Is it rude to get your knitting out in the middle of a meeting?

Is it rude to get your knitting out in the middle of a meeting?

When I was at university, I remember the conversations between the English Lit students about the "rude behaviour" demonstrated by the international undergrads on our course. "Did you see her get her knitting out?", "I couldn't believe it. So rude", "The way she just said "carry on". 

We were in the middle of a postmodernism seminar and our lecturer that day was a windswept PhD student. I can only imagine that teaching a seminar was daunting enough without anyone causing distraction or trying to throw her off. She lost her train of thought a few times (she was a last minute cover) and we thought it couldn't get any worse, however... 

She was struggling to get past the spectacle that had unfolded in front of her. Two American students sat at the front got their knitting out and commenced clicking away. Not knowing what to do, the lecturer just looked at them in amazement, hardly closing her mouth. The rest of the group were also stunned at what we were witnessing as the only thing in our hands were pens. 

One of the knitting students said "Oh don't mind me. Go ahead" 

Now, please be aware that to a Brit, this was seen as unbelievably rude. It's like wearing a hat indoors, or asking people how much money they earn. All of them are no no's here. There are a lot of cultural differences that would cause different reactions to this story.

It was alien to us. In university, whilst sat in a lecture or a seminar the status quo was making notes or typing on your laptop. We had never seen anyone get their knitting out in the middle of a seminar. I'd witnessed people being asked to leave before for having their phones on the desk or on their lap, but this was new. 

I was not a knitter at the time, nor did I crochet. I didn't do anything portable in class but there's an unspoken rule here that implies knitting or crochet brought out in the middle of something like a lecture, seminar, conference or meeting is akin to getting your mobile phone out or games console. It could just be a British attitude! I don't know. 

As time has gone on, I've learned that people knitting in the middle of meetings or lectures might be more acceptable nowadays, especially if doing things with your hands has been proven to help people to concentrate, but what are they concentrating on? The information or the short rows? Is this the norm in the US? I've never seen anyone do it in work meetings here in the UK. Have you? 

I've taught in plenty of schools where ADHD students and those with behavioural issues use fidget spinners, doodle or twist rubber bands to help them focus but knitting or crochet has never been whipped out in class. 

I personally wouldn't get my knitting out whilst speaking or listening in an official capacity. I just feel that people would think I was rude and it would draw unwanted attention. It can be distracting for others, for example. I am however, more than aware that my feelings towards it could be irrationally British. 

Please note here that I'm not talking about knitting in public in general. No one cares if you knit on public transport, the park or cafes. This is just in the case of knitting in a professional environment. 

Do you think it would be rude if you were speaking in a professional environment and the people listening to you were focusing on their knitting? Let me know! Knowing where you're from would be interesting too in this instance. 

 

Further reading

Is crochet easier than knitting? 

Give knitters what they ask for 

Socktober superstar patterns 

5 awesome crochet and knit pumpkins

Back to blog

9 comments

I probably would have considered it rude before I started knitting. Now I know it can actually help concentration during a meeting, lecture or similar. However, it needs to be discreet so it isn’t distracting to other people, especially the person leading the session. It’s easy these days on Zoom because you can be muted and have your knitting out of view, but even in person you can have your knitting discreetly on your lap and if you use quiet needles, there’s no need for it to bother anyone else. I knit when I go out, but ask the people I’m with if they mind. I’ve also gone to seminars/meetings and taken my knitting, especially if I’ve got a deadline to finish something and always ask the person leading the group if they mind. So far, nobody has minded.

Rachel

When I was an academic, I knitted in seminars. I found out after a couple of years that, when the students were presenting and I set my knitting down, they knew a hard question was coming from me. It was one of those “lessons” that the older students passed onto the newer ones.

I found out when I had a hand cramp during a seminar and had to put my knitting down to massage it out – and the poor student had a panic attack. It happened during the section of her talk that she was the least confident and was desperately fearing that I would ask a question (btw I was the statistician in a program that didn’t teach a lot of statistics – I wasn’t a meany).

I felt really,really bad!

Terri

I’m a maths/stats academic. When we restructured and I ended up in a engineering department, I decided it was time to knit in meetings. I was already the odd one out as I’ve as a female. I figured it could just be another sort of eccentricity. They are used to me now and just ask what I’m making. It helps me concentrate on the meeting. I always knit in online meetings unless I’m taking notes.

Jo-ann

I’m British and in my forties. I have been unable to work since my twenties, at which time I found it much easier to multitask. Even so, I would have felt I was being rude to bring out my knitting/crochet/cross stitch at work unless it was my lunch hour. I might also have been offended by someone else doing that at a meeting. I have no problem knitting on the bus or in waiting rooms/cafes/other social settings, but in any situation where I would need to concentrate (eg a doctor’s appointment) I would leave my knitting in my bag.
I do watch Rebecca Clow’s The Crea Bea Podcast and she openly admits to knitting during meetings, so maybe it’s also a generational thing?

Shelly Bowles

I used to knit at conferences, but when it was in smaller meetings I asked my boss and she said no. People think it’s rude because they assume you’re not concentrating on the meeting, but the reverse is true! I take in so much more and my mind doesn’t wander
Now meetings are largely on Teams I can knit out of sight.

There’s a Danish politician, Margrethe Vestager, who’s known for knitting elephants in meetings and part of her role is as the European Commissioner for Competition, so if she can manage that while she’s knitting, I’m pretty sure I can too!

Kate W

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