EW: That’s a strange-=looking sweater
    Me: I’m working on the sleeves.
    EW: That’s a big sleeve.
    Me: I work both at the same time.
    EW (to the other EW): I’ve never seen anyone knit like that.
    OEW: I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never seen it. Interesting…

  4. Ava H. / June 11, 2013

    A woman saw my yarn and started hurrying over with a smile on her face. As she got closer, she saw my hook and her face fell. She said, “oh, you’re crocheting” and walked away.

  5. revdonna / June 11, 2013

    A few years back, I was knitting while waiting at the MVA. It was a baby hat in the round on small double-pointed needles (3’s, if memory serves). I noticed a man seated across from me watching me. When his number was called and he got up from his chair, he first walked over to me and said, “Four of those things at once?” I nodded, and he said in a mock-gravelly voice, You’re a wizard, Harry!” Loved it!

  6. choperena / June 11, 2013

    I had a girl pull out her knitting on the bus the other day next to me while I was knitting a sweater. She confessed that I was her inspiration to start knitting again after many years and it totally made my day.

  7. Melissa / June 11, 2013

    I was working on the hem of a sweater that was knit from the bottom up in pieces while sitting in the waiting room of my doctor’s office. When the nurse called me back, I was in the middle of a row. Since I was using circular needles, I just pushed the work further onto the cable so stitches wouldn’t drop. The nurse who called me back asked what I was crocheting that was round. I told her I was knitting a sweater, and it only looked like it was round because of the way it was on the needles. She was fascinated by the cable between the needles and thought it was such a neat idea.

    • "Jamie" / June 11, 2013

      I’ve been knitting a blanket for a little girl, and people constantly ask if it’s a sweater, because of my circular needles. Whoever invented the
      circulars ought to get a medal, at least –!

  8. Elly / June 11, 2013

    My roommate and I used to crochet in class together, especially during the random tangents our art teacher would go off on, just to stay awake. It was a big room and we sat close to the back, by the aisle so we had some light. He didn’t seem to notice until the day we were talking about ancient textiles and then all of a sudden he stopped his lecture and asked us to hold up what we were working on. We did, and after quizzing us on it (we were terrified he would make us put it away), he complimented the job we were doing… And gave us extra credit!

  9. Yuriko / June 11, 2013

    I always get… “What are you making? Is that knitting? I’ve always wanted to learn. Is that the same as crocheting? I know how to crochet.”

  10. KellyM / June 11, 2013

    Stranger, on seeing me knitting a sock: “Better watch out – that’ll make you go blind.”

    Me: (touching my glasses) “Too late, already has.”

  11. Jeannie Gray / June 11, 2013

    I was sitting in a fast food restaurant knitting while I waited for my child to be done with music lessons. There were 2 women sitting near me & one asked what I was doing. I said I was knitting a sweater (on circular needles.) The other woman loudly whispered to her friend, “She’s not knitting. Knitting needles are long & straight. My grandmother used to knit & I know what I’m talking about.”

  12. margaret / June 11, 2013

    One time I was knitting a sock in a hospital waiting room. An older man noticed what I was doing and asked me what I was making so I told him. He blinked a couple of times and then told me I could buy socks from any good department store. I responded that he was right, I could and kept on knitting., He stared at me for the rest of the time I was there, muttering and shaking his head.

    • Linda / June 13, 2013

      I help lead a group at our church every Saturday morning called “Sewing Seeds of Hope”. We teach all manner of handwork and on Wednesdays we take up a complete row with our projects. One of my friends has been working on a lap frame quilt, I often am knitting or crocheting and the others are doing the same. I can pay better attention. I know God smiles when we use the talents He gives us.

    • Pamela / June 15, 2013

      I was waiting for my mom to start her chemotherapy at the oncology center when an old lady asked me about the prayer shawl I was making for my mom. She was really interested in knitting and crochet and the different stitches and how she could get started. She asked me about making hats. Sure, you could buy socks or a hat or a sweater from a department store but if someone makes any of the above for you its got a lot more care woven into it.

  13. LBJane / June 11, 2013

    I knit in church, ever Sunday. I have diagnosed Social Anxiety. I’ve never had this said to me directly, but have heard second hand that this in NOT appropriate. My personal reply to this is: You can have me here in church knitting, or I can NOT be here.

