I did, by the way, knit…

I did, by the way, knit a tiny bit in the conference yesterday. Plain off-white yarn, circular needles, small project that almost fit between my hands. Barely visible, and yet I felt so self-conscious that I only managed two rows before I put it away.

I actually concentrate better when doing plain knitting or crocheting; somehow, having my hands making patterns helps my mind focus. I'm much less likely to drift off or fall asleep during a theory-heavy paper. And yet I know that that's not obvious to non-yarn-arts people, and I worry that the speaker or my colleagues will think I'm not paying attention. (I don't want the speaker to be insulted, and I don't want my colleagues to think I'm not a serious academic.)

The whole thing was deeply frustrating. In the six or so hours of sitting-and-listening do you know how much yarn work I could have gotten done? Even if I confined myself to plain mindless work, I could make three scarves in that time! It's enough to make you want to cry from the sheer waste of it all.

On a happier note, I took Kavi with me to the winter farmer's market at St. Giles church, where she picked out a box of mushrooms and a box of apples, tasted some apple cider and some chips with tomatillo salsa, considered a needle-felted chicken but decided against it, and got a heart-shaped cookie baked by only-French-speaking nuns. Along with a pot of cinnamon basil and a jar of the aforementioned delicious tomatillo salsa, I gave in to temptation (and supported my local crafter), picking up two skeins of hand-painted yarn: My Small Wonders, Midnight Garden colorway. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but it was so gorgeous I couldn't resist. 75% wool, 25% nylon, worsted weight; I've got about 300 yards of it. Deep rich colors (blue, green, purple, magenta), so I think something for me rather than for the children. Hmm...maybe a bag?

5 thoughts on “I did, by the way, knit…”

  1. If you ask questions that show that you have been listening, it quickly dispels the suspicion that you are not paying attention, in my experience.

  2. It’s a tough question. Even though I have several knitter friends who have expressed frustration about this kind of thing, and even though I understand it intellectually, I still sometimes have the gut reaction that someone who’s knitting is obviously not paying attention. Which (and this is the most ridiculous part) distracts me. It’s not really their knitting that’s distracting me; it’s my stupid gut reaction to their knitting. But it feels like it’s their knitting.

    But on the other side, I get really frustrated at work by the no-laptops-at-meetings people, especially the people who say that the presence of a laptop is inherently distracting, both to the owner and to everyone else, and the people who casually assume that it’s obvious to everyone that laptops at meetings are a bad idea. (For me, a laptop at a meeting generally makes me a more productive member of the meeting: I look stuff up, I take notes, etc.)

    So on the one hand, it bugs me when people let other people’s personal choices distract them (it shouldn’t be anyone’s business whether you choose to knit, and even if it were distracting you, that wouldn’t hurt anyone but you); but on the other hand, I let myself get distracted by other people’s choices too.

    I suspect part of the answer is to work on making it part of the culture. I think other people’s knitting is much less likely to distract or annoy me now than was true ten or fifteen years ago, and I think that’s partly because I’ve seen enough of it (and been told that it’s not distracting them by enough knitters) to start to get used to it.

    But that doesn’t really help the pioneers.

    Maybe you could teach your department to knit?

  3. Maybe you can think of it as another coming-out process. You’ve done this before, you know how. Knit with pride. Smile joyously at anyone who gives you a dirty look; it’s their problem, they don’t know the joys of being liberated from their manual inactivity. Bring it up in break-time conversations by loudly proclaiming, “I’ve been knitting for ## years, ever since I realized that doing something with my hands helps me concentrate! I suffered through years of not knowing, but now I find I’m a much more productive conference attendee when I knit at the same time! I guess I’m just wired that way!”

    And if there’s anything you can knit within the time limit of someone’s presentation (I have no idea, since I don’t), you could always offer it to the presenter as a gift.

  4. And, ps to Jed –as a presenter, I find laptops and iphones *much* more distracting than knitting. There’s the typing sound, for one thing, and there’s the fact that I don’t actually know whether the person is taking notes attentively, or checking their email, or tweeting snarky comments about how boring it is. I realize it’s part of how the world is now, but I don’t have to like it. 🙂

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I did ask questions, which helped. But you can’t always guarantee that just because you have your hand up, people will call on you. Also, sometimes I just don’t have questions, either because the material is too simple, or too difficult.

    Minal, I do like the coming out metaphor. 🙂 But I’m not sure that I should make the conference all about me either…I’d generally rather be talking about the conference topic than about my knitting.

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