Knitting at Work: A Manifesto

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I was recently promoted to full professor  . . . yay!  . . . and I’ve decided on a few resolutions for the upcoming years in the profession. Among other ideas, such as stress less, I’ve added “knitting at work” to my list.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have long knitted while traveling for work, at symposia, while listening to lectures, etc. But I am upping the game here, folks! I’ve decided to use my new status to authorize knitting during meetings. This excludes meetings that I am chairing, dissertation defenses, and any time that I need to be writing at the same time as I am listening; I also want to be sure my grad students know that I respect them and their presentations. But run of the mill faculty meetings, check. Random committee meetings, check. Faculty senate, check.

You may have noticed that I said I would use my new status to authorize knitting at work. And I really do meant what I said. I have some privilege now and feel that it’s important to help–particularly American–audiences understand that handwork/craftwork is a perfectly acceptable thing to do *while doing other things–especially listening!* I, for one, know that I can actually pay better attention if my hands are engaged with fiber and yarn. I am a better participant when I am working acres of stockinette. But, the thing is: not everyone knows this! A lot of folks assume that knitting (or other handcrafts) are a distraction, that the crafter is otherwise engaged and tuning out–and, sure, some crafters and at some times, this is the case. But meeting knitting is my way of being an even better citizen: I’m more relaxed, more engaged, and I feel like my time is not being wasted, so I am more likely to be in attendance and ready to chat when the time is right.

During the time I’ve spent in England and Europe as a whole, I’ve found knitting to be a far more accepted practice during academic events. When I was in Berlin last Spring, knitting away during the presentations, I found that it was an excellent conversation starter and that other academics wanted to talk about what I was making and even get into their own interests and crafts. It was a fun community and I loved that they scoffed (just a bit) at any American academics who were less than supportive of knitting in public meetings.

Now, that said, I did find plenty of fine folks at my faculty meeting today (in the US) who asked about my knitting and were super supportive. So, perhaps the tide is already turning. Even so, I’ll be doing my part to make knitting a recognizable element of my everyday work environment. I want to make space for others who may be nervous about doing something with their hands while they sit through meetings. And I want to dismantle the assumption that public knitters are disengaged, unprofessional, or bored.

We just want to knit while we talk to you or listen to you or sit quietly.

I suppose this is a manifesto of sorts . . . who’s with me?



This entry was posted in community, Knit in public, knitters, knitting, manifesto, work knitting. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Knitting at Work: A Manifesto

  1. I suppose it depends on your experience, the complexity of the pattern and ability to multi-task…I wonder if in my old job that would have saved me from getting stressed…but then I think on conference calls I was responding to emails, or other work, so never really any time to knit. But I love the idea and if I’d been a knitter then perhaps I’d have at least had a lunch break to do a few rows…who knows! Well done for being a trailblazer 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. metaspencer says:

    Oh heck yes! It makes sense that you should knit wherever you want, when you want … great philosophy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tasha says:

    I love this! I have definitely experienced people assuming that I’m not paying much attention to what’s going on if I’m knitting. In fact, like you, I am listening more intently than I would if my hands were idle and my mind free to wander. Congrats on your promotion, and kudos to you for encouraging a better relationship between craft and work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant post. Personally, I cannot multitask (my daughter once labelled me a monomaniac and I have to admit she has a point). I see multitasking as another facet of the “fast” lifestyle that I use knitting to escape from. I can honestly say that if I was in a meeting with you and I was knitting I would not be paying full attention to you. It’s not just knitting, I cannot even abide working in offices where it is accepted practice to have the radio on. I made a decision last year to only watch TV if I am going to pay attention to it. As a result I watch very little TV, but what I do watch I really watch and I really enjoy, instead of part-watching, part-knitting, and not really paying due attention to either.
    I like the fact that knitting/crafting is a platform where, regardless of our individual positions on any measurable spectrum, we can come together and salute both our similarities and our differences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make some good points, Pamela! I knew when I wrote this that there would be a wide range of knitters on this spectrum! I respect all the ways we knit and I really couldn’t agree more about slowing down!! In part, knitting at meetings makes work bearable for me, so it’s more about not wasting time, as opposed to doing more–if that makes sense!


