can I knit during work meetings?

A reader writes:

I work in a federal agency. I’ve been in my current position for about five years, but have recently taken on some responsibilities that require me to be in several all-day meetings per month, some with coworkers in my office, and some with collegues from other state and federal agencies.

I realized several years ago in college that I can focus a lot better if I have something to do with my hands and took up knitting and crochet. Without that, my mind tends to wander and I click to another window on my laptop or open my phone. If I’m knitting, I can remain an active participant in the discussion.

That said, I’m concerned that knitting might be seen as too “crafty” and unprofessional, or may be misinterpreted that I’m not paying attention. Should I limit it to situations where the team already knows me, or not do it at all? Or should I trust that after a few meetings, it’ll be clear that I’m able to knit and participate at the same time? Until now, most of my long meetings have been conference calls, so it hasn’t been an issue because people couldn’t see me.

This is going to really vary by office. There are some where this would be fine, and others where it would seem really out of sync with the culture. More offices will be in the latter group, I suspect.

In the offices where it’s not fine, there’s a real danger that people (especially non-knitters) won’t understand what you explained here and will instead think that it’s a sign of problematic disengagement — that you don’t expect the meeting to be interesting enough to hold your attention and so you’ve brought something else to do, or that you just don’t care much and figure you might as well use the time for something else.

If you have very high standing in your office, it might not be an issue … but I think the optics of it won’t be great in a lot of offices.

So, how do you know if your office is one of those or not? I’d actually just ask a couple of people who you’re close to, “Hey, do you think it would be weird if I was knitting during meetings?” If you get even one “yeah, it’d be a little off,” I wouldn’t do it. (Also, unless you’re pretty senior, I’d include your boss in the group who you ask, since her opinion needs to carry some weight here.)

{ 618 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Widgeon

    I work in higher education and we have one instructor who is always knitting, even through conferences and presentations. I liken it to a child who carries a fidget or person who taps on a table, I guess, although I will admit it’s terribly distracting as it’s so out-of-place.

    Reply
    1. k

      If I saw someone knitting in a meeting I would also find it very distracting. And if I didn’t know them well, or wasn’t aware that it was that persons normal thing, it wouldn’t make me think positively of them. Like Alison said, it can seem like they aren’t paying attention and find the meeting boring. My knowledge of knitting is limited so I would think it takes concentration; perhaps something you can do while causally watching tv, but not while being fully engaged in a meeting.

      A fidget might work for you. They’re pretty well known these days so it might not be as big of a curiosity as knitting. Otherwise tapping your toes inside your shoes or tapping your fingers on your lap might help you and certainly would be discreet.

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      1. Koko

        Alternately, could OP leave her laptop in her office when attending these in-person meetings? That might not be totally feasible if she’s expected to look things up on the spot in the meeting, but I try to only bring my laptop to meetings when I’m really truly slammed with so much work that I have to be working through the meeting. If I have the laptop I’ll end up using it, whether it’s non-urgent work or unconsciously finding myself loading Facebook without thinking. But if I come with just a pad and a pen, I am 10x more engaged, I don’t tune out anything inadvertently and I contribute a lot more. (I would also argue that any meeting where you can’t contribute is one you shouldn’t be sitting in at all when they could just send you the important notes/decisions afterwards, but I recognize the reality that a lot of people have to sit in meetings they have no real need to be in.)

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      2. Kate

        Actually there are all kinds of knitting, from “so complicated I can’t do anything else” to “so simple and easy it is like breathing”.

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        1. Noobtastic

          True!

          I can knit with my eyes closed, but only rectangular objects that require no cast-ons or offs, cables, yarn-overs, and other fancy stitches. I can do garter, stockinette, or ribbed, once I get the pattern going, and keep completely focused on something else. However, anything more complex than that, and I really do need to pay attention, from time to time.

          Sure, I can do a pattern while I’m watching TV, but only with a remote control handy, so I can pause when I need to check the pattern. So, movies on DVD or Netflix, but not a show on cable, where I can’t control it.

          And there are other patterns that the most distraction I can possibly have is music without actual lyrics to it, because I might sing along. If I’m going to knit a cabled sweater, I need instrumental music or nothing at all.

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          1. Doe-Eyed

            This is true, and in fact I take simple knitting like this into movie theaters and knit in the dark while I watch movies. (Only with my quiet bamboo needles)

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          2. Chinook

            I agree. I picked up a real simple blanket pattern to work on during my women’s group’s district convention which can drag on with all sorts of reports and it was the most focused I had been for one of them. There are usually 4 or 5 of us in a meeting of 190 and it does seem to distract those around us. In fact, I didn’t notice that someone was doing this until half way through my first meeting.

            Of course, there is also the optics of needlework being “women’s work” and could impact how co-workers view you (which is why I haven’t asked to do this at the 2 day meetings my pipeline company has)..

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          3. Chinook

            If you want as simple but useful pattern, Google “10 stitch blanket.” You literally make a blanket of any size from a 10 stitch town with no sewing with no fancy stitches.

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      3. Optimistic Prime

        A *quiet* fidget. Some of those fidget spinners are actually quite loud and distracting.

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      1. JGRAY

        I agree with you about it being distracting and rude. I understand the LW point about how her mind can wonder which I think happens more in conference calls. I used to work in an organization where there was one person who did this all the time and I think that it just comes off as disrespectful of the people in the meeting because it appears one isn’t paying attention. I also think that people will also ask about the knitting (asking “What are you making- etc) and so it really is a time suck. I like my meetings focused so I don’t like lots of other distractions so I might be being a little bit harsh. But I have had a bad experience with someone knitting in the past. The person eventually replaced the knitting with her baby so this person was overall an annoying coworker. I think that children over the age of 1 that are moving around and awake for most of the day also don’t belong in the office unless the office has a daycare. And just so that people don’t think that I don’t like kids- I actually have two. I took my second to work with me until he was nine months old. Once he was nine months he moved around so much that I couldn’t get any work done so it was time for him to go to daycare.

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        1. Morning Glory

          I agree. I can knit without looking at the needles, and focus on tv or a conversation with someone. BUT, when I’m talking to someone, while knitting, they often get distracted by the movement of needles constantly competing for their attention.

          I would never do this in a meeting, because that would be prioritizing my own ability to focus above other people. If I do something that makes it easier for me to concentrate but harder for four other people to concentrate, that overall hurts the group

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          1. Natalie

            My gut feeling is that meeting doodling is far more common & accepted,unless you’re in very serious meeting about mass layoffs or the huge lawsuit filed against you. Plus doodling is much easier to hide.

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            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I agree that doodling seems to be universally accepted as a relatively ok thing to do unless the meeting is about Very Serious Issues.

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          2. Noobtastic

            For a doodler – in order to have better “optics,” you might try what I have done in the past: Practice my handwriting.

            I will randomly write quotations from the meeting, in my best handwriting, so it looks like I’m writing down things I really want to remember, but it could really be whatever I heard last. I focus my hands on the shape of the letters, and my mind on what people are actually saying.

            It’s like doodling, because it’s a sort of drawing, but if anyone looks at it, it just looks like rather disorganized notes. But, hey! Notes of the meeting! “Why did she choose this quote, but not the list that George gave?” “I don’t know. But clearly, she was paying attention. And look at how neatly she wrote it all. Obviously, she took pains to be legible, because she wanted to refer to the notes again. That quote must have had special importance to her.”

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            1. Simonthegreywarden

              I write story ideas during meetings. Of course, we very rarely have meetings and it’s not considered rude to have a phone out, but for me it’s a way to keep engaged without distracting others.

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              1. Optimistic Prime

                That’s what I do, too. I bring a notebook and write story ideas or blog post ideas or something.

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                1. JaneB

                  But then you aren’t listening at all. Why is that OK, but knitting WHILST LISTENING is not? I’m honestly confused about whether it really is just appearances, or whether actually taking part in the meeting matters?

                2. Chinook

                  JaneB, for some of us it is hard to listen with still hands. We are kinesthetic learners and remember better when we are moving. While I appreciate that it is distracting to others and try to limit it, it is wrong to assume that such movement automatically means I am not listening or taking part in the meeting. In fact, the minutes at the meeting where I knit half a blanket would show I was that annoying person who would ask questions about missed details in reports (along with one of he other knitters).

                  In fact, the best way to keep me quiet is to tell me to sit on my hands. :)

                3. M-C

                  Jane B, it’s not about how much attention you’re actually paying, it’s about the perceived gender links of the thing that allows you to pay attention. Many if not most men doodle, so it’s OK. Knitting is still perceived as a woman’s thing, so it’s not.

            2. Need a New Name

              This is a great idea. I should try it because my handwriting is beyond chicken scratch awful, and I find myself getting engaged in twitter etc far too often when I’m looking for a visual distraction in meetings or conferences.

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            3. Falcon

              This is exactly what I do! I would love to bring my cross-stitch in to the office, but I know it would not look good, so I practice my handwriting, since otherwise I almost never write.

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        1. Emma

          They are, however, paying federal workers to attend and participate in meetings, so I’m not sure what your point is.

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      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think many people feel this way. That said, I have meetings with a knitter, and Board meetings with a needle-pointer. In both cases, this is how they “get away” with it:

        1. They only do this at meetings with a fairly closed group of people (i.e., no one’s boss’ boss, or members of the public, or line employees, or other folks are in attendance).
        2. That closed group of people have been informed, and understand/know, that these folks have ADD or other adult learning issues in which doing something physical and routine with their hands helps them listen/concentrate.
        3. And everyone knows #2 is correct because the knitter/needle-pointer participate in the meeting, and their contributions are thoughtful and demonstrate that they’ve been paying attention.

        So I do think there are limited circumstances in which it can be ok. But in my experience—including with federal government or government agencies—is that knitting will look odd, distracting, and disrespectful, particularly if there is anyone above that unit’s level in the meeting (think director of the division, the public, or an elected official or other high-ranking administrator).

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      3. Lemon Zinger

        Same. I work in higher education administration. Knitting during a meeting would be very out-of-touch in my office. People would consider it rude.

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    2. Janet

      Yes, I have a colleague who knits during meetings and so many people have commented on it to me as in “It’s super weird that Gayle is knitting right now” or a text saying “WTF is Gayle doing knitting in this meeting?!” so it certainly is something that people notice and it’s something that perceive as weird. I try to be nice and say “I think it helps her concentrate” but it raises eyebrows.

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      1. Anna

        Yeah, the thing is, even if it helps the OP focus, it looks like they’re not engaged in what’s going on around them.

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        1. The OG Anonsie

          Which sucks, too, because most of the knitters I know do it so completely out of muscle memory that they only do it while also doing something else with their mind. It’s a thing to do with your hands while watching TV or reading or talking to someone else, the same way some people doodle or take overly detailed notes.

          But for people who don’t know that, which is most people, it looks like you’re doing some totally unrelated task and not paying attention.

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            1. Goreygal

              Isn’t that like telling you to knit instead? People doodle because it works for them; it’s not a universal tool.

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              1. Havarti

                Paper and pen are generally required at meetings already so it’s easier and more… acceptable? I doodle in the margins.

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              2. Morning Glory

                Doodling doesn’t tend to distract other members of the meeting as much – it’s a smaller, less obtrusive movement that looks like taking notes.

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            2. The OG Anonsie

              I feel like I am constantly having to change what I do with my hands to keep listening. I used to take really detailed notes, but then it turned into a thing where me being younger + female meant that people assumed I was doing the minutes and started expecting me to start handling things like that for them… So I stopped doing that. Now that I’m older I can get away with it more, but not in all circumstances still.

              Doodling I think still gets on a lot of people’s nerves as you not paying attention in many places. I got a lot of side-eyes when I tried that.

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            3. tigerlily

              See and for me, doodling would take my focus away from the meeting – I would be completely disengaged from people talking and focusing solely on the doodles. What do I want to draw next?
              This circle isn’t perfect. Oh doesn’t this line look like a peanut? Etc. Knitting, on the other hand, is something so repetitive that it truly is muscle memory and I don’t have to focus on it at all.

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          1. Elinor

            Agree with this. Someone in my family does this, and will actually stop the conversation to count threads. It drives me *crazy* because it feels like the knitting is more important than anything I just said.
            In a recent conference (higher ed) I noticed someone knitting. It may have been for focus but she’s not known for being a “team player” and that really did not help.
            Now that I’ve written all that, eye contact is a big part of the issue. Both family member and person mentioned above had their heads down, looking at the knitting, not at the person speaking. That would go a long way to the impression given off.

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        2. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian

          I have a friend who knits during any group activity (non-professional).
          While I know, intellectually, that it doesn’t detract her attention from the group at all, and she needs to be doing something with her hands in order to stay focused, deep in my gut it still irritates me a bit because it’s definitely easy to perceive her as not being fully part of the group activity.
          I’m working on that part of me, but it shows that even with people who can understand (I crochet while watching TV, but never when I’m with others unless that’s the point of the activity), it can come across poorly.

