Top Ten Stupidest Responses to Knitting in Public

It’s World Wide Knit in Public Day today, so in addition to knitting on a train, I would like to share with you the ten most ridiculous things that people have said to me while I was knitting.

Today’s public knitting

1. What lovely crochet!

No. Just no. I know you’re trying to relate by reaching for the first (or only) “makes things with string” word you can come up with, but this really isn’t helping. Aren’t there enough cultural depictions of knitting for you to know what it is yet? Also, as a note to all non-fibrecraft people (AKA muggles): yes, we really do care about the distinction between knitting and crochet. We will cut you if you keep mixing them up (believe me, the crocheters will do worse. A lifetime of doily-making can push a person over the edge).

2. Are those socks for me?

Surprisingly, no, because I hadn’t met you when I cast them on. This one annoys me because it’s a question designed to have no right answer. If you say yes, then there’s every chance you’ll end up with a sock-obsessed stalker. Say no, and they’ll use your response to feign outrage and try to guilt you into continuing the unwanted conversation. This technique seems to be used solely by middle-aged men who want to do weirdly paternalistic flirting, and on behalf of knitting women everywhere, please stop.

3. Can I have a go?

Unless you know what you’re doing, there’s no way I’m letting you loose on my lacy socks, and if you knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t have come out without your own knitting, would you? Warning – if this question is accompanied with grabbing at my needles, I will flinch and emit high-pitched keening noises. If your hands actually touch my knitting, this will escalate to hissing and slashing. I have an inner cat, and she hates you too.

4. I wish I had time for that!

These words are almost always uttered by someone who is sitting on public transport fiddling aimlessly with their phone. There. There’s your time. You are not as busy as you think you are. Please ignore the fact that this is my travel and unexpected waiting knitting, and that I have five other half-finished projects at home. Instead focus on my productive, stress-relieving use of what would otherwise be dead time. But seriously, this is what I do when sitting around watching TV. You have time, I promise.

5. Them: What are you doing?

Me: Knitting.

Them: No you’re not! That’s needlepoint.

If you already knew what I was doing, then why the fuck did you bother asking? That’s leaving aside the fact that needlepoint is a type of embroidery, and that you clearly think I’m too stupid to know what I’m doing, so why are we talking?

And yes, this is really a conversation I’ve had with a human adult. I think the DPNs threw them, or perhaps they think there’s some kind of conspiracy to misinform the general public about types of needlework. Who know? Who cares?

6. Pointing, staring and whispering (in any combination)

This is just rude. Knitting doesn’t render me oblivious to the world around me, and I’m not shoving the needles in my ears, so there’s no reason my hearing would be affected. But still people persist. Please stop doing this, or drastic measures (up to and including interpretive dance) may be taken.

7. Will you teach me?

Argh! New knitters are so important, and under most other circumstances, I would love to introduce you to the basics, but: this carriage is bouncing and rattling like nobody’s business, I don’t have any beginner-friendly equipment with me, and I need to get off this train in exactly eight minutes. I may be a bad emissary for knitting, but there’s a time and a place. If you really want to learn, try your friendly local yarn shop. Or maybe look it up on the internet.

8. My [insert relation here] knits too! Do you know her?

Yes, I definitely know the person you’ve only described as “my aunt”, total stranger whose name I don’t know either. We sat next to each other at the Annual Meeting of Every Knitter Ever, Anywhere in the World, and she warned me about a nephew who likes to ask stupid questions on public transport.

9. “How long is that going to take you?”, followed by shock and disbelief at the answer.

I appreciate this may seem like an occupational hazard of knitting a floor-length dress in lace weight, but I’ve been getting this one ever since I first started knitting on the bus. Whether it’s surprise that a sock was a week’s worth of commutes, or amazement that I can’t just whip up a jumper in a weekend, people always underestimate how long knitting takes, and I find it really annoying. Bonus points if the words “It can’t possibly take that long!” are uttered.

10. You need to put that away! It’s dangerous!

Believe it or not, this was on a train rather than a plane. The knitting in question involved small wooden circulars and was resting in my lap unobtrusively. I looked at the man who had requested I stop, then I looked at my knitting. I considered pointing out that one could do far more damage with the pen he was using to do his crossword, that, psychologically speaking, I pose a much greater threat without knitting to keep me calm, and that if wanted something really dangerous, I could show him the wickedly sharp and stabby embroidery scissors in my notions case. I also considered that I did not want to be thrown off the train and questioned by the British Transport Police. So I smiled very politely and kept knitting. Compromise is a beautiful thing.


13 thoughts on “Top Ten Stupidest Responses to Knitting in Public”

  1. My personal favourite is “Are you making something nice?” I always want to tell them that I picked out the ugliest, scratchiest wool I could find, to make something that would immediately go in the bin. I usually bite my tongue, but one day…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The most annoying encounter I had was a conductor on a long train journey, who asked, ‘Haven’t you finished that yet?’ EVERY time he passed by. Hey, it was almost funny for the first 9 or 10 times …!


  3. My absolute favourite response to my crocheting in public was from a small child who told his mum I was knitting, he then did a double take and added “with only one needle”. Which brought to mind the queen lyrics
    “I’m knitting with only one needle
    Unravelling fast its true
    I’m driving only three wheels these days
    But my dear how about you?
    I’m going slightly mad”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I regularly embroider in cafes, train stations, trains, hospital waiting rooms…I always have something to do in my bag, I’ve never had a single person pass comment! Maybe I have my ‘leave me alone’ face on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had one guy ask me why I would bother if I could get socks for 99p at a pound shop. Seriously? No idea about the job of the journey, just the final end product (which is way more comfortable than socks from a pound shop).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally agree though, I’ve had two people on a train say to me. “Were you actually just knitting and reading? We were just discussing it and had to ask ” I don’t know did it look like I was pretending to do both?


  7. “A baby sweater!”
    -squealed by two older ladies who were both also knitting, as I was working on an almost-complete pullover that would fit a 6’4″ man
    What kinds of infants so you hang around?!


  8. Some of my experiences:
    “Are you pregnant?” I’m 58;
    Much hysterical laughter: “OMG you’re knitting. Only grannies knit”
    Me:”I am a granny”
    Or, “You never see anyone knitting anymore.” “Errrr….”


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