Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Knitty problems

Posted by Jean Adams

My name’s Jean and I’m a knitter.

I am also a crocheter, sewer and quilter. I’ve tried my hand at upholstery and if anyone ever bought me a spinning wheel, I imagine I could get quite into that too.

I do these things because I like making stuff. I don’t always like the things I make. But I really like the process of making. Sometimes I like making things that require all my concentration and attention. Other times I’m happy just to mindlessly plod through a simple pair of socks or ripple blanket.

One of my many crochet blankets
I can totally mindlessly knit a sock and, at the same time, leave substantial brain space free for conversation, watching TV, listening to the radio, or doing the crossword. Obviously I would have to put my knitting down to fill in the crossword, but that’s not impossible. Me and my knitting aren’t absolutely inseparable, you know.

So here’s the question: would it be appropriate for me to knit in meetings?

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that I knit during a meeting that I’m chairing, taking notes for, or being asked to make some other types of substantial contribution to. But those sorts of meetings make up only about half of the things I go to.

Think of all those meetings which you just have to go to, but you learn almost nothing and almost contribute nothing. Knitting in these feels like a sensible option – at least I’ve used the time efficiently. Unlike the next best alternative of playing on my phone, at least when I’m knitting I can also listen, keep track of what’s going on, and contribute if I need to.

Then there are the things like seminars where I often learn something really interesting or useful, but again I don’t really need to contribute anything. Surely it would be okay to knit in those too?

It’s not like there aren’t other people who do crafty things in meetings – with very productive results. There are even other academics who knit in meetings in a very public way. And rules for how to do it right.

Sounds like I’ve almost talked myself into it, doesn’t it?

But the problem is, I’m worried about what other people would think. I guess there might be all sorts of responses to meeting knitting, but the one I’m most worried about is that people might think it’s unprofessional. Somehow playing on your phone can indicate that you’re a very busy person with important other stuff to be doing. Which just reinforces how very professional you are. Whilst knitting indicates that if you weren’t here you might be baking fairy cakes. Which is not what us serious academics should be doing at all.


  1. There is actually research supporting doodling and it helping aid recall and concentration. Here's an NHS Choices write up about the doodling paper http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/02February/Pages/Doesadoodlehelpthenoodle.aspx

    I'm sure I've read about knitting too. I knit at conferences and workshops if it's not group work or there are enough delegates there. Probably depends on how many people present as to how acceptable it will be.

  2. On balance, I think I'd consider knitting less unprofessional, and less egomaniacal (think I just made that up) than fiddling with one's phone