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      2. The Outsider

        Reading through these comments so many people find that during a meeting knitting is bizarre – BUT – find it perfectly okay to text and check messages. (One commenter even has someone texting about a knitter during the meeting). I do realize that in a work environment knitting seems odd – but distracting and rude? While how many times have I’ve been in a meeting, when someone keeps checking messages or interrupts us to send an answer to a text. I always feel that when someone does this – that obviously – that meeting isn’t important enough to capture their full attention. To me – that’s way more distracting than someone sitting quietly knitting. (I know I’m in the minority – but seriously – do we need to be available 24/7??) And to the OP – I have a full notebook of doodles, that I’ve done during meetings that has kept me focus on the discussion. (A little less obvious than knitting)

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        1. The Other Dawn

          Actually, I find the constant phone-checking distracting, too. I don’t always find it rude, though, because many of the people I’m in meetings with are at a level, or are in a job, that requires availability to put out fires. But for those that aren’t or don’t, I do find it rude.

          In my current job, we have a weekly management staff meeting. I am the only one in the whole group that doesn’t bring my phone with me, and I think people think that’s weird. But I don’t need my phone on me all the time at work. I have a team of people who can take care of things if something comes up, and in my department there really isn’t anything that can’t wait. One other person does need to be available, but the others don’t.

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          1. MCL

            In my interview for my current job, one of my interviewers was constantly checking her phone while I was answering questions. I was so annoyed; it seemed like she was totally checked out. Turns out she does this all the time with everyone. I still think it’s really rude.

            Knitting, eh. I think it really depends on your work environment. I work in academia. We have one or two people who regularly knit during large staff meetings and it’s not a big deal (they don’t knit during smaller meetings, too distracting).

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            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Do they make eye contact? I find that knitters who make eye contact or who appear to spend most of their time watching people’s faces get more leeway than those who (like phone checkers) appear actively distracted because they’re watching something other than the speaker(s).

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              1. MCL

                Hm. I guess they’re mostly knitting during department presentations, not during the discussion time. I know these people and know their work and they’re smart and are clearly paying attention to the conversation/presentation and actively participating, so I totally don’t mind them knitting. I don’t find it distracting, but I understand if others do. Nobody has said anything to these people as far as I know.

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        2. Random observation

          Phoning and texting makes for a *very* inefficient meeting.

          If I run a meeting of more than 2-3 people, I generally ask people to set cell phones to stun.

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          1. ZenJen

            I do the same thing–if I’m putting the effort into holding a meeting, I want people to NOT be doing other things that distract me and other participants. No cellphone usage and no knitting.

            I work at a gov contractor and I cannot imagine this being ok in a fed agency culture–when you’re on the job, you do your job. Not knitting, not watching Netflix, etc.

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        3. j-me

          I agree that checking a phone is distracting in a meeting, but phones are commonplace in the workplace and in meetings, while balls of yarn are not. It’s not really comparing apples and apples.

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        4. Taylor Swift

          How many people are actually saying that’s okay, though? Begrudgingly put up with maybe. Encouraged? Probably not.

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        5. Paxton

          I had a client who constantly checked her phone during meetings but also bragged about how she was one of the few people in the company who didn’t have her work email on her phone.

          People were always trying to figure out why she needed to be on her phone that much if she wasn’t even keeping up with work.

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          1. Purple Dragon

            Maybe there’s a rare Pokemon around and she’s trying to get it ?
            Sorry – couldn’t resist

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        6. TootsNYC

          so many people find that during a meeting knitting is bizarre – BUT – find it perfectly okay to text and check messages.

          Really? There are people here on this thread that think it’s OK to text and check messages?

          I missed that.

          I certainly don’t think it’s OK to text or check messages. I *do* think it’s OK for people to briefly check their work email on their phones (I have a couple of senior people who bring their phone to the meeting, and they use it to refer to, forward, or send emails. They don’t check it otherwise, though.

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        7. Noobtastic

          Ugh! I HATE the constant texting! Please, people, put the phones down!

          I want to scream, “Didn’t your mother ever teach you, no texting at the table?” Well, probably no, because the people I want to scream at are usually old enough that texting wasn’t a thing when they were kids.

          But, yeah. No texting during a meeting, unless you make a point of it being related to the meeting. “Where is Fred? He is supposed to be here?” “Let me text him and see. Oh. He says he’s stuck in the elevator. Let’s skip to the next agenda item and come back to him.” Or maybe, “OK, action item 3 is to alert Fergus about the customer’s request changing from 10 teapots to 12 teapots. I’ll text him now. Done! What’s action item 4?”

          If it’s not directly related to the meeting, please don’t text or email anyone else during that meeting. Pleeeease?

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        8. GraceW

          Most people’s phones don’t make clicking noises as the owners check for messages or send texts.

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          1. Glimmer

            Really? I work with an older generation who keep the volume up so you hear a fake keyboard ‘click’ with every letter they type.

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        9. JR

          I think a big factor is that, when people are messing with their phones during meetings, I assume they are dealing with work things that they have assessed as more important, for this moment, than the meeting. Of course, maybe their checking Facebook or texting a friend, but unless I have a reason, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re working. The knitting is obviously unrelated to work. Also, dealing with an important email usually takes a minute or two (and I agree that texting the whole meeting is totally rude), versus knitting the whole time.

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        10. Optimistic Prime

          I think the problem is that if you don’t knit or aren’t familiar with people who do, you may not realize how much knitting is really about muscle memory. It looks like an activity that requires intense concentration. It’s all about the optics, especially for knitters who look at their needles while they knit. It simply looks like you aren’t paying as much attention; that’s where the rude part comes in.

          Also, not everyone who knits is quiet with it…I don’t know if it’s the type of needles that they are using or what but I’ve sat in a meeting with someone knitting when I could hear the clack-clack-clack of their needles. Also, for a lot of people the constant movement draws the eye and is distracting. I’m far less distracted by someone on their phone (which, in my workplace, is usually someone responding to an email or a Skype message) than knitting.

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        11. only acting normal

          One of our senior management team once suggested that people should use their time “better” like he did by catching up on emails in meetings. People weren’t shy in pointing out to him that if he has time to catch up on emails in a meeting rather than paying attention he probably shouldn’t be at the meeting, isn’t using his time well, and perhaps we could offer him some tips instead. :-D

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      3. Falling Diphthong

        I would find the texting–where you obviously have to think about the text, and look at the screen–a lot more disrespectful than the knitting. Knitting feels a bit off, which I can’t pin down because I file it as something people do from muscle memory while their eyes and attention are on something else, usually a TV show.

        (All of my meetings are online, so people could be doing anything at all with their hands and no one else would know.)

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        1. Noobtastic

          This is just a theory, but I believe the “feeling off” of knitting relates to it being traditionally seen as “Women’s work,” which is ironic, because it used to be men’s work, and for a certain time, women were not allowed to join knitters’ guilds.

          Anyway, perception is huge, and if most of society perceives knitting to be a domestic art, women’s work, or of less value, then it will not be viewed as professional, even if you are using it to focus on professional work.

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          1. Lady Russell's Turban

            Yup, my thoughts exactly. I think it will diminish the knitter in others’ eyes. It is just too domestic. I can shell peas or fold laundry and keep focused on the conversation but that would be weird.

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            1. Chinook

              You are right – the issue is that it is domestic work, not women’s work. It would be equally wrong to shell peas or fold laundry if you were on a video conference from home.

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              1. Hedgehog

                I don’t think it’s just this. A more “manly” hobby would be equally frowned upon. Not too many people are going to be down on knitting but okay with someone, say, whittling. And I think doing something office related, like stuffing envelopes, would also be a problem at most work meetings.

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          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I actually disagree on this. I think there are certainly gendered elements, but I think the “feels off” part is that people who are not avid knitters have a hard time accepting/believing that a person could do intricate work with their hands on “autopilot” and still pay attention to the meeting. So the frustration is about things like lack of eye contact, lack of engagement, distracting hand movements—not about the knitting qua knitting (I’ll note that all of those things are issues people cite when they say they find it rude for people to check their phones/mail). I don’t think the hang up—for most people—is about whether it’s “women’s work.”

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        2. silence

          I think phone usage gets a pass if it’s in response to a work text/email form someone who presumably doesn’t know the person is in a meeting. Though I am sure there are people who use phones for non work purposes it can at least be passed off as work related.
          Knitting feels like a premeditated ‘this is going to be boring so I’ve brought my own entertainment’

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        3. DArcy

          The way I see it, knitting is “off” versus texting because there is no benefit of the doubt: whereas texting might or might not be work-related, knitting is *always* non-work-related.

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      4. Kate

        So, it sounds like these people are sending and receiving texts in the meeting. If that is the case, that is a lot worse than knitting in a meeting. Knitting takes a lot less concentration than texting does.

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    3. (another) b

      This is just SO bizarre to me. I don’t think you should be doing any hobbies during a meeting, even if it allows you to listen better. Why not carry a notepad and take notes/doodle? That seems like a much better solution.

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      1. Erin

        +1 doodling can be disguised as note taking. It’s how I made it through high school. “Wow erin is taking notes, how professional.” When in reality it like 2 bullet points and a bunch of doodles.

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    4. NoMoreMrFixit

      Years ago I had a part time job as a choir director. Several of the ladies would bring their knitting with them, including a family member. It was a massive distraction. Unfortunately as I was quite young at the time I couldn’t get them to stop. End result was a lot of time wasted as they ended up more focused on their knitting and chatting about it than any singing.

      To this day the sound of knitting needles clicking drives me up the wall.

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    5. Blue Anne

      Yeah. I used to knit through all my lectures in college, just pausing to take notes occasionally, for exactly the same reasons OP wants to do this in meetings. But I asked my professors at the start of the term, and I’ve never considered bringing it into the workplace. It would just be too odd.

      When I own my own company someday, however…

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      1. Van Wilder

        Yeah I really wish I could crochet at work but it would look so weird. Probably nobody would say anything to my face but everyone would talk about it. I can’t imagine an office environment where you wouldn’t come off as the office weirdo, at best.

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      2. Dr. Ruthless

        I’m a partner at a very very small firm, and while I don’t knit at in-person client meetings, I 100% knit during interminable conference calls (and non-client in-person meetings).

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      3. mac n cheese

        I used to cross-stitch to books on tape, and in one lecture class in college (with permission from the instructor). 20+ years later, I can look at pieces that I worked on then, and tell you what I was listening to in each portion of the piece. Comparatively, I can’t figure out most of the notes that I took in meetings that were just a few weeks ago.

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        1. Natasha

          Hey that sense memory is a good point! I knit on my lunch breaks, so I was really hoping the answer to tho would be, “It’s perfectly fine” so I could start bringing my needles to meetings :)

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      4. LadyCop

        College is a bit different in the sense you’re paying them and can decide to not even show up…

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      5. Hlyssande

        I did the same thing, but I always checked with the prof first to see if they were fine with it. None of them ever complained, and it really helped me pay attention and do better. I even used circular needles, so there was no chance of distracting others via dropping one.

        I wish I could do it at work, because I have the same issue of getting easily distracted during meetings when I’m not doing something with my hands (conference calls and in person). I’m much more likely to struggle with falling asleep if I don’t have something to keep my hands busy.

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      6. Fishcakes

        I also knit during college lectures, but I was studying textiles so my professors were A-OK with it and sometimes used what I was doing as an visual example to go along with their lecture.

        I would never knit in an office environment. It just doesn’t read as professional to me.

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    6. Case of the Mondays

      Adults use fidgets too! I had a client bring one to her deposition and I have since bought one for other clients to use in high stress situations. We have the original fidget cube which is really unobtrusive and fits in the palm of the hand. It is not distracting and it can be used under the table.

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      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        I keep a stash of silly putty at my desk at work for similar reasons! Every time one gob bites the dust, there’s more for me to keep kneading on during calls.

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    7. penny

      Yes that would be so weird to me and I’d find it very disrespectful to others in the meeting. Agree with the person who said this would make an unfavorable first impression, but even with my close colleagues is be put off if they started knitting during a meeting.

      Taking notes helps me stay engaged in the conversation.

      Reply
    8. FlyingFergus

      I work at a super casual place (jeans and dogs allowed, jeans on dogs probably allowed) and during meetings it’s not uncommon to have people eating at non-mealtimes, openly looking at their phones or answering emails on their computers, and walking in and out while someone has the floor. And even with this, it would be very, very strange and distracting to have someone whip out some knitting.

      I think the problem for me as an attendee is that most people, in my admittedly limited experience, knit while looking down at their hands. Though the knitter is just going through repetitive hand motions, someone staring down into his/her lap makes me feel like they aren’t paying attention.

      Reply
      1. Optimistic Prime

        I work at a similar workplace and I agree. Somebody on their phone through 75% of the meeting would be less weird here than someone knitting.

        Reply
  2. Roscoe

    Honestly, I’d find knitting odd in a meeting. I totally get doodling or anything like that. But knitting does seem like you are actively focusing your attention somewhere else. Like I can totally be on my phone checking facebook and participate as well, however I think it would just look bad if I was on my phone during an entire meeting

    Reply
    1. PM Jesper Berg

      OP should not be knitting during meetings, period. It conveys the impression that she finds her handicrafts more important than the subject of the meeting. That is disrespectful to the other participants in the meeting. (I find the same to be true of excessive doodling, incidentally.)
      If OP has issues with ADHD or what not, I would suggest that she buy a pair of Greek worry beads (komboloi) to use during the meeting. That would accomplish the goal of keeping her hands busy and be more socially acceptable than knitting. It would not convey the impression her mind is wandering.

