The Nonchalance of Knitting

Years ago when I was first learning to knit, I had a couple of friends who knew how and I was discussing my progress with them.  Over the course of the conversation, one of them happened to say, "Oh yes, and knitting is great because you can do so many other things while you're knitting."  To myself, I thought, "Uh, OK. Whatever you say."  But, I had to resist my desperate urge to wholeheartedly disagree.  Surely I listen to music or the radio or I listen to what's on TV with only the occasionaly quick glance up, but to what the hell else could she have possibly been referring? Reading? Sex? At this point, I guess I'll never know.

I find that knitting requires focus and concentration to be done well, regardless of how simple the project. I know it's not brain surgery, but still!


kiwiknitter's picture

Hi Charles,  I enjoyed this posting as it coincidentally is just what I've been thinking about for the past fortnight.  I don't knit to relax but to create/produce useful and lovely things.  As a Zen Buddhist practitioner, I try to be mindful when I knit, of the knitting (making the stitch), the pattern, the wool, the animal who "donated" the raw materials, the person I'm making it for if it's to be a gift.  I can do this when I'm mindful and aware of the present moment and not riding the train of run-away thoughts.  On the other hand, I can and do knit while holding a conversation with others or listening to a CD or to a DVD.  In fact, my favourite knitting times are when a friend comes over for tea time and he reads to me from books we're both interested in while I knit and listen.  Odd as it sounds, if I knit during business meetings, I usually listen better to the speaker/discussion as my mind is more focused (unless I'm counting stitches, that is!).  But, I can't knit while waiting for the bus as I will become so engrossed in the knitting that I forget to look up and check for the bus.  Luckily for me, the regular drivers know my oddity and will stop anyway.  Maybe I might have said that one can knit in-between doing so many other things.  Its portability and general simplicity makes it a perfect time-filler.  Knitting is a craft and as such makes demands on us of what is required at the time.  Sometimes, a difficult pattern requires all our attention.  Othertimes, plain knitting allows us to give less attention to the knitting.  If we are mindful of each step of the knitting that is growing on our needles we will give it what it needs to become the beautiful finished project.  Cheers, Jesse

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly

Bill's picture

Elizabeth Zimmerman said she would read while knitting! ...I certainly can't... knitting takes all my concentration!~ but I love to listen to converstaion or music while knitting... I'll glance at televison as I knit... Bill

My mum can knit & watch TV. I am nowhere near that point. Although I have been daring a few times if the project on the needles is just knit & I have managed to watch a few seconds of TV while still knitting. I still count stitches in my head on a pattern even if I have sttich markers.

I usually prefer to knit in silence. Occasionally I'll have the radio on or music. In the evenings the television will be on but just glance at it as I hear something of interest. If it's a programme that I'm really interested in then I don't knit.

I enjoy the fact that I'm creating something as I sit on the sofa. Reading is enjoyable but a different mode of relaxation. I don't feel guilty sitting kntting because I am producing something. Knitting a small project on the subway makes the journey to work go faster. I prefer a scarf so I can usually finish a row by my stop or a project on circular needles where I just carry on & on & on.

To me knitting does take concentration. I am proud of the fact that I can knit. If I make a mistake I have to rip it back & start again. I know the error is there. As my professor at F.I.T. says, "Do you want someone to say, 'You made that didn't you?' or 'Did you make that?' 

Knit away, knit away

"They say best men are moulded out of faults; and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad." William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

You'd have to careful of the needles if you're having sex & then explain the dropped stitches!

Knit away, knit away

"They say best men are moulded out of faults; and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad." William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I have finally acquired the skill of being able to watch TV and knit at the same time. I am able to learn patterns so I don't need to constantly refer to them either.  I always listen to music or simply use the time to think or day-dream.  Day dreaming is my favourite occupation whether knitting or not!  Occassionally, I walk about, especially if I'm knitting something small like socks.  Old-time knitters used to knit while carrying wood and the like and I have a shetland knitting belt that I'm trying to find to post a picture of, that was used to support knitting when walking. Sex?  I don't think so!

ulf's picture

Hi! I really think it depends on what you knit.

Jordan's picture

I'm not sure I even want to try knitting while watching TV!  First, I imagine the finished product wouldn't turn out too well.  And then, I like to think that my thoughts while knitting have some intangible effect on the finished product.  At least to me.  I'd hate to reach my old age and be passing something I'd made on to a young relative, and think "Yeah, I made this the year Martha Stewart's The Apprentice was on. I can't believe she fired that guy."

