Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Another good yarn

Posted by Avril Rhodes

What a relief! After fretting that I would never be able to contribute to the Fuse blog (I mean what research have I ever done?) but feeling vaguely under pressure to produce something, along comes “Knitty Problems” focussing on knitting and meetings, two things that I definitely have a PhD in by virtue of longevity.

Until I joined Fuse I thought I was a member of an almost extinct breed, knitters, which would go down the evolutionary cul-de-sac of many a humanoid predecessor, known only for leaving strange artefacts behind (like circular needles) which archaeologists of the next millennium would think were instruments of torture. 

Believe you me there were no knitters in my old job(s) in the NHS – the last refuge for knitters was older ladies making action man clothing for premature baby units. No-one respectable knitted and certainly not if you had a real job. I kept my secret well hidden for years. In fact when I once lapsed and admitted to having knitted a Christmas crib, a colleague I still manage to call a friend was paralyzed with laughter at the thought of the knitted baby Jesus. What’s funny said I? Haven’t you done the diversity course?

Natty knitted nativity
However after decades I can now come out, because Fuse, and Parkside in particular, is full of academic knitters. My first inkling of this was when someone I didn’t know too well, asked me if I knew a good wool shop in Middlesbrough. These knitters knit in front of TV, on public transport, they even have to remove balls of wool to retrieve mobile phones, and they are happy to discuss patterns and stockists without batting an eyelid. 

But would they knit in meetings??? I’m not sure. I have seen people knitting before a carol service (well actually one person on one occasion) but knitting doesn’t seem to chime with the need to appear fully professionally engaged, or in the case of a carol service respectfully attentive. I personally harbour a desire to knit in conferences and seminars (following the rules, of course as I’d just get frustrated if I got stuck in the middle of a pattern) not because I’m not listening, but to do three things - to take up the spare brain power not focusing on the subject being spoken of, secondly, knitting really helps you not to go to sleep at the wrong times, and, thirdly, it ensures you don’t reach for the sweets or biscuits that still creep in when the public health police are engaged elsewhere. I challenge the reader which is worse – the gentle rhythmical clicking of needles, the embarrassment of snoring in the post-lunch presentation or someone trying to eat a hard biscuit noiselessly? The latter two are insufferable and will do much more reputational damage than being able to show off your latest scarf in the real break time as you virtuously sip water.

So, thank you Jean for helping me join the open-science blog!


  1. Nope, get your needles out I say! Although as a fellow knitter that has to look at her needles as she knits, I don't think conference knitting would be helpful for me?

  2. I look forward to the IHS meeting on thursday with all the knitting going on

  3. Nice blog entry Avril. Have you seen the latest issue of the Journal of Public Health? There's an article on the relationship between quilting and wellbeing:


    You can use this if you ever need to justify the benefits of knitting/crafting in meetings!