      Reply
      1. Anon Accountant

        You summed up my thoughts exactly. Whether it’s texting, surfing the internet on a phone or knitting I feel like it shows disrespect for the other participants.

        If you were writing on a notepad (even if it was a grocery list) I’d think you were writing work notes. Using stress beads I’d think the person was nervous in groups and the beads helped calm them. Beads wouldn’t be unprofessional at all in my opinion- great idea about those.

        Reply
        1. osd

          “Using stress beads I’d think the person was nervous in groups and the beads helped calm them.”

          Knitting serves the same purpose for some people. I’m lucky that my boss doesn’t mind me knitting during staff meetings (though I wouldn’t during 1-on-1 meetings), and I’m 10 times more engaged that way. Doodling, note-taking, etc…just puts me to sleep. Whereas I can do a project that is just “knitknitknit” on quiet needles while making eye contact, and contribute to the discussions.

          I think people would rather I was doing something with my hands and still being an active participant, rather than nodding off and snoring when someone has been droning on about something for far too long.

          Reply
  3. ErinWithans

    I am exactly the same way – I focus better when I have something to do with my hands, and knitting isn’t something I have to focus on. I totally get you, LW. I still wouldn’t do it – I’ve found most social friends have an initial “are you really paying attention to me?” reaction if I knit while we talk (unless they’re also knitters), and I wouldn’t risk that at work. (Instead, I end up playing with the end of my braid, which is not really an improvement, but is at least more subtle)

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I commented similarly downthread, but from the perspective of the non-knitter friend. I don’t spend as much time socializing with the non-knitter as she would like, because I feel like she’s disengaged from whatever activity we’re doing.

      Reply
      1. Kitkat

        Can I ask why this is? Does she not participate as much in conversation? I knit in social gatherings and I truly don’t feel like it has any bearing on my ability to be social. But maybe I’ve internalized a lot of British movies where all the ladies are doing their handiwork and chatting politely with each other:)

        Reply
        1. Anna

          I agree, although it also really depends on the social event. If I were at a party and saw someone knitting on the couch, I might still think it’s a mechanism to keep from engaging with other people. However, when I used to hang out one-on-one with a friend who knitted, I knew she could chat and knit and it didn’t come off as rude or off-putting. In small groups it might not be weird, but the larger the gathering, the more it comes across as a defense mechanism so people don’t talk to you.

          Reply
          1. The OG Anonsie

            I took my knitting to a party once and everyone made a big deal about it. But since they were my friends, I told them to suck it and kept doing it anyway.

            Reply
        2. WellRed

          I’m also a non-knitter who feel the same as Temperance. I wonder if part of it is that they are often looking at the knitting rather than a me? Plus, I feel like knitting would require some attention but it seems the knitters say no, so I will defer to them on that.

          Reply
          1. TL -

            Yes, this is it for me. If you’re not looking at me, I don’t really feel like you’re engaged in the conversation. Which is fine if the conversation is secondary to the purpose of the event (rock climbing? Please don’t look at me) but not fine if the primary purpose to chat.
            FWIW, I’ve mostly found that it’s true – if I’m talking to someone and they’re looking at something else, they’re often missing a lot of what I’m saying, either in nuances or in the details. If they’re fidgeting but looking at me, that’s generally not the case.

            Reply
          2. all aboard the anon train

            That’s definitely the issue for me. It doesn’t matter if someone is knitting, looking at their phone, or looking out the window. Like TL – says, if it’s an activity like running or driving, I don’t expect someone to look at me, but when we’re sitting across from each other and you don’t even look up throughout the conversation, I feel like you’re not really paying attention.

            Reply
          3. Blue Anne

            I only bring simple projects out to the pub etc. For something simple, it really doesn’t require any attention or even looking at it very often. It’s pure muscle memory. It’s the same for most knitters I know.

            Reply
            1. The OG Anonsie

              Yeah, most of the knitters I know don’t look at their hands or the pattern very often at all. When you do, it’s a glance to make sure you’re in the right place in your row compared to your counters or whatever.

              Reply
            2. Temperance

              Speaking as a non-knitter, though, I genuinely feel like if you wanted to grab a pint with me, you’d .. want to grab a pint with me, and not need extra entertainment.

              Reply
              1. Blue Anne

                It’s not extra entertainment. It’s something to do with my hands. Sure, sometimes if I’m meeting with someone one on one for a cuppa I don’t knit, and sometimes I do. It’s like… sometimes my friend jiggles their leg or absently rips up the beer mat.

                I’m trying to explain, and I’m sitting here at my computer holding up my hands to clasp and unclasp them and wiggle my fingers. I can’t put words to it. It’s just a fidget. :)

                Reply
                1. Blue Anne

                  I get why that wouldn’t come across to a non-knitter, though. This is why I don’t do it at work. If we were going out for a pint, I’d explain.

              2. Kate

                This might sound weird, but I was raised/trained/grew up talking and doing stuff at the same time. Not just crafts (watching TV and crafting or crafting and talking) but doing the dishes and talking, making dinner and talking, folding laundry and talking, you get the idea.

                I guess I have a talkative family, and I can do just about anything with my hands and talk at the same time, and do both perfectly. And not in the way some people say they can where sheets are crooked or food is burned or there are long, awkward pauses.

                So for me, it is something I am so used to, running on two levels, that *just* a conversation makes my hands antsy.

                Reply
          4. ErinWithans

            It depends on the project – I make it a point not to do anything that requires me to look at it or focus on it unless I’m having a knitting circle-type hangout with other crafty friends. I agree that eye-contact is really important, and that looking at knitting instead of your friend is rude. I limit it to easy things I don’t have to look at, and it does help me focus, but I also totally get that non (or new) knitters don’t realize how engaging it isn’t, and try to be sensitive to that. I’d not knit during a serious or heavy conversation, just to make sure I avoided anyone feeling like I wasn’t fully engaged with them.

            Reply
        3. Myrin

          Yeah, I’m not quite following that (or maybe I’m imagining a different situations form others) – I feel like especially in a social gathering, it would become obvious very fast whether someone is completely absorbed in their knitting or just has their hands do it while participating in a normal way (unless the person is quiet and withdrawn anyway, then it might seem like it’s the knitting taking their focus when they wouldn’t speak more even if the didn’t knit).

          Reply
        4. Fictional Butt

          I think one of the key things is, in the British movies they’re all knitting together. That’s part of the social event. But if you show up to a social gathering and you’ve brought an activity just for yourself, I think it can send the message that you assumed you’d be bored, that you don’t feel entertained or that you aren’t fully interested in participating.

          I think it would be ok among close friends though, in certain situations.

          Reply
          1. Goreygal

            What are all these British movies full of knitting that you are all watching? The only knitting I’ve ever seen at social events are specific knitting circles/events.

            Reply
            1. Fictional Butt

              That’s my point! Knitting is a normal social activity if everyone specifically decided to knit together. But if you just randomly show up to a party and start knitting, it can kind of come off like the 11-year-old cousin who brings a Gameboy to Thanksgiving because he doesn’t want to hang out with the boring adults.

              Reply
              1. Blue Anne

                I don’t think that’s true… it’s always been pretty normal in my social circles for one or more people to be knitting at a house party, at the pub, whatever…

                But geeks are a pretty crafty lot, I guess. I dunno. I don’t think I’m offending people.

                Reply
                1. Liet-Kynes

                  Geeks are also famous for being a bit resistant to social cues and feedback, and I say that as a geek.

                2. Fictional Butt

                  Blue Anne–I think it’s totally fine to knit in social events if that’s what your social group does! What you described sounds awesome to me. But some commenters seemed not to understand why anyone would ever be bothered by it, so I was trying to point out that in some social groups/situations it would be weird to bring your own entertainment.

                3. Liet-Kynes

                  No personal offense intended, I say this as someone who’s very not socially deft myself. But people like us tend to have a pretty loose interpretation of whether {idiosyncratic personal habit} is offputting to people, and we generally assume people will be a lot more forgiving than they are.

                4. Temperance

                  Depends on the geek! I’m a very out there nerd, all my friends are nerds (lawyers, tabletop gamers, comic book nerds, cartoon enthusiasts, etc.), and the one person who brings knitting when she comes around is 100% an outcast. It’s just Not Done in my group.

                5. Blue Anne

                  Fictional Butt (love the name) – I think one of the perceptions non-knitters here are having is not just that knitting takes more attention than it does, but that it’s somehow vastly entertaining on its own. Most knitters don’t sit and do knitting on its own unless they’re doing something really complex or stuck in a waiting room. It’s not always a super entertaining hobby. Relaxing, productive, fun, sure, but when you’ve got 2000 yards of yarn you need to knit up all in the same stitch to finish that sweater it’s just… ehhhhh. Most people knit and watch TV, or listen to an audiobook, or… go out to the pub.

                  It’s totally different than bringing a gameboy. Some people even do simple knitting to meditate because it’s just such a ‘blank’ activity that occupies your hands and soothes but takes no attention.

                6. Optimistic Prime

                  I’m a geek too, and I have lots of geek friends that knit and taught me how to knit. It’s not out of the ordinary for at least one friend to be knitting at a party or pub, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not distracting.

          2. Loose Seal

            I take my knitting to the movie theater with me. If I can knit in the mostly-dark and pay attention to the movie, I can assure you that I can actively participate in a meeting or give my attention to a friend and still not miss a stitch.

            Why is it that non-knitters are so damn judgemental?

            Reply
            1. Chinook

              I think it is because non-knitters truly don’t understand how much of it is muscle memory and our inability to sit with still hands.

              Reply
              1. JustaTech

                I can’t speak for Loose Seal, but often for me the attention, focus and energy required to sit still negates my ability to pay attention to whatever I’m supposed to pay attention to. Some people bounce their legs. Some people click a pen. Some people knit.
                I don’t knit at work or in movie theaters (too sticky) but I completely understand the impulse.
                And when you’re done you’ve got something to show for it.

                Reply
          3. Noobtastic

            In Regency England, it was polite to have a work basket ready to go with simple projects anyone could pick up and complete, or even just do a bit of work on and put down. This allowed your guests something to do with their hands, while you worked on your own projects.

            This was for ladies, of course, not for gentlemen. And I don’t know how it was for the lower classes. But, yeah, a lady making ‘morning” calls (in the afternoon), would not bring her own knitting or sewing with her, but would take some work from her friends’ work basket, usually clothes for the poor, or pew cushions for the church, or the like. She only did her own projects at her own home.

            Reply
        5. Temperance

          To be blunt, it gives the impression that we’re too boring for her, so she has to bring a fun thing to do. She will stop and count rows and check her work, so it is super off-putting if we’re trying to chat or game.

          Reply
          1. Jessica

            Yeah. If the argument is that someone wants to bring knitting because it helps them focus in an otherwise not-very-interesting meeting, then what does that say when someone wants to bring knitting to your social gathering?

            Reply
            1. Loose Seal

              Well, Temperence already said the knitter is an outcast. If I knew my social group considered me an outcast, I’d probably rather check my pattern than talk anyway.

              Maybe try to talk about what she’s doing for once, eh? She’d probably gladly make you a Dr. Who scarf if you’d stop isolating her.

              Reply
              1. Optimistic Prime

                But I think that kind of proves the point, doesn’t it? I don’t knit regularly but I know how and am generally interested in knitting. I even like to talk about knitting. Sometimes. If the social norm within a group is not to knit during group gatherings, why does the rest of the group have to adjust to the one knitter rather than the other way around? Quite frankly it simply sounds like the one friend maybe isn’t a good fit for this particular group, unfortunately.

                Non-verbal language is important to human beings, and over time certain non-verbal cues signal engagement and others signal disengagement. Fair or not, the non-verbal language that knitting during a conversation signals is more on the disengagement side, particularly for the knitters that look at their needles.

                Reply
                1. Loose Seal

                  They are making all sorts of judgements about this knitter and, as far as I can tell, never speaking of them. There is a tendency for geek groups to find someone to look down upon (as they themselves might be looked down upon by those that don’t understand their geekdom) and I think that’s what’s going on here. Nothing to do with the knitting, per se, just that it makes the knitter an easy target. I suspect they are actually invested in keeping the knitter in the group because if they left, someone else would have to be the target.

                2. nutella fitzgerald

                  Agreed – I was reading quickly and assumed the knitter was an outcast in their work group, because…why include someone in your social group when no one wants to socialize with them?

              2. Gadfly

                There is a doubleknit Tardis scarf pattern on Ravelry a Facebook acquaintance is loom knitting that I am drooling over… I need close geeky friends with these skills. I’m still working on knit and purl and and singleknit.

                And my looms will not be coming to work, even if they are quieter than needles

                Reply
                1. valc2323

                  come find me on ravelry! I’m currently working on a doubleknit scarf with the text of the One Ring. Yes, in the Black Speech.

