Repurposed Essay


I originally wrote the essay below for Cast-On, but haven't heard back from Brenda, and decided to share in my more usual written form with you all. Enjoy! Knit in Public!


June 10 is National Knit in Public Day. 

At least once a week I have my own Knit in Public Day.  I have one of those jobs that puts me on an airplane about that often.  You may have seen me in one of America’s jetliners or departure lounges.  I might be in one of several guises: on a day trip up to New York, I will be business-suited and freshly made-up (that would be my morning guise), or rumpled, exhausted, and still business-suited (evening).  Perhaps I’m on a redeye, homeward bound from the western part of the country, having hastily swapped my suit for a pair of jeans in an airport restroom.  In any situation, I probably look peeved because my legs are too long for airplane seats and I’m already getting kneecapped by the tray table in front of me.
Either way, you might be surprised to see me pull a skein of blue, self-striping sock yarn out of my boxy leather tote and set to work on a sock with a set of double-pointed needles.  Or perhaps the portable knitting du jour is a hat, destined for delivery on Christmas morning.  Little projects, designed for maximum portability and minimal pattern-reading.  This activity has saved me in more than one instance from resorting to a desperation purchase of a paperback I have no interest in from the woefully limited stock of an airport bookstore.
Since I have this habit of knitting in public, my first reaction to having a “day” for it was puzzlement.  Do we really need to Take Back the Knit? After all, the closest thing to a negative reaction I have ever gotten to this behavior was someone looking at my knitting needles and saying, “They let you bring those on a plane?”  Yes.  They let you bring pens on a plane too – and many of those are far pointier than my size 1 dpns.  I’ve been seated next to older ladies who are delighted that someone in their thirties is knitting.  I’ve had flight attendants ask if they could be the recipient of the product of my yarn-overs.  Friendly inquiries are common: “Wow.  That’s nice – is it a cuff, or a sock?”  “Pretty color – what is it going to be?”  “How long is it going to take to finish?”  (Before I reach Chairman’s Preferred, I hope).  I’ve even heard quiet murmurs behind me.  “Look – she’s knitting…”  the hushed tones seem to indicate that distracting me could spell disaster (they might be right).  There doesn’t seem to be any negative reaction keeping me from knitting right there in front of other people.
But when I thought past the smiles and nods, the interested but shy sidelong glances, and the eager questions and praise, I can probably count the number of fellow travelers in knitting I have seen in the US on one hand.  Up and down the East coast, through the prairies of the Midwest, and over to the Pacific Coast, in the last six months I can recollect a single, lonely scarf being constructed by a weary woman at the end of her vacation in the midst of the hustle of my home airport, Washington DC’s National.
I also realized I don’t often drag my knitting with me to other public places.  Sure, if I’m heading home from the yarn store via the sushi takeout place, I’ll sit at the bar and do a few rows while I wait for a few rolls.  When I turn out to sit on the grass beside a soccer pitch to support my husband’s recreational soccer league, the socks may be used as impromptu banners if our team gets a goal.  Projects get toted to friends’ houses for casual get-togethers.  But I’m not in that class of super-ubiquitous knitter.  The yarn… it… it sometimes stays home.  You could say I’m less a public knitter than an airplane knitter. 
I have to admit; Knit in Public day also brings up my conflicted feelings about “days” where we honor something.  Mothers, loved ones, knitting – it feels like we should honor these every day, and that having a day where they are singled out as institutions allows us to put the recognition on hold until its due date.
On the other hand, we can use these days less as milestones and more as reminders or a jump-start for behavior we would like to incorporate in our lives.  Getting Mom flowers on Mothers Day?  Perhaps the good feeling will encourage you to repeat this act on a random Tuesday.  Getting a Valentine’s Day card?  Maybe the emotional momentum of such a day can prompt you to spontaneously make your beloved a cup of tea on an evening just because.  Already a model citizen who does nice things for their loved ones at random intervals, the better to surprise and delight?  Then the day can be a celebration of a year of random acts of kindness.
Point being, the commemorative day is not the end.  It’s a peak which hopefully only stands among a continuum of other, perhaps smaller, peaks.
So, in this spirit, I have purchased a “Knit in Public DC” shirt from Franklin’s Sheep Shop, and should June 10 dawn bright and sunny, I shall don it and take myself off to a park or other outdoor public area.  If it’s gloomy or sweltering or rainy, I shall similarly take myself off to a café or coffee shop and cast on for a large, non-airplane project.  Something that is a bit of a change from my usual, small-project public knitting.  Something that reiterates Dolores’ bold presence on my shirt, and makes a definitive statement.  I am here.  I knit.  Come join me.

Posted: Friday - June 09, 2006 at 08:17 PM         | |