    • Annette / June 13, 2013

      I find I listen better when my hands are doing something otherwise my attention deficit (not diagnosed) lets my brain wander off down rabbit trails and next thing I know I’ve missed the last 5 minutes of the sermon! The other thing that happens is I nod off! No one in church has ever told me it was inappropriate. I feel my crafting is a gift from God and I use it to bless others!

    • Ellen / June 15, 2013

      When I go to church, I also knit during the sermon, just nothing too complicated. It actually helps me stay focused on what the pastor is saying. Now if I could just get away with knitting during meetings at work…

  14. Karen / June 11, 2013

    Inevitably while knitting a sock in public:

    “What are you making?”
    “It’s going to be a sock.”
    “Just one?”

    Not sure what questions two-at-a-time would get!

  15. Kit Fahey / June 11, 2013

    That’s beautiful! You could sell that for $100 !

    My reply, “There’s $200 of yarn and thousands of hours. I only knit for people I love.”

    • Sheryl / June 17, 2013

      I wish you the joy of gifting a project and having it called wall art. When I heard this I knew they understood what went into the blanket.

  16. Dawn / June 11, 2013

    I was knitting a sock with two circs at the library while my daughter was in her dance class. There was a table of teenagers watching me. I started hearing comments like:

    “Whoa, did you see her whip that needle around?”
    “I can’t believe how small those things are.”
    “Yeah, I saw her working on it a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know what it was, but it’s a sock. She’s gotten a lot done.”
    “That must be so boring.”
    “Wait. . . wait. . . here comes the flip again!”

    I tried to execute a good flip, but it didn’t quite work out. I told the guy I would try again the next time. They all laughed and continued watching. There were hoots whenever I did a good flip and boos whenever I didn’t. It was a weird experience.

  17. Clare Stewart / June 11, 2013

    I always knit while waiting for my husband’s many eye appointments. People always ask me what I am making. Once I was knitting a pair of fingerless gloves and a man wanted to know how they could be gloves if they didn’t have fingers.

  18. Patricia / June 11, 2013

    I had an adult who told me that I was knitting “wrong” (I think because I throw). I had a child stare at me for a long time, and finally get up the courage to ask me what I was doing. “Daddy, the lady is KNITTING”

  19. Kathy / June 11, 2013

    My adult son took me to the train station and waited with me until my train came. A woman sitting nearby watched me knitting socks (2 at a time). She asked what I was making. “Socks”, I replied. She said back, “you know you can buy them cheaper at WalMart”. My son then replied to her, “yeah, but they don’t have love knit into them!” Oh, yeah…he’s going to keep getting knitted socks, for sure!

  20. Mary M. / June 11, 2013

    I don’t recall ever getting comments while knitting in public, but I’ve done a lot of cross-stitching in public and for some reason people ALWAYS ask “Are you doing needlepoint?” Apparently needlepoint has better PR than cross-stitching! =)

  21. Essie Bruell / June 12, 2013

    I knit while I sell my knitted and crocheted products at a local market. Often, people will gape at the array of items displayed, watch me working, and ask “Did you make all of these?”
    I answer, “Yes, they are hand-made. And these are the hands,” holding up my hands.

  22. Hayley / June 13, 2013

    I used to live near and catch the bus outside of Chicago’s Juvenile Court/Detention Center. One day I was knitting while waiting for the bus when two colorful young men came up to wait with me. When I say “colorful” I mean blue eyeshadow and wildly dyed mohawks. They asked me what I was making (socks for Dad) and said how cool it was, then called out to another boy approaching,
    “Hey, So-and-So, what’re you goin’ to court for?”
    “Burglary!” came the carefree reply.

  23. Marianne / June 13, 2013

    I knit, crochet and spin in public all the time but the best comment I ever had was when I was spinning on a wheel at a living history event. A father called out to his children to come over and see what I was doing. Before I could say a word, he told them I was using a “washing machine”.

    • Valerie Gregory / June 14, 2013

      I could not exist happily if I was not allowed
      to knit everywhere I go! I knit on Cruises,
      especially at the Show Concerts which I
      detest…I knit as passenger on long car trips…I used to knit on the bridge of a small power boat in choppy seas, I knit on air flights, I knit on the beach (mohair, with the sun highlighting the gorgeous colours and texture of the mohair) –
      I knit while I watch TV or listen to music –
      I MUST knit, it keeps me calm, helps my
      mild mood control problem. It is my “God ” –
      I ADORE KNITTING!