          2. Kate

            With all due respect, it really doesn’t take that much room in anyone’s brain to pay attention to social talk or to meetings. I mean, if you are discussing high level string theory or complex chemical equations, sure, but it honestly doesn’t take any more effort or attention to knit a simple project than it does to tap your toes or eat a meal or lift a cup to your mouth and drink.

            It is a very simple physical motion that quite literally, can be done blind. And is done, by blind people and people with dementia and Alzheimers!

            To be honest, it is a little frustrating. It seems like knitters and other crafters here are explaining to the non-crafters over and over again that knitting is a physical action requiring no effort and attention and we keep getting ignored by people saying over and over again, “Well I don’t know anything about knitting, but I don’t feel like my knitting friend is paying attention, even though I can’t cite anything as evidence other than “they look at their knitting”. No lapses in conversation, no confusion about what the conversation is concerning, etc.

            Reply
            1. Fictional Butt

              It’s not so much about whether or not you’re able to pay attention, it’s about the courtesy (and optics) of giving someone your full attention. There are aspects of my job that are totally mindless, and I could definitely carry on a conversation while doing them. But if I showed up at a dinner party and put my laptop on the table and told everyone to carry on while I copied and pasted, I think my friends would be rightfully offended.

              I’m not trying to say there aren’t social situations where it’s appropriate to knit. There definitely are. But the fact that you can knit and talk at the same time doesn’t mean you should expect to be able to knit at every social event.

              Reply
            2. Miss Nomer

              I see what you’re saying, but I actually think some of the non-knitters are saying there are lapses in conversation, etc. One of my friends likes to knit, and she has this very frustrating habit of starting a sentence and then letting it trail off while she counts or inspects her yarn or whatever. It’s so tedious and actually somewhat disrespectful.
              “And THEN, after she slapped him, he….hmm, it was crazy, hold on. He… what was I saying?”

              So, I think if you can be 100% sure that you’re following, that’s one thing. However, my friend does not seem to be aware that she does this, and I know that I would struggle with it, so I just save my crafting for when I’m home.

              Reply
            3. Optimistic Prime

              Here’s the thing: Humans actually do most of their communication non-verbally. We draw cues about the conversation’s tone, direction, valence, engagement, etc. from non-verbal cues. Especially if we are talking about a professional setting, those non-verbal cues from meeting participants are important. And – for better or for worse – the non-verbal cues that knitting appears to put across are “I am not as engaged in this meeting.”

              It’s not about non-knitters vs. knitters. The same could be said of playing with a fidget spinner, clicking a pen, staring in your lap, picking at your nails, etc. These are all things that human beings do that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not paying attention but still has a non-verbal signal of NOT paying attention. And when you are in a professional meeting, you don’t want to give off that vibe.

              I have had lapses in conversation and interruptions by some knitting friends, as they count stitches, accidentally drop a stitch, check a pattern, pick up new color yarn, whatever. I usually don’t mind – generally speaking there are all kinds of distractions that people might trail off or pause because of, knitting or not – but it can be annoying and give off the impression that the person is not really listening to you. And I actually don’t think they realize that they are doing it or how potentially disruptive to the conversation it can be.

              The other issue here is “simple project.” I know how to knit and I have seen some people bring not-simple projects (including the patterns and multiple balls of differently colored yarn in their knitting bags, which they put on the table) to meetings before, and that to me is where it starts getting ridiculous. If you’re knitting something you’ve knit 100 times before that’s one thing, but maybe save the crazy complicated projects for when you’re not in a meeting.

              Reply
            4. Totally Working Right Now

              I’m getting frustrated myself from having to INSIST to internet strangers that knitting can be done silently. IT TOTALLY CAN.

              Reply
            5. Gadfly

              And, like weaving and spinning and embroidery and such, traditionally it was done while also entertaining each other or having entertainment.

              I think a huge part of it does go back to the sense of it being women’s work/domestic. Done in the home, or to stay out of the way when men are talking… (yes, despite men knitting)

              Reply
        6. Optimistic Prime

          I actually think it does more than people realize. First of all, the vast majority of knitters I’ve encountered look at their hands at least part of the time while they are knitting, and it’s weird when a person you are talking to isn’t looking you in the face. The constant movement of the needles also draws my eyes downward and makes it harder to concentrate on the conversation, especially if I can hear the clicking. Second of all, I’ve definitely been in conversations with knitters when they suddenly go “Oh, hang on a second” and then count some stitches for whatever pattern they’re doing or undo a stitch or something.

          I was also in a meeting recently and sitting next to a knitter and it was plainly clear when she’d disengage from the conversation to pay more attention to her knitting when she got to the tricky part. She even tried on her handiwork partway through.

          Reply
          1. JaneB

            I hate if people look at me all the time in a conversation. Makes me totally self-conscious. And I learnt as a small child that it’s rude to stare, to keep my eyes to myself etc. So I think that for some of us it feels more fun and relaxed if people are doing stuff, or all looking at the view, or whateevr, rather than totally focusing on the other person. In fact, maybe that’s why some of my American colleagues make me so uncomfortable and seem to make every conversation a Big Deal, it’s that they focus on me more than another Brit might? Hmmm, something to collect data on…

            This is no doubt another of those personal space differences, like the joke about two Minnesotans having to be engaged before they can stand on the same rug…

            Reply
    2. Zip Silver

      I got a fidget spinner the other day, and holy hell that thing is great for something to do with your hands.

      Reply
      1. Liet-Kynes

        Ask the people around you if they’re okay with the motion and the subtle buzzing noise. I’m very much not.

        Reply
      2. BananaPants

        They banned those godawful things in our kid’s elementary school because they were such a distraction in the classroom.

        Reply
        1. Hlyssande

          That’s because kids are using them as toys and not as the tools they are. :( Sucks that it’s making it harder on the kids who actually need that sort of thing.

          Reply
          1. Anon today...and tomorrow

            Yep! My kid is one that needs it and now has to leave his spinner and his fidget cube at home. He needs the movement to focus but the other kids ruined it.

            Reply
          2. Optimistic Prime

            Even if you use them as a tool, the noise and the motion are distracting. They’re fine to use at a desk if you’re in an office or something alone, but in an open area particularly while a teacher is trying to teach, they can be a distraction for sure.

            (Also what did people expect a bunch of kids to do with those things? Kids turn pencils and erasers into toys, of COURSE they were going to play with the spinners.)

            Reply
        2. DevAssist

          Not to get off topic (sorry Alison!) but I wouldn’t call them godawful- it’s the trend of them being bought as toys for everyone that is problematic.

          Reply
          1. Jessica

            I didn’t realize they made noise, but if they do, I would imagine that the noise level (and resulting distraction/annoyance to others nearby) are the same whether you are using the thing as a disability accommodation or fun little toy.

            Reply
      3. BRR

        I funded a fidget pen on Kickstarter. I think the fidget cube is a better option than the fidget spinner as it makes less noise.

        Reply
      4. PizzaDog

        Super distracting for those around you, unfortunately. I can’t be around anyone whose fidgeting is making any noise, bc my ears will zero in on it and drown out anything else.

        Reply
  4. WhichSister

    My daughter is in high school and she crochet’s in class. She has anxiety and ADD and it helps her to focus and not pick at her skin.

    Reply
    1. anonnyymouuss

      My life changed when I had a teacher who let me play with a Rubik’s cube and little wooden and metal puzzles during class discussions. I was 17 and she was the first teacher who ever suggested anything to help with my severe ADHD. (My whole life I got “VERY smart but doesn’t pay attention or participate in class” with mediocre grades that were always docked for my poor attention span.) Not unsurprisingly, the best grade I ever received in high school was in that course – I paid attention and could keep up with discussions and participated.

      I could write an entire book on what it was like to grow up (female) with ADHD in the 1980s & early 1990s, when ADD was considered a behavior problem that required punishment, and people thought only hyperactive boys could have it. It’s actually really painful for me to think and talk about – I grew up hating myself and thinking I was too stupid to function. Still kind of feel that way even though I know better.

      OP: knitting might be against your company culture or distracting for others, but maybe there are some other options out there for you along those same lines? Something to keep your hands busy and maintain focus that aren’t as noticeable to other employees?

      Reply
      1. Totally Working Right Now

        your 2nd paragraph REALLY hits close to home. I was born in the mid-80s and was diagnosed w/ ADD a year ago. I always knew something was “off” w/ me but my school “didn’t see any patterns” (meaning I wasn’t a boy who couldn’t sit still therefore I couldn’t have ADD).
        I wish knitting in public/work places was more acceptable. I can’t just sit and listen to someone talk and you can definitely knit something easy and still pay attention. Lace knitting might be a poor choice but you can knit garter stitch in your sleep.

        Reply
          1. Totally Working Right Now

            I do sometimes. I don’t find notes terribly helpful (at least the way I write them).

            Reply
        1. nonegiven

          I just read a whole subthread on /r/MaliciousCompliance/ that was about what people used to do during class to be able to concentrate and some of the teachers’ reactions to them.

          Reply
      2. Anancy

        Ditto on being the girl growing up in the 80s. And I still often end up picking at my skin if I’m not super aware. My dad always takes a length of string and ties and unties knots under the table, and that helps him.

        Reply
      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Oh my god, skin picking is an ADD thing? Everything makes sense now

        And I could coauthor that book with you, 90s and early 00s appendix. I still reflexively tense up when I hear “you’re smart, why can’t you pay attention?” like those two things have literally anything to do with each other.

        Reply
        1. Blue Anne

          My science teacher in high school wrote on my report card that I was a paradox. Very smart and got crappy grades in anything I wasn’t super duper interested in. Then I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia at age 26.

          Knitting actually got me put up a math class at that school. I had gotten put in the dumb math class, and would knit my way through it and still do fine (because it helped me focus, but my teacher thought I was doing well despite a distraction). Then I went to the teacher and asked what a hyperbolic plane was, because I’d seen a knitting pattern for one. That was the last straw and he tutored me one on one for the rest of the year since the higher math class wouldn’t fit into my schedule.

          Reply
        2. TeapotSweaterCrocheter

          It can be an ADD thing, but it can also be it’s own thing. Skin picking and hair pulling (trichotillomania) are part of a larger group of things categorized as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB’s), and they can also show up as part of general anxiety.

          I don’t think I have ADD/ADHD, but I’ve picked my skin for as long as I can remember. I have to be doing something with my hands in order to focus in class/meetings/training, and I can’t watch TV by itself – I have to play games on the iPad at the same time.

          I’m looking into getting a “spinner ring” so that it’s office-appropriate but I can have something to do with my hands ALWAYS. Normally in meetings I end up riffling papers, which I know is loud :)

          Reply
      4. JulieBulie

        OMG, my childhood was similar, except in the 70s and 80s, and I didn’t get diagnosed, because ADHD was a hyperactive boys’ thing, and I was a quiet girl. So I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 40. Ever since then, I’ve tried not to waste too much time feeling resentful about all the things that I missed out on, both as a child and as an adult, because I was undiagnosed.

        But I did know, even in those early days, that knitting and crocheting helped me focus. Unfortunately, people who don’t have attention deficits and/or don’t know anything about knitting will never believe that. Or even if they do believe it, it will distract them.

        It’s pretty funny to me because we have a meeting room where there are a bunch of spinners. Nobody has any issue with the spinners, or even someone poking at their phone, but I know damned well that if I bring my knitting, I will be the one who’s a jerk!

        Reply
  5. Jenn

    This is one of those weird things where I would intellectually understand what you have explained — that it’s an accommodation that helps you focus, not the reverse — but emotionally I would feel like you were treating the meeting like hobby time.

    Reply
    1. Cafe au Lait

      That’s what my boss said when she counseled me about not knitting in meetings. It makes sense, but I hate it because my mind wanders so quickly it’s hard to stay on top of what subject we’re discussing.

      I do knit during boring tasks at work. Otherwise I browse the internet and waste far more time than doing X amount of work, and taking a two minute knitting break.

      Reply
    2. Kowalski! Options!

      Agreed. One of the gals in one of my M.A. classes knitted continuously, and it came off as SUCH a sign of disrespect for both the professor and the students; I had to turn my back to her because I found it so distracting seeing flashes of color and action in my peripheral vision.

      Reply
        1. Kowalski! Options!

          Thanks. (I keep the hippie-slappin’ to myself, though. Especially when I run out of options.)

          Reply
      1. LS

        I also find it difficult to stay focused but I doodle or take real/pretend notes to help me. I would also find it extremely distracting to have someone knitting in a meeting, and – tbh – quite odd :-/

        Reply
      2. Emilia Bedelia

        Miss Manners once answered a question very similar to this. I can’t recall her exact wording, but to paraphrase, “Miss Manners herself knit a sweater through her entire education at Wellesley, only to discover that both turned out smaller than anticipated”.

        I tend to agree with her- I’m sure it does help to focus, but it doesn’t look good and I’d find it rude and unprofessional.