I do like to listen to music, and having my partner in the room occupied with something else, occasionally idly chatting is a plus.  I've thought about listening to audio books, but it probably requires too much concentration for me right now.  I like to let my mind wander to where it needs to go.  I also like to focus on how my body's feeling (is my shoulder relaxed? am I breathing deeply? how does the feeling of knitting change if I think of the motion a bit differently?)  Just today I tried standing while knitting.  This wasn't because I was looking for something to do, but because my body actually felt more relaxed--I think my arms were more free to move.  I felt conspicuous and silly, though.  I don't think I'm up to walking around yet!

This touches something I recently discovered ("accepted" is more nearly accurate) about myself as a knitter. To my dismay, I am not a multitask knitter. I used to think I could do about anything -- and several of them at the same time. But, alas . . . as Cher would say. Whenever I'm knitting and there's anything other than music going on, I get to practice un-knitting. In fact, I bet I can out un-knit any of you guys. Let's step outside and settle this once and for all. Ready, aim, needles . . . . metal needles are no fair.  Jerry

Jerry in Sacramento CA

Anybody for a MenWhoKnit "club" here?

WallyWinkelman's picture

I have an article somewhere that I saved 15-20 years ago about a anglican bishop who knitted.  I saved it because a man made the cover of a knitting magazine.  He talked about how when he and his wife knitted together she would read aloud for them. 

 I have tried it and I can read if I'm doing stockinette or garter but I don't really enjoy it.  It takes too much concentration.  I usually have the TV on when I'm knitting, I love to knit and watch CSI.  For some reason they just seem to go together for me.  And unless I'm doing serious counting I can carry on a conversation while knitting. 

I have recently been playing with the idea of trying to get a stitch & bitch group together here.  Maybe tie it to a charitable endeavor like Project Linus.  Has anybody done this or are we all knitting hermits? 


JPaul's picture

I definitely recommend knitting in groups (or packs?)...if only because it's safer...

Smile Just kidding...I'm cracking myself up this morning...Haha.

But seriously, Wally, you should definitely try to find a group or put one together.  I was a knitter for about 12 year or so before I ever joined a knitting group and it has been THE most rewarding knitting experience I've had.  That's due, in no small measure, to the great group of people I'm lucky enough to knit with.  The group is on it's second year and last week we had about 14 people who ranged in experience from accomplished designers to an absolute beginner who was picking up the needles for the first time (in fact, he didn't even HAVE of the guys handed him a scarf he was working on, taught him the knit stitch and set him loose).

It's multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered,'s just Diverse!  It's fun, and it's inspiring.  I see new knitters who are already designing their own sweaters.  They have a ball of wool they love and a good idea, and if they have questions, they have a great pool of experience and opinion they can go to on Monday night.   So, yeah, I highly and whole-heartedly recommend coming out of your knitting cave if you are that hermit.

By the way, our knitting group is Monday Night Knit at the Three Dollar Bill Cafe and we love to have guests if you're ever in the SF Bay Area at 7pm on a Monday night.

(I'm creating a new topic of helpful hints for putting together knitting groups and if anyone would like to add to it, please do.)



drmel94's picture

I can listen to music, radio, etc., and have been known to carry on conversations while knitting, but don't really do anything else simultaneously. I have read paragraphs of things between rows, but I consider that to be reading alternating with knitting. I like to watch the stitches go on the needles, though, and think how each one brings me a little closer to the final product.

"Hatred does not end by hatred; hatred ends by love. This is the eternal law." - Buddha

Knipper's picture

I can listen to music and chat with someone while knitting.  If the television is on, I don't focus on it that much as my knitting takes precedence.  Although I will say when I go to a friends Oscar party I knit all through the program.  He is impressed that I can knit in the dark;  I refrain from telling him that I am worried about dropping stitches if someone appalling walks off with the award, as usually happens.  Thankfully, the stitches have not fallen off yet.  And last years show was so tedious, I am thinking of foregoing it altogether this year and just knit instead.

I would love to be able to read and knit but can't do it.  So I read in bed before retiring because the one thing I rue regarding knitting is that it takes away from reading time.  So this is how I try and balance it.  But I am not about to give up knitting. 


potterdc's picture

I can't cook, throw pots, read, or drive while I knit.  I've never tried sex, though I can't quite imagine...well, yes I can, but I won't go into it here.

But I can talk or watch tv and knit, depending on what the project is and where I am in it.  I used to love to knit up swatches sitting around talking to friends.  Intensely patterned projects I find are best left to long car trips (as a passenger) or long train rides, or a quiet evening with no interuptions.  Scarves, simple sweaters, socks (when I'm not turning the heel or forming the toe), are  knittable in  front of the tv. 

Tonight in fact, I'm making a fire and will finish sewing in the loose ends of yarn in an afghan and sit and watch TV while I wait for the Best Beloved to get home. That to me is pure relaxation: a fire in the fire place, some silly tv show (I really don't watch a lot of tv), a house to myself (and the dogs and cat), and an almost finished knitting project in my lap!

Think less, enjoy it more.