  5. Go for it, Melissa! I can definitely see how knitting during certain meetings can make for more engagement and alertness, and it is a misconception to think that handiwork is a distraction. I personally bring my WIPs to the odd family party (and would love to bring them to school, too) – it makes the time pass smoothly and creates new connections over fiber talk. This post reminds me that we do our best work when we feel our best, and knitting is a part of that! And congratulations on your full professorship! Yay!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hannah B says:

    I’m with you! I’ve been knitting at run of the mill faculty meetings since getting tenure, and I was fortunate to have a colleague who was already knitting at meetings to make it more socially acceptable here. I’m the same way; I listen better when I’m knitting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jenny wren says:

    Absolutely Melissa, I saw a podcast this week in which the topic came up. Knitters can absolutely knit and pay attention to a speaker etc., they have been doing it for generations, we are the genuine article, we are called multi-taskers!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Barbara says:

    Congratulations on your full professorship, Melissa!
    I am absolutely with you on this, and am glad that you are doing some trailblazing. I too find I can listen more closely when I’m doing something with my hands, like knitting. You’re absolutely right, though, that the general perception out there is that the knitter is not paying attention, slacking off….etc. So the more muggles you can educate on this issue, the better!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hazel Uzzell says:

    Congratulations! I belong to a society which has an AGM which lasts upwards of 5 hours every year. You can bet that I take my knitting to that!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. itwasjudith says:

    Congratulations for your promotion!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lommiles says:

    Hi, Melissa,

    Congrats on your full professorship! Those are not easy to come by any more.

    I’ve knit everywhere since I was 9 years old. My family always commented that I looked like Great-Grandma Berquist sitting in the rocking chair, knitting. I would also knit in seminars and I think my dissertation supervisor thought I was “a bit mad” as they say in the UK, until she read an article about knitting as meditation. Since my subject was a 20th c contemplative, who knit voraciously, I was safe from then on. 😊

    Trust, Do, Love, Lo “The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” J.R.R. Tolkien


    Liked by 1 person

  12. madgeface says:

    Congratulations and knit on, you renegade! One of my friends is a history professor and keeps multiple projects in her office (or did until she had a surprise baby last year) and knits through the same meetings you do or are planning on knitting through and has taken projects along to conferences. She’s part of a (possibly history only?) academic group on Ravelry – it’s definitely worth poking around in the groups to see if there are other fellow knitters letting their craft flag fly in academia!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Mary giger says:

    Congratulations on your promotion!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. sapeters85 says:

    Congratulations! and I’m with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Knit Potion says:

    Congratulations, Melissa!! And AMEN!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, dear, reading all the comments it seems that I am alone in not being able to pay more attention to other things whilst I am knitting. In fact, after 50+ years of knitting I am verging on being a muggle 😢.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, dear, Pamela! Not at all! I think there are many folks who concentrate while knitting or do one thing at a time. I know I am a monogamous knitter most of the time, for example, and don’t like being distracted by multiple projects at once!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Louise says:

    It was so very refreshing to read your post. I am in total agreement with you that I can listen better while knitting! At my primary school I know it would be frowned upon to knit during meetings and it’s so frustrating. Perhaps I might show my principal your post! I also find after 30 years of marriage, if I’m knitting, I can listen to my husband talk about his latest hobby horse, or repeat a story I’ve heard many a time without showing impatience.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Debbie says:

    I too pay better attention when I am knitting. But, I do get the odd looks sometimes. And, sometimes people are distracted by what I am doing. So, I bring a small project (socks or mitts) and try to be discreet.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Great news on the promotion! As a teacher, I did knit during study halls, when proctoring tests and during meetings. It did give some pause but they soon could see it was not a stumbling block to the efficiency of my duties. Kids soon learned that I could knit and watch them, too! lol

    Liked by 2 people

  20. HOORAY!!! I am in college administration. Educators know that everyone has a different mode of assimilating information! Like you Melissa, I do much better concentrating and memory-associating when I have a motor task that grounds me. Knitting through a meeting keeps my brain grounded in the Now, keeping it from taking off on its own flights of fancy. If presenters only knew how much better our participation was because of knitting. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Alina says:

    How amazing is that! I remember my university days and only wish I was allowed to knit during the presentations! It also keeps me more focused and engaged. Congratulations on your promotion, you’ve worked hard for it!!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I think Stephanie from Tiny Owl Knits said that she knitted a bit whilst waiting around in the recording studio. I’d love to knit on a plane, but worry that I wouldn’t be able to take the needles on board.

    Liked by 2 people

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