        Reply
      3. noknitting

        There was someone in my grad program too who was always (we thought) knitting. It was very distracting and the professors clearly hated it, but she never picked up on the subtle ways they were expressing displeasure. One day at a symposium with a big name outside speaker, the speaker stopped the lecture and asked her what she was doing. Everyone was mortified on her behalf, but she read it as actual interest. So she proceeded to explain that she was tatting the lace for her wedding veil and all sorts of details about her wedding and the crafting she was doing related to it. The lecturer was stunned at that response, and eventually had to cut her off.

        Reply
        1. teclatrans

          This captures one of the optics issues– with knitting you are (or appear to be) creating something for future use, presumably with a pattern and accuracy requirements. This feels to others like a statement of separation from the joint endeavor.

          I have ADHD andI understand that knitting can take up only a part of the brain (the part that would be bouncing around and unavailable anyway), but I still find it outputting for someone to show up to a large meeting or talk with knitting. I will say, though, that I think I would more easily adapt in a small meeting where the knitter was clearly and demonstrably engaging with others.

          Reply
          1. Optimistic Prime

            The one teammate I had who was actually not distracting with her knitting was like this. I knew from being friends with her that she could knit very quickly, but when she was in meetings she knit far more slowly, didn’t look at her needles, knit only very simple projects (…most of the time) and – most importantly – stayed demonstrably engaged in the meetings by answering questions, asking questions, and participating in the discussion. And she didn’t knit at every meeting, and only started after we’d been in the group for some time, and never when a guest speaker was present.

            I think she was super aware of how the knitting could be perceived and didn’t want to give off the wrong impression. (We’re both social psychologists, so there’s that.)

            Reply
    3. AnotherAlison

      Exactly! As the mother of a child with ADHD, and the wife of his father with the same issue, I totally get it intellectually, but I don’t think I could tolerate it in an office meeting.

      Reply
    4. BRR

      I feel the same way. Reading all of the responses, I think two key things are that compared to other options knitting can be distracting to others and it’s easier to appear disengaged (even though that’s not the case). I’ve learned today that there are a fair amount of offices where this is ok but if that’s not the LW’s case I would explore alternatives like a stress ball or fidget cube. They’re more discreet and hopefully help you focus as much as knitting does.

      Reply
    5. Hrovitnir

      I appreciate this reply, because I feel like a lot of responses have been quite judgemental. I agree that knitting wouldn’t be a good idea – as evidenced by the number of strong responses seen here! But it bothers me how many people seem to not be taking the LW at their word in as far as knitting being something that helps them focus.

      Reply
  6. OwnedByTheCat

    I focus way better when I can knit in (long, boring) meetings. Luckily it’s not just accepted here, it’s the norm. Last night we had four people knitting.

    My job is quirky but it definitely has its perks!

    Reply
      1. Jessica

        The secret to your success would be that you’re such a close-knit team!

        I’m also in Minneapolis but don’t knit.

        Reply
  7. Bow Ties Are Cool

    If you were knitting in a meeting with me, I’d fish mine out of my bag and join you.

    Reply
  8. Dee

    I’ve been in meetings with a high-level person doing this, and it’s not only distracting, it makes the person look disengaged. I was also at a recent meeting where someone used a coloring book (“to focus”) and had the same impression. I’d try something less obvious. Would a foam stress toy work? Could you take notes? Even doodling would be better IMO.

    Reply
    1. H.C.

      Yeah, I’m doodler during meetings – the longer the meetings, the more elaborate the doodle.

      And I agree that knitting would seem too out of place & distracting, esp since 1) it requires both hands, meaning you can’t switch to/from meeting-related tasks, like taking notes, easily 2) involves a substantial amount of materials that needs to be taken out and put away and 3) the noise factor of needles/hooks bumping into each other or your nails (soft sound, yes, but a very distinct one and can be distracting during moments of silence or pauses.)

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        Seconding the noise factor part of this! The rest, too, but especially that part. Knitters often seem to think that the noise is negligible, but I think that’s just due to exposure. For me, the noise is just as grating as someone drumming their fingers on the table or humming under their breath for the whole meeting. Maybe even more so, because it’s unfamiliar and would be out of context in the workplace, and therefore constantly distracting my attention.

        Reply
        1. Totally Working Right Now

          Not disagreeing that it could be out of place in most work settings, but you can absolutely knit silently. I knit only with bamboo needles and it makes literally no sound. Other materials may make some noise, though.

          Reply
          1. SarahTheEntwife

            Maybe it depends on the knitting style as well? I usually use bamboo needles and they make little snicky noises.

            Reply
            1. Totally Working Right Now

              Probably! I swear my knitting is silent but I’m going to have to test that now. If it made any noise at all my cat would let me know.

              Reply
          2. OhNo

            It may be possible to knit silently, but it’s not very likely. Even aside from knitting needles clicking, there is the sound of your sleeves rubbing against things as you move your arms and hands, the sound of the yarn brushing against your sleeves/lap/hands, and generally just the sound of things moving around. It doesn’t seem very loud or distracting, until you’re in a quiet meeting (or classroom, in my personal experience) trying to listen to a quiet speaker.

            If you’re in a meeting with loud talkers, or where there’s some back-an-forth, you’d definitely be under the radar. But I have been in some work meetings where it is dead silent aside from the speaker, so that can probably be chalked up as another one of those know-your-office type issues.

            Reply
            1. Totally Working Right Now

              Absolutely – know your office.

              Do you knit? From what you’ve said it doesn’t sound like you do. I knit a lot and it’s very, very quiet because yarn doesn’t make noise. I don’t think the noise factor is a valid argument here (unless we’re talking about needles that make a clicky sound). Writing notes is not completely silent.

              I still wouldn’t knit at work because it’s Not Done. But man I would love to.

              Reply
              1. Optimistic Prime

                It’s actually quite possible, and potentially more likely, that you have simply gotten used to the sound of your knitting and don’t hear it anymore. Humans are extremely adaptable and can very quickly tune out things that we’re used to hearing and don’t register as an alert. I used to live in a house set on the edge of the woods, and there were a lot of noisy animals – most notably, a large number of very loud frogs in my yard. They croaked in a chorus all night long. When I first moved there from the city, I couldn’t sleep for weeks. Those frogs kept me up all night! Over time, though, I adapted to the point that I couldn’t even hear the frogs anymore. When friends came over for sleepovers, they’d be like “What is that noise?” and I had to listen really hard to hear what they were talking about.

                If you knit on a regular basis, your brain would be overloaded if you constantly heard all of the sounds that go along with it, so your brain has learned to shut out and muffle those noises. So it’s quite possible that you are noisier than you actually realized because you are so used to the knitting noises you literally don’t hear them anymore. I don’t knit regularly, and in my experience most knitters actually do make quite a bit of noise. Most of them have the clicky needles. (I do agree, though, that the bamboo needles are really quiet.)

                Reply
                1. Totally Working Right Now

                  no actually, I don’t make noise when I knit. I don’t understand why some of you are insisting I’m wrong about an activity that I do nearly everyday and you’ve never seen me do. There is no noise to make how I do it. I use bamboo needles like we’ve discussed and I made a point of training myself how to move my hands and wrists as little as possible for efficiency and to prevent injuries. Pulling yarn from the ball might make a noise – that’s it. I promise.

              2. OhNo

                I do knit, actually. Only occasionally, so I don’t consider myself “a knitter”. And as Optimistic Prime mentioned, you’re probably just used to the sounds. I know whenever I do knit, I always notice the sounds of things shifting around as a readjust my work, or occasionally need to pull some slack up in my yarn, or other minor things.

                For comparison, I also embroider (quite a lot more than I knit). And while I tend to think that’s silent, I’ve had friends point out that they can hear the needle popping through particularly tight cloth, or even the sound of the thread pulling through if the surroundings are quiet enough. But I’m so accustomed to it after years of needlepoint that I never notice.

                Reply
            2. Loose Seal

              If someone is moving their arms that much while knitting (and not doing one of the arm-knit things that seem to be popular), then they have terrible form. Don’t worry; their shoulders, elbows, and wrists will start hurting them and it won’t be too many years before they have to stop.

              Reply
            3. Elsajeni

              At that point, though, you’re objecting to noises that anyone who isn’t sitting perfectly still in a meeting would be making. Everyone moves their arms sometimes; lots of people do slightly noisier things, like jiggle their legs or twirl a pen in their hands. I don’t really come down one way or the other on knitting, but “your sleeve might brush against something and make a faint rustling noise” is not a good reason to forbid it unless you’re going to strap everyone else’s arms down to their chairs.

              Reply
    2. Goreygal

      The colouring thing would be really off putting IMO as the whole thing about them is that they are supposed to help you disengage from environment around you.

      The knitting I would have less of an issue with as long as the needles weren’t noisy and the hands not constantly moving in my eye line.

      Reply
    3. MuseumChick

      This. I would find it very distracting. Any kind of movement always catches my eye so having someone knit in a meeting would be a constant distraction for me. I agree with the idea of doodling or taking notes if you need something to do with your hands.

      Reply
      1. tigerlily

        If any kind of movement catches your eye and causes distraction, wouldn’t the movement of my hand and pen while I’m doodling distract you also?

        Reply
        1. irene

          i’ve been scrolling down the comments and my eyebrow is getting higher and higher up my forehead at all the “just doodle” comments because… it is SO DISTRACTING to have someone doodle at the table near me!

          i mean, there’s the movement and scratching-pen noises, often, and the growing shapes that i get curious about. i always find myself staring at the doodles instead of looking at the speaker (though i am bad about looking at people’s faces because autism, but i try), and it’s only marginally better if someone is writing actual notes.

          plus also, doodling isn’t a mindless thing for me at all. i’ve tried it over and over again and i just get super invested in what i’m drawing, rather than doing notes or something. (the progression of drawings over the course of a class period or meeting, they get more detailed and more specific, and meanwhile my actual notes dwindle…) i found success in high school, 15 years ago, with coloring books, but i can’t stand the recent trend ones because they are too detailed and require planning for the color. i used to photocopy coloring pages and just sit with crayons and fill in large swaths during classes i didn’t need to take detailed notes for, or i’d color while we did read-alouds or something.

          anyway, no way, doodling is also distracting. i think moreso than knitting, because knitting is so repetitive that it’s boring to watch. i don’t even watch my own knitting! (which i don’t do at work because i can’t knit and computer at the same time, and taking breaks to knit doesn’t work for me, but i do take to the symphony, movies, family dinners, etc., where i need to have something to share my focus and help block unwanted sensory input – but, again, autism)

          Reply
    4. LaurAxe

      I agree with Alison’s advice here, but on a philosophical level, this kind of sucks – having to be more concerned with optics than productivity. I’m similar in that it’s very difficult for me to sit and listen for extended periods of time without taking notes or having something to do with my hands, but I’ve sat in several “State of the Nation” type company-wide presentations where we’re explicitly told not to take notes and just to sit and listen. I know it might look to the CEO that we’re paying more attention, but I’m zoning out about half the time… not intentionally! But I just can’t sit and listen to 1-2 hours of information (a lot of which I already know do to my role in the company) without being able to take notes. I don’t even review the notes, they just help me focus during the presentation.

      Anyways. Optics suck.

      Reply
      1. Indigo

        Yup, this. I cannot pay attention to purely auditory stimulation without something to do with my hands, but I routinely got snapped at in high school for doodling. Attempts to explain my ADD diagnosis and the recommends of my therapist cut absolutely no ice with my chemistry teacher in particular, who was apparently fine with me failing as long as it *looked* like I was paying attention (ie, staring at the board with my eyes glazed over and daydreaming).

        Reply
    5. Anon for this

      My boss likes to play Jenga (solo) during meetings. The rule is that an agenda item can only be for one round or for two. After that, we have to move to the next item on the agenda. You should see how focused the discussion becomes as the tower gets shakier and shakier. Of course, eventually the whole thing comes crashing down. Everyone laughs and then we move on.

      Every now and then I think she makes the tower collapse on purpose. We try to call her on it, but she just says, “Hey! Them’s the rules.”

      Reply
    6. Kinesthetic Learner

      Actually, if you’re a kinesthetic learner and the information is more auditory or visual, having something to do with your hands will actually help engage you, it doesn’t have to be because you’re ADD or have anxiety issues. I didn’t realize this when I was in college, but one of my Econ professors had a very monotone voice and his presentation style was lack luster to say the least. I would take apart and reassemble a puzzle ring I had countless times during class. For me, knitting would likely be less of a distraction than the puzzle ring was. I am an accomplished knitter and can easily knit simple to moderate stitch patterns without paying any real attention. I would just bring a project that was either simple, or in a stage that was repetitive and didn’t require perusing instructions. Needle selection would be important too. My preferred Addi Rockets do tend to click a bit when I’m going fast, but they really make no more noise than most people texting. Basically if you can do it while listening to an audio book without missing details, you should be able to do it in a meeting. I find Facebook way more absorbing than knitting. If you think it’s rude, that’s more about you than the person knitting. Of course if you find the knitter asking you to recount details from the meeting later, then that may prove they’re not a kinesthetic learner after all.

