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.