  24. Donna / June 13, 2013

    I don’t normally knit in public but today I took the shawl I am working on to my grandsons art class while I waited. A couple of ladies (and I am being nice) asked me what doctor did my work. I was confused and am sure I looked at them very oddly. One of them leaned in closer and asked me what doctor did my face work since he did a great job. I told them both that I take it as a compliment but I am 100% natural. The one lady apologized and said she assumed I was elderly since only old ladies knit and I looked too young. Geez!

  25. kat / June 13, 2013

    I was taking a shuttle from school to the train station and there was only one other kid in the shuttle with me and the driver. The driver asked me what I was making and I told him I was crocheting a hat. The you kid turned to me and said ‘ain’t that some old people shit.’

  26. Pat G. / June 14, 2013

    Before I retired, my middle school students would often find me knitting during lunch or a “free” period. Frequently someone would suggest that I could knit for a living! Although I was not the math teacher, we did a little calculating(cost of materials, time needed etc.), concluding that I would need to continue with my real job! They also came to realize that what we create is priceless!

  27. Ruth / June 14, 2013

    When I KIP, often I am making caps for kids that I donate. People watch, smile, even begin talking, which is nice. If you don’t have a dog to start a conversation, knitting is a good alternative. Children especially like to watch–they get it.

    So I always am amazed when neighbors in the theater (usually men) get AGGRAVATED by my knitting (I have some bendable plastic needles that don’t click a lot) and demand that I stop. Kids’ attentive watching is much preferable. I try to encourage it by showing them a bit and giving their parents info on where the kids can learn more.

  28. Clio / June 14, 2013

    On a business trip, I was sitting in the hotel bar enjoying a glass of champagne (it was complimentary with my room!) and knitting socks. There was a very stylish looking couple at the next table, and when they got up to leave, the woman told me that I looked like a scene from a movie that she’d want to see. It made my week!

  29. virginia / June 14, 2013

    I was knitting a toe-up sock in a train and an old lady sitting in front of me asked me what was I doing, so I told her and she looked at me funny and told me that I was doing it wrong! that I had to learn the proper way of making socks or otherwise do something else.

    (in Germany they almost always knit socks from the top-down and never two at once)

  30. Sandy / June 14, 2013

    I was knitting while waiting for a parade to start on Memorial Day. There was a little girl who was 3 and her parents kept yelling at her to sit in her chair. Meanwhile they were busy playing games on their cellphones. I called the girl over (with her parents permission) and sat her on my lap and “taught” her how to knit. She sat and knit with me for 15 minutes without skirming once.

    • Rose Armentrout / June 17, 2013

      I knit with my 3 and 4 yr. old students all the time. What I love is they start noticing the hand knits I wear or have in the classroom asking, “You knit this Ms. Rose?”

  31. Susan / June 16, 2013

    I knit when I go with my husband to hear him play his guitar at Blue’s Jams now that the places are smoke free!

  32. Sheryl / June 17, 2013

    The worst comment I ever heard was from the stage at a grade school concert when the choir director commented on my knitting being inappropriate, while there were screaming children and people running around all around me(this was 20 + years ago). The best was “I envy you your talent. The work is amazing.”. I most enjoy the chance to start conversations with strangers and hear what projects they have worked on, encourage them to take it up again because of all the marvelous new yarns that help you be a designer. I most enjoyed my daughter going to college and finding friends knitting there (learning her mother was less weird than she thought), then showing her roommate she could too knit, and finishing an afghan before her roommate did a scarf. .

  33. Heather MW / June 17, 2013

    I was knitting in Starbucks last week – working on a bread cloth in a lovey clemetine color -when a little boy asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was knitting. The rest of the conversation between the boy and his mother went like this

    Hey Mom she’s knitting. Can you knit?
    No sweetie I can’t. But Grandma can.
    Is she a Grandma then?
    Hush – she’s counting and we might make her lose her place
    Ooooh – yeah counting is hard.

    For the record – I am not a Grandma and my two teenagers are forbidden to make me a Grandma anytime in the next 10 years.

  34. ShirleyK / June 18, 2013

    I was knitting a sock on an airplane (back when you could knit on airplanes). The gentleman next to me took an interest in what I was knitting and leaned over to get a closer look at the sock. He commented on how you could see the heel and the ribbing in the ankle. He says, “The toe doesn’t look very big. Are you going to be able to fit your toes in there?” I just chuckled and said, “Yeah, yarn usually stretches.” He thought about that for a moment and said, “Oh yeah, socks do stretch don’t they.”