      Reply
  9. Temperance

    I would strongly advise against doing this. I pretend to take notes and make grocery lists and to do lists, but I would never, ever knit in a meeting. I have never seen a person do this in a meeting, but it would come across as almost aggressive here; you would be making a big show that you aren’t paying attention, basically, to anyone who is not a knitter.

    I have a friend who is a knitter, and knits pretty much wherever she goes. I logically know that she’s not ignoring us, but, FWIW, it often feels like she’s too bored hanging out with us (and impacts where we invite her places). This is someone I know personally and like, and I find it a bit grating; I can tell you that I would find it very rude and off-putting in a business context.

    Reply
    1. tigerlily

      This is so curious to me. OP is saying that knitting would actually help her focus and be more engaged in the meeting and it’s something you find aggressive. And yet in the same comment you’re saying that you’re ACTIVELY disengaged and not paying attention in meetings – making grocery lists and to do lists – and that’s no big deal. It’s just interesting to me that the optics are what’s important. Not actually being engaged and productive in the meeting.

      Reply
      1. Temperance

        I think optics are seriously important, especially for women in the workforce. We’re already up against negative stereotypes about our very existence, so whipping out a craft in a business meeting is just going to further the silly girl stereotype. I also do find it to be a pretty aggressive statement, as a non-knitter, that is basically saying “I find you terribly boring / I find this terribly boring / I’d rather do a craft than pay attention to you” or something along those lines.

        You took my comment way out of context to make your point. I never once referred to myself as “ACTIVELY disengaged”. Those are your words. I pointed out what I do in long, boring meetings. That is what many people do in long, boring meetings where I work. Whipping out a craft would communicate, strongly, that you don’t care.

        Reply
      2. Nieve

        With the use of the word ‘aggressive’ I think Temperance means that it can be taken as an ‘aggressive display’ ‘obvious and purposeful attempt at displaying’ their disinterest and boredom. I agree with her/him, and I think you misunderstood a bit.

        Reply
    2. Loose Seal

      I wish you’d talk to your friend about it. Because it sounds like you have all this judgement about her knitting that actively makes you dislike her (based on your description of her at your events). Have you ever told her how you perceive it? Maybe she could allay your feelings on the subject or decide that she’d rather go to a different group if y’all can’t stand her. But it just seems snarky to tear her down here without telling her.

      Personally, I think your attitude on the subject is incredibly rude. We get it; you’d rather geek strong than appear like a ’40s housewife. Give it a rest, huh? Go write out a grocery list or something, geez!

      Reply
      1. Optimistic Prime

        This is a weirdly off comment here. You can be irritated by a friend’s behavior while still really liking and wanting to be around that friend. Nobody’s perfect and I have exactly zero friends who don’t have at least one annoying trait. I’m positive that my friends feel the same way about me. I love my husband to death and I could spend quite a bit of time talking about the things that annoy me about him. People are imperfect and we annoy the heck out of each other, no love lost.

        I think what it seems like you’re not getting is that most people are cognitively aware that knitters (or any fidgeters, really) are technically able to pay attention and knit at the same time, but emotionally based on the way humans communicate non-verbally, it still feels like disengagement. That’s not being judgmental; that’s being human.

        Reply
        1. Loose Seal

          I get that people here think that knitters are disengaged. And if the knitter is truly disengaged (maybe isn’t listening or asks to have the DVD rewound a bunch because they were counting while the important parts were going on, etc.), the friends should call out that behavior. The same way I would think friends would call out phone-attachment behavior or any other kind of disengaged behavior. When you don’t call it out and give the person a chance to correct or adjust, it seems to the person doing the unwanted thing like the group is ok with it. Silence is consent, in these cases. (Different for work since you can’t always call out someone who outranks you.)

          I have knit everywhere since I was six years old. It is next to impossible for me to be without it. I even exercise with knitting in my hands. However, I am very likely the most active listener you would ever meet (lots of eye contact because I can’t hear well and need to be looking someone in the face) and I am quite good at juggling my knitting with other stuff I need my hands for, like taking notes or rolling dice.

          I guess you and others want all your friends to be sitting on the edge of their seats doing nothing else but waiting with baited breath to hear what you have to say. We just wouldn’t be friends and that would be ok.

          Reply
          1. Jessica

            That’s okay, I wouldn’t want to be friends with the weirdo who has to bring knitting everywhere, even to the movies or to parties. That’s as bad as the person who has to bring their dog everywhere, or who has to Instagram everything they do, or who calls you on the phone and then constantly interrupts the conversation to say something to their kid or their spouse.

            Engaging in inappropriate social behavior is tolerated to a point. But bringing knitting to social occasions that are not, in fact, centered around knitting is weird and rude. It’s self-centered to a truly bizarre degree to claim that you MUST knit and that everyone else is a jackass for thinking poorly of your social skills.

            Reply
    3. Kinesthetic Learner

      Temperance, I have a circle of friends that knit and many more that don’t. I knit because I’m not great at sitting still and doing nothing but talking and listening. I’d rather meet with a friend and go for a walk, bike ride, anything active and talk while we’re doing it, than to just sit around and talk. I’m not ADD, I’m not anxious, I’m just active and spend too much time sitting still as it is. You can choose to take your friend’s knitting as an insult, but wouldn’t it be better to ask her about it – if you really value her friendship? It sounds like you don’t really accept your “friend” as she is, you seem to want her to conform to your norm. At book group once, a woman made a rather snarky comment about “how nice it must be that you have time to knit” and then she went on to tell us about the 12 books she had read in the last month. My thought was, how nice it must be that you have time to read that many books! It’s all perspective and priorities and we don’t all rate things the same way.

      Reply
  10. Mb13

    Lw presception is very important. Doing something else during meetings (doodling, crafting, etc) will send the message that you couldnt care less about the meeting, even if it helps you fucouse it won’t been seen that way. Knitting has a lot of negative connotations in our culture. Knitting is a girl activity and as a culture we don’t take girls seriously so that will create a negative perception. Knitting is also seen as an old woman activity, and our culture doesn’t really view senior women as competent hard working employees. So while knitting is important to you it will be the equivalent of a giant neon sign telling people “I am not to be taken seriously”. The book Nice Girls Don’t Get Corner Office talks in great lengths about what are the behaviors that women do that make them be perceived as less competent (yes it’s really unfair that those standards exist but it’s better to apear competent than to be viewed lesser as)

    Reply
    1. k

      This is such an important thing to keep in mind. If you close your eyes and think of a Successful Business Person, and then a Person Knitting, the first images that pop into your mind will likely be very different. It’s best to err on the side of caution when trying to appear professional.

      Reply
    2. TL -

      While I don’t doubt that there are women/older women perceptions here, I think that if it was a less girly activity, I would still find it distracting. If a man brought Legos to play with, I would view it mostly the same way. People who are constantly on their phone annoy me the same way, even if they’re just playing a silly game that doesn’t take a lot of attention.

      (one of those little fidget boxes, though, I would totally be okay with, as it could be concealed in your hand and you’d never have to look at it. Or flipping a pen in your hand – if you’re fidgeting quietly but not making noise, I’m okay with that.)

      Reply
      1. Anna

        I agree. I don’t think it’s the genderizing of the activity that’s the problem, it’s the perception that you’re not engaged that’s the real issue.

        Reply
        1. OhNo

          While I agree that the perception of not being engaged is the primary issue, I think the genderizing of the activity is still important. It could compound the perception issue, especially if the OP works in an office where any sexism (however subtle) might be in play.

          Reply
      2. Ktelzbeth

        I find pen flipping terribly distracting and I say this as someone who concentrates better if fidgeting. But because I can’t sit still either, I don’t have a leg to stand on.

        Reply
    3. Tangerina Warbleworth

      … and just for that reason, it gets my feminist hackles up. What old white men have deemed as too girly for their power structure needs to be shot with a cannon.

      I worked in a nonprofit where one of the regional directors very discreetly knitted — no clicking — sitting at the back of the meeting room. No one was bothered, mostly because the woman herself was confident, awesome at her job, and brought the results. If someone had politely said, “that’s distracting me,” she would have put it away. If someone said, “don’t do that or the upper administration won’t take you seriously,” she’d knit AT you really hard. And more power to her.

      I agree with Alison that it really, really depends, mostly because of the distraction issue. So, best to ask boss and coworkers, and if okay with them, it can be done with great discretion. As long as you have a solid record along with that buy-in, it’s fine.

      Reply
      1. PM Jesper Berg

        How do you know that people weren’t being too polite to say “that’s distracting me.” Many people are conflict-averse and will grin and bear the distracting activity. (Granted, that is a problem in and of itself.)

        Reply
          1. Optimistic Prime

            Yes, it’s so easy to tell your regional director that what they’re doing is distracting and they need to stop.

            Reply
      2. Holly

        That’s the thing though. In order to have the privilege to knit, she had to be regional director and also be incredible at her job. Even then, she had to sit in the back.
        What if she had put her knitting away and sat in the front? Wouldn’t she have appeared as even *more* competent boss?

        Reply
      3. Optimistic Prime

        Well, the assumption is that no one was bothered. If one of the higher-level leadership in my org knit during meetings, I would think it was weird – I simply wouldn’t have the standing to say anything.

        Reply
    4. aebhel

      I honestly hate this. I’m not a knitter, but I am a doodler, and I detest the fact that I can’t do something that helps me focus because it makes me perceived as less focused. I can sit with my hands folded looking at the speaker with a pleasant, engaged expression–but I guarantee you, if I’m doing that, I’m barely tracking what they’re saying. That so many people prefer the appearance of engagement over actual engagement is infuriating.

      (Also, in general, ‘don’t act like a girl because society doesn’t respect girls’ is an impossible moving target. Anything that enough women do is ‘tainted’ with femininity. )

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        Yeah, I agree completely. I think people generalize really heavily from their own experience, and they just can’t picture someone being more engaged with something to keep their hands busy if they personally don’t need that.

        Reply
      2. Word Turner

        Same. I really hate it. If I’m doing something with my hands and not making any eye contact then I can understand what people are saying. If I am sitting still or making eye contact then I can’t understand a word of it. I wish I could just ask people “do you want me to feel heard or do you want to be heard because I can do one or the other and I know sometimes the first is more important so I can do that if you want” but you can’t.

        (Also someone else’s knitting needles clicking would distract me to the point where I couldn’t follow what’s going on either but crochet would be okay!)

        It’s a no win situation and it sucks, but I guess ultimately it’s more important to pretend to understand than to actually understand.

        Reply
    5. Temperance

      I think the gendered nature of the activity is part of it, but, FWIW, there is a unique culture related to knitting that I haven’t seen with Lego or things that dudes tend to do. A lot of knitters seem to genuinely be okay bringing their crafts to places and just working on them while talking to people. I haven’t ever seen a dude whip out a Lego kit or model and start doing stuff wtih it.

      Reply
    6. Loose Seal

      I think the knitting is a female activity thing is BS. Look, people are going to find lots of things that will hold women back. As far as I know, Hillary Clinton never knit in public and people still found lots of woman-reasons to dislike her (pantsuits, shrill, whatever choice she made about to stay or not to stay with her husband, etc.).

      So I say knit in public if it works for you.

      Reply
      1. Mb13

        People should knit in public. Work is not public though. Work is work. And you want to look like a professional at work

        Reply
        1. Loose Seal

          Actually, work is a bit like a closed bubble. Knitting isn’t the only thing your coworkers would know about you. Like any other thing at work, it depends on how good you are at your job. If you’re a superstar, no one would think twice of your knitting because you’ve shown you get things done. If you’re a slacker, knitting is another nail in your coffin. But I don’t think it’s knitting itself that makes you look unprofessional; it’s that you aren’t a good worker already.

          But I was actually pushing back on the assumption that knitting will hold a women back because it seems feminine. What holds women back is discrimination.

          The OP never said what their gender is. Everyone who thought OP was female right off needs to re-examine their prejudices. It’s hard to take people seriously about what they think is professional at work when it’s clear they just assumed a gender because of a skill the questioner has.

          Reply
    7. Sally Sue

      IMO that’s just as bad. I’m a woman. I’m a feminine woman. Me being a feminine woman in the workplace is not the issue. The issue is the men and women who deem it an issue because I should be more masculine. Change doesn’t occur from complacently modeling myself after societal expectations. If everyone did that, there would be no societal change, just the status quo. Maybe in my lifetime it won’t make a difference but it could make a difference to my daughter and granddaughter. I’m not going to fake interest in Geek culture just because I’m a woman who happens to write code for a living.

      Reply
      1. Tangerina Warbleworth

        “Change doesn’t occur from complacently modeling myself after societal expectations.”

        Bless you, thank you. There’s also a wonderful George Bernard Shaw quote on this: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

        The unreasonable woman, then, is seriously progressive.

        Reply
  11. Cat

    Personally, I find this really distracting – it’s all the quick hand movements in my peripheral vision. It makes it hard to focus on anything else.

    Reply
    1. siobhan

      I hear this. It’s sort of like the light from a phone in a theater, it just draws the eye. I feel like this would be incredibly distracting for non-knitting coworkers.

      Reply
      1. auntie_cipation

        And as a beginning knitter, it would be distracting for me too, in that I’d undoubtedly be more interested in my colleague’s knitting than in whatever’s happening in the meeting…

        Reply
    2. General Ginger

      That would be my issue with it, too. It’s not that I doubt the knitter’s commitment to our meeting — I’d doubt my own, because I’d be watching their hands and their needles and their stitches and be unable to focus on anything else.

      Reply
    3. George Willard

      Yes, exactly–and this will likely be true of everyone else in the room, whether it actively irritates them or not. I don’t get the vibe in the comments that this should be okay because it helps one person focus, when it will destroy the focus of many others.

      Reply
  12. Magenta Sky

    I think when I talked to others about it, I’d start with why. “I find it hard to stay focused on any long meeting, no matter how important or interesting it is. Do you think it would be weird if I knitted? It really helps me to stay focused.”

    On the other hand, I think it might turn out to be a choice between you being easily distracted, and everyone else being distracted by your knitting. That depends on too many unique variables for the office to even guess.

    Reply
    1. Liet-Kynes

      I confess that I push back against the “but I need to do {distracting activity} to focus!” rationale whether it’s those damned “fidget spinners” or coloring or doodling or knitting or whatever. I say this as someone with a wandering mind and a bit of trouble focusing on long meetings myself: even just this request would put me off a bit. If I can rein it in and focus for an hour or two, OP can too. It does require some fighting with yourself, but it can and really should be done. Even if it really doesn’t weigh on your actual focus – which I consider highly debatable – it’s distracting to others, and it’s generally a bad look to be engaging in a hobby when surrounded by people who are paying attention.

      Reply
      1. Greengirl

        While I agree with you that it looks bad to be engaging in a hobby during a meeting, I’m going to be honest, just because you can focus with a wandering mind in a long meeting do it doesn’t mean that everyone else can too. I have ADD and didn’t figure it out until I was in the workplace when I realized that everyone else in our small open office plan seemed to be able to sit and focus on work and I just could not. It’s not a will power thing. It’s having a brain that is wired differently thing.

        Reply
        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          I’m assuming that the LW does not have ADD since they didn’t mention it in the letter as a mitigating factor. If they do, I retract what I said about reining it in, because of course you’re right. But I still think there are much more discreet and professional options than knitting. If they don’t have ADD, then I think they really do need to just learn to establish and maintain focus.

          Reply
        2. Jessica

          I have ADD (diagnosed about a year ago) and I have plenty of trouble focusing in meetings and giving the appearance of paying attention. But you know what? I’m still responsible for doing precisely that, because the point of the meeting is to convey information and it is my job, literally, to pay attention. So I do what I have to do, to at least APPEAR to be focused and attentive. To do otherwise is rude to the speaker and the other attendees.

          So, I drink water, I doodle, I stare in the direction of the speaker, I mentally run through my grocery list with a “Wow, that’s very interesting” look on my face. And it is also true as part of the company culture that we tend to overschedule and do work while sort-of listening, so it isn’t like I have to be visibly enthralled for hours of the

          day, but sometimes I do in fact have to give all indication of being an attentive listener.

          I don’t think that’s too much to ask, honestly. Yes, it’s hard. It’s a skill. But in a professional workplace, during a meeting where you’re supposedly engaging with your coworkers, then it’s simply the best use of everyone’s time to get through the agenda and close the meeting. Knitting would be beyond the pale in my opinion (and we DO have a knitting group that will occasionally get together and knit over lunch).

          So yeah, having ADD makes some things hard, but that doesn’t mean we’re excused from doing them, or that it’s okay if we don’t. Everyone is held to the same standard, and yes, we have to work harder at it than others, and that kinda sucks, but that’s life.

          Reply
          1. Hrovitnir

            I find this line of thinking bizarre. Sure, “it’s my responsibility to X” has its place, but how that gets to “we shouldn’t make any effort to change inflexible cultures to accommodate how different people work” I don’t know. I agree knitting specifically has too many downsides to work in most workplaces (I’m pretty sure I would find the movement distracting), but I think we should be more open to people doing things that help them and addressing the issue if they actually aren’t engaging appropriately.

            Everyone should be held to the same standard, but that standard needn’t be arbitrarily rigid.

            Reply
            1. Jessica

              It’s not being “inflexible” to expect people to pay attention in a meeting at work and to not distract other people during the meeting, for crying out loud. That’s like a basic professional expectation. If people aren’t engaging during the meeting, then that’s an argument for changing the duration or style of the meeting, not to let people knit.

              I mean, what’s next? Arguing that people should be able to knit instead of doing their job tasks? A meeting is an active work task. It doesn’t have to be the ideal learning environment for every individual, it just has to be an efficient way to convey information to the people who need to know. And no, the one person who can’t focus without knitting does not take priority over the 10 people in the room who can.

              There are aspects of EVERY job that are boring and a drag, but are still necessary. That’s life. It’s not an unreasonable expectation.

              Reply
      2. yellow-rumped warbler

        I don’t think “if I can, you can too” type reasoning works very well when we’re talking about mental health issues like ADHD.

        Reply
      3. One of the Sarahs

        I think that’s unfair. I admit I doodle and take notes in meetings to focus my mind, and it’s a legitimate way someone’s brain is wired that some people learn/focus one way, others another. I would never say that just because I can do something you can’t (multitask, analyse documents on the fly, mental arithmetic) that you should be able to as well. I admit that knitting is a non-no for me too, but to suggest everyone should be able to sit with their hands in their laps listening, because you can, is just 5 steps too far.

        Reply
        1. Liet-Kynes

          You’re taking my statement about 5 steps too far when you extend it to “sit with their hands in their laps listening.” My original statement concerned the adoption of distracting activities (for everyone else) to assist focus (for you). Taking notes, diagramming, and so on is a perfectly legitimate and productive way to focus on a meeting. So are discreet activities like fidget cubes, constrained doodling, and the like.

          I contrast that with distracting activities like knitting, fidget spinners, big elaborate doodles, coloring books, or whatever, which are just too obvious and involve a lot of motion and color and occasional clicking and buzzing and so on, which I just think draw way too much attention to themselves, to the point that they draw attention.

          Reply
          1. JaneB

            fidget cubes distract me. People swinging their feet under the table drive me NUTS. People doodling tiny doodles I can’t see distract me. Horses for courses and all that…

            Reply
        2. Temperance

          But no one is saying that “everyone should be able to sit with their hands in their laps listening”. Just that doing a hobby during meetings is distracting and inappropriate.

          Reply
  13. Kitkat

    I used to knit in class in high school, but never in college or at work. In high school, it fit in well with my quirky/nerdy/crafty persona, but in college and at the office, I want to be seen as efficient, smart, professional, and I feel like knitting can detract from that a little.

    That said, I’m totally going to steal your idea and knit on conference calls where no one can see me :)

    Reply
    1. Slow Gin Lizz

      I worked from home for eight years and knit during every telecon (which is, in fact, why I started knitting in the first place). I just started a new job this month and am finding it more distracting to not be able to knit while reading things, which I also became pretty adept at. I miss it. Instead I play with my hair, which is less than productive and in fact annoys me. Oh well. Perhaps after I have been here several years I’ll start knitting but for now it would definitely be seen as less than professional. The folks on my telecons never once noticed anything amiss though and I made a lot of cool things.

      Reply
  14. Big Picture Person

    Yeah, I can’t see that flying in most circumstances. Is there some form of doodling that would work as well? That would be much more subtle.

    Reply
  15. Miso

    I know it’s really not the same as a work meeting, but I had a friend who used to knit during our pen&paper sessions and I always found it quite rude. It really seemed like the game itself wasn’t interesting enough. I’d also be worried you weren’t paying attention, op.
    But most importantly: I absolutely hate the sound of knitting needles, so that’d drive me crazy.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      Yeah, this would be weird. I get distracted by my phone sometimes and I *know* I miss things happening during our game. I try to not do it, but it’s difficult.

      Reply
      1. Greengirl

        I knit during games (really simple patterns, never anything that requires counting). For me it’s a choice between me getting up and dancing around the table or knitting in between turns. I find that I miss less then when I get distracted by my phone which requires more of my attention actually. I will start checking with people before I pull it out though since I didn’t realize the sound of it was something that could drive someone crazy (also people who would not want me knitting between turns are not people I should be gaming with).

        Reply
        1. KellyK

          Same here. I get really fidgety between turns, especially if someone else is taking a long time to do something. I knit deliberately to *stay* engaged, because I’m not nearly as good at multitasking with my phone as I *think* I am.

          If people want to take it as a personal slight, I guess they can, but it’s not that at all.

          Reply
        2. Lunch Meat

          It’s a choice between knitting, making elaborate dice towers, doodling all over my character sheet so I can’t read it, spinning dice, or taking out my phone–which is the worst option for me. I just can. not. sit. still for that long without moving. But I’m DMing the next campaign, so maybe that will be better.

          Reply
    2. Temperance

      I have a friend who really wants to do more gaming with us, but doesn’t go anywhere without her knitting needles … gaming with her sucks because she takes so long since she’s holding freaking knitting and not really participating like the rest of us.

      Reply
    3. Indigo

      With respect, this really comes across as, “I demand that people only have fun in ways I approve of.” If she really didn’t like the game, she wouldn’t be there; if knitting enhanced her enjoyment without detracting from others’, then what’s wrong with it?

      Reply
      1. Optimistic Prime

        What if her knitting was detracting from everyone else’s enjoyment?

        I don’t think it’s unfair to not want your friends to be multitasking during a tabletop session.

        Reply
        1. Indigo

          I guess I see it this way: if everyone is able to do the things they need to do in order to play the game, then anything else on top of that becomes “I decide if you’re having fun appropriately”.
          For example: I think of games as a social event. I therefore usually drink a beer or two over the course of a session. It’s fair for my co-players and the GM to not want me to get so drunk that I can’t play well. It’s also fair if someone can’t stand the smell of alcohol and can’t focus if it’s in the room. It’s obnoxious if I’m told that I just shouldn’t, because it’s “rude” or “games aren’t drinking spaces” or “you should be able to have fun without drinking” (which I can – the liquor is not a personal insult against the quality of the game or the people involved).

          Reply
  16. Bun

    I have a co-worker who consistently uses a small tin of what’s labeled as “thinking putty” in every meeting I’ve ever seen her in. It has the consistency of slightly more liquid Silly Putty. I don’t know why she uses it and haven’t inquired as it’s none of my business. It seems odd at first, but it only takes about 2 minutes to understand that she is fully engaged, thinking, and participating in the conversation, no matter what she’s doing with her hands.

    Also the putty comes in pretty colors!

    Reply
    1. Lunch Meat

      Yes, I do that and stress balls held under the table so I don’t drift off during meetings. I do breathing exercises while squeezing also.

      Reply
    2. Claire (Scotland)

      I use thinking putty while I’m teaching, and have got a bunch of my pupils using it too. It helps me a lot.

      My best friend is a knitter and is almost always knitting when we hang out. It doesn’t bother me at all, she’s fully engaged in the conversation. It may help that she knits me gorgeous things to wear!

      Reply
  17. Lily in NYC

    It wouldn’t bother me to see someone knitting in a meeting. My coworker brings his laptop to meetings and takes notes on it as a way to keep his hands busy – maybe it’s a viable alternative if OP’s office is not up for the knitting.

    Reply
  18. Leonicka

    Question: Why can’t the poster just preemptively tell people the reasons behind the knitting? Framing it as “knitting helps me focus during meetings, is that okay?” might help the rest of the team understand where she’s coming from and make it acceptable. It would also be a good step in gauging how receptive the company culture is to accommodating different work styles.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      Well, that’s what Alison recommends. The OP shouldn’t really do it right before a meeting in the room with everyone because I think it would make people feel uncomfortable to disagree out loud, but asking a few people beforehand to gauge how it would be received is good.

      Reply
    2. FlibbertyG

      Yeah, the issue here is that people are probably going to say it’s okay, but if you look at the comments most people would feel that this is unprofessional and distracting. It reminds me of the letter from the girl who wrote on her hands … unfortunately it doesn’t send the signal you want to send. Most people won’t tell you to your face though.

      Reply
  19. lb

    I’ve worked in more casual workplaces (California, I guess we’re always more casual) and it wasn’t uncommon for people to knit or otherwise keep their hands occupied. At the beginning of the meeting (the first time and/or if there’s a new attendee) the person usually says something like “I find that keeping my hands occupied really helps me listen more carefully, so you’ll see me knitting. Please let me know if it becomes a distraction” and then they just quietly go about their project. People might think it’s odd but after you do it a few times and act like it’s totally normal and you can still participate, it will become a norm.

    One place I know of actually created an organization-wide norm that fiddling was okay — for long meetings, there would be a box full of play-doh, pipe cleaners, etc. It was completely normal for anyone to grab some clay and fuss with it while the meeting went on, and then during breaks/at the end you could see if people were making neat sculptures or something. It was also very normal during long meetings for people to occasionally stand up, stretch, pace a bit quietly in the back of the room, and continue to participate. I think it should be encouraged! Obviously not everyone needs to keep their hands occupied, but it’s also unrealistic to expect a room full of people to all sit motionless for a full day. It depends on your industry and office culture but in my experience, expectations around this are changing and it’s becoming more common.

    Reply
    1. lb

      Just another note, I’ve seen both men and women knitting/crocheting during meetings, it’s not necessarily a gender thing. And if you are a loud/clacky knitter, maybe try to crochet if you know how? It’s generally a bit quieter, if you find people are in fact annoyed by the needle sounds.

      Once at the end of a several-day training, a crochet-er presented us with the hat he’d been making all week. It was great!

      Reply
    2. H.C.

      I’ve had a few all-day meetings where there’s fidgety-finger toys scattered all over the table too (along with lots of fun size candies); they’re OK, but having more frequent/longer breaks would’ve been more helpful – which gives participants time to recharge however they like (mini meditation, stretches, quick walk around the building, etc.), process everything discussed/presented, have offline conversations or catch up on missed calls or emails.

      Reply
  20. Jbelly

    Do you need to take notes in the meetings at all? If so, how do you manage that? Put the needles down?

    I would find it odd to see this in the federal government. It doesn’t come across as professional at all.

    Reply
    1. kkcf

      Hold the work in your non writing hand (usually the left) and pick up your pen to make notes. Put the pen back down and keep knitting. It’s really smooth when you’re used to it. And if you’re good enough knitter to knit in meetings you don’t need to look at the knitting that much at all.

      I worked at a company specifically devoted to crafts for a while and that was how we all did it. Then again, at that place, you were expected to knit during meetings :)

      Reply
    2. Lady Jay

      It’s fairly easy to hold both needles with one hand and take notes if needed. In my case, it’s rare that I’m taking frequent notes, so this is not inconvenient.

      Reply
    3. One of the Sarahs

      I was going to ask this too, because even if OP can swap needles to another hand and pick up a pen/type one-handed, that still leaves them working at a lag versus someone with a pen in their hand. I guess if it’s possible to not lag, that’s great, but I’ve always been sooooo frustrated with people in meetings who have to delay everyone else so they can catch up (eg the person who’s scanning their emails, and has to stop and start to take notes). It is a tiny thing, but like nails on chalkboard to me.

      Reply
      1. Loose Seal

        It really doesn’t create lag. If OP has been doing it on conference calls, they should know if they can focus and take notes when needed. (I’m trusting that they can because, well, they say they can.)

        Email and phone-looking are different beasts because your mind has to leave the meeting to focus on their email or whatever. But knitting doesn’t take that sort of mind-leaving. You never go away from what’s going on unless you want to or if you are really, really new at it (in which case, I’d agree that they should avoid it until they can knit without cussing and counting out loud).

        Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        Eh… it may be a slight lag compared to a person with a pen already in their hand who’s paying perfect attention and writes quickly, but I don’t think it’s any more lag than someone who’s put their pen down and has to pick it up, and probably less than someone who’s tucked it into a pocket and has to dig it out, or someone who, as you mentioned, was looking at an email notification, or any number of other normal note-taking delays.

        Reply
  21. Us, Too

    I have worked many places, some of which have very “different” cultures and none of them would be so liberal as to not find this distracting/inappropriate. YMMV. :)

    Reply
  22. anon in cascadia

    We have a meeting-knitter in my department. She’s in her 30’s but is seen as an unpleasant overgrown child due to her willful disregard of social niceties and wannabe meangirling. No one calls her out on the knitting, and if someone else wanted to knit, it would probably be fine. It’s just that now no one wants to be lumped in with this obnoxious person.
    It’s distracting, though. Most people stick to doodling with pen & paper.

    Reply
  23. Kat

    I’ve never been in a work meeting with someone who is knitting, but have had knitters next to me or behind me at conferences. I find the constant, repetitive motion and faint clicking noises incredibly distracting. Just thinking about it makes me want to throw a ball of yarn at someone’s head.

    Reply
  24. the gold digger

    I used to knit during very long, agenda-less meetings when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I knit so I wouldn’t go crazy from not accomplishing anything.

    I was told by a woman who was nursing an infant – and she was not the only one doing so – that I could not knit because it was “distracting.”

    Reply
    1. bridget

      Well… to be fair, nursing an infant is pretty close to mandatory if you don’t want that infant to be very hungry and/or screaming during the meeting. Knitting is 100% optional.

      Reply
  25. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    Cosigning what most commenters are saying: I understand that having something to do with one’s hands is a useful focus tool for some folks, but it really grates me when someone knits (specifically; I don’t have the same feeling about other forms of fidgeting/etc.) during a meeting.

    For me, I think the issue is eye contact. We exist in a culture that values eye contact and uses it as a measure of engagement. Some of that is unnecessary (and privileges some cultures and ways of being in the world over others in a problematic way). But when someone is actively looking at something other than what’s happening in the room, they are genuinely missing out on some of the communication that’s occurring, and they are signalling that they don’t think it matters (unless they are able to knit without watching their hands, which I’m sure is a thing but has not been the case with the knitters I’ve worked with).

    Reply
    1. Lady Jay

      A lot depends on the pattern chosen. I always pick *very easy* patterns to do during meetings, specifically so I *don’t* look at my hands. It’s the same repetitive motion, the hands go the same place each time, so I don’t really have to pay attention. It’s also possible, if you bring knitting to a meeting, to make an extra effort to pay attention and participate – ask a question, make a comment, etc.

      Reply
      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        Yup. I knit in church, and my go-to is dishcloths that are either straight garter stitch (like the Grandmother’s Favorite one) or a repetitive pattern. Most of the time I don’t even need to look at my hands. When I finish a dishcloth, if I don’t have another use for it, I give it to someone in the congregation. I get to concentrate, someone else gets a nice hand-knit dishcloth. Win-win!

        Reply
    2. Mints

      I also think eye contact makes knitting worse than other fidgety things like fidget toys, pen spinning, putty mentioned upthread. Also the two handedness makes it worse because raising your hand or gesturing however makes it seem more like an interruption.

      It’s possible it’s okay, but I think it’s on the less likely to be okay end of the spectrum

      Reply
      1. Lady Jay

        See, this is interesting to me, since from my perspective a fidget spinner or doodling is more distracting than knitting. I associate both with school-age people (HS on down), although I know logically it’s not true (I have college students who knit). It’s possible to look up while knitting but less possible with doodling. And finally, at least I’m making something productive! The same can’t be said with fidget spinners.

        This is why it’s interesting to me to read all the different points of view here. :)

        Reply
        1. Mints

          Yeah I left out doodling on purpose because it’s the same eye contact problem, and the same “varying levels of attention needed” problem as knitting. And the “made something productive” I think exacerbates the problem because it seems less mindless. I think the best options are the ones I listed because the eye contact, one handedness, mindlessness (nothing to actually mess up, totally abstract activity).

          Reply
    3. Jennifer Knits a Thneed

      I think you’re right about the eye-contact thing. I’m a knitter — which is different from saying that I like to knit. I always have something on the needles, often more than one thing so I have projects that are appropriate in different settings.

      A good knitter, knitting something plain, does not need to look at their hands *ever*. I have often stood on the commuter train with my elbow around a pole, knitting something while smiling at kids and looking out the window at the view. When I haul out my knitting in meetings, I’m listening and looking at people and contributing to the conversation and asking questions and sometimes even taking notes.

      But yeah, I only do that in meetings with people who know me already. I’m WAY too aware of all the misconceptions people have about knitting and how much attention it takes. But I do like it when I’ve got a team where I can show off the progress on whatever they’ve been seeing me make.

      Reply
  26. Hanna

    Question from someone who knows almost nothing about knitting: do the needles make any clinking or tapping noises? I could see how that might be annoying for the other people in the meeting.

    Reply
    1. Lady Jay

      Depends on the kind. I use smooth bamboo needles, which make no sound. If you were using metal needs, then yeah, they might make a sound.

      Reply
      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        I use metal needles, and you can minimize the clicking sound depending on your method and just being mindful of it. I can knit a lot faster if I don’t worry about clicks, but it is possible to knit quietly even with my awesome chrome-plated needles.

        Reply
        1. BananaPants

          I have stainless steel knitting needles that are super-quiet, much quieter than chrome and nickel-plated needles. I think it’s because they’re solid versus hollow.

          Reply
    2. Night Cheese

      A lot of my projects are knit on resin needles. Sometimes there is a soft click, but it’s mostly silent.

      Reply
  27. Lady Jay

    I’m in higher ed. I knit in faculty meetings, which I figure is better than grading papers or responding to email (pretty sure that’s what my colleagues who bring their entire computer to the meeting are doing). I also knit in religious services. I picked up knitting specifically because meetings are boring and long & knitting helps me pay attention the whole way through.

    Reply
    1. medium of ballpoint

      I’m also in higher ed and we have several folks who knit in meetings. We used to have a set-up where the knitters were able to sit in an unobtrusive space so as not to distract other people, but once we moved to a new location that changed and mostly people have stopped. I understand it can be distracting to other people, but I personally find it a bit frustrating to not be able to do something that’s productive and helps me focus, especially when meetings meander all over the place.

      And for the record, I think one aspect people are missing is that once you’re in a meeting, it’s pretty easy to see a knitter can be engaged and participate; most meeting knitters aren’t sitting and knitting silently but are actually participating just like everyone else.

      Reply
    2. Gratiana

      Chiming in on the academic context here—I as once based in an institute where a couple of the senior women would bring needlework of some kind to meetings and conference sessions. So once I felt like I had a bit of seniority in my own job, I took up needlepoint during faculty meetings. It *totally* helps me to focus more on the meetings! I even participate more than I used to since I’m conscientious about making sure people know that I’m paying attention even though my hands are occupied.

      That said, I think I might reconsider doing it in some contexts given the number of commenters complaining about the distraction factor.

      Reply
    3. Optimistic Prime

      When I was in academia it was far more common and socially acceptable for people to knit during meetings, especially faculty meetings and lab meetings.

      Reply
    4. Night Cheese

      Same. I’m not faculty, but I do knit in admin meetings, and I’m not the only one. I also knit during the campus-wide all-staff meetings, which are presentations that happen in an auditorium.

      Reply
  28. Mr Mike

    OOOHHH! OOOHHH! Can I fly my mini-drone during meetings??? I promise it won’t be a distraction!

    Reply
    1. Salamander

      Heh. That reminds me of a write-in that I attended for National Novel Writing Month a couple of years ago. It was held in a library. At these things, silence is the rule – we all work with laptops or pen and paper.

      One woman brought her manual typewriter. She made a big show of setting it up and said that it helped her work and focus, etc. She asked the rest of us (there were about thirty of us) to tell her if it was distracting.

      It was distracting as all get-out. But in a roomful of strangers, I wasn’t going to break in and tell her to knock it off. I stayed for a short time and left. I thought she was being really, really obnoxious. I have no doubt that she thought she produced better work with her typewriter, but it was rude as heck to everyone else who was there.

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        ZOMG. You’re in a library trying to write, and yet all you hear is clacketyclacketyclackeyclack BBBBZZZZING! clacketyclacketyclacketyclack

        I don’t remember any news stories about someone going to the hospital with a typewriter in their butt, so clearly everyone practiced truly epic amounts of restraint.

        Reply
  29. Likely

    OP, could you try using a fidget cube instead? They’re smaller (and therefore less distracting), and you could be fiddling around with it with one hand under the desk/table while writing notes with the other and maintaining eye contact. Also, if someone asks what the cube is or why you have it, it’s easy to explain that you just need to do something with your hands to stay focused. If you gave this reason while you were knitting, I suspect others in your meeting would still find it hard to believe you can stay focused. To non-knitters, the idea of knitting sounds mentally engaging, so telling them it’s not a problem could sound like you’re saying something akin to texting and driving isn’t a problem. (I know that’s an extreme example, but I hope you get my point!) The fidget cube would give you somewhere to direct your energy without it being an independent activity/hobby, so it would be easier to see it as a tool rather than a distraction.

    Reply
  30. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

    I totally understand where you’re coming from as far as being able to pay attention better when doing something else…but I would view knitting as a distraction — if not for you, then certainly for those around you. Would something like a fidget cube or squeezing Silly Putty work just as well for you?

    Reply
  31. Hermione

    I’d find this really distracting at work, for what it’s worth. My mom’s a crocheter, and it doesn’t bother me at all to have her crochet during a conversation, car ride, or other activities together because I know she’s actively listening and engaging, but it would be very distracting during a professional meeting, and it would feel both out of touch and disengaged in my workplace (a university).

    Reply
  32. Aeryn Sun

    As a fellow knitter (though lately crochet has been my thing), I hear you on this – I honestly pay a lot better attention and can focus a lot more on something if I have a mindless knitting/crochet going on, and it works well for me. However, the optics aren’t GREAT and it could be distracting to others. I’d say go for it if you are on the phone / no one can see you, but if you’re in a physical conference room (and not on a phone conference) I doubt most offices would be cool with it.

    There are some jobs where this is OK – I know that when I worked at a call center in college that I knit the entire way through my shift, since there was downtime and it was one of the few recreational things I could do while working. But for the most part I’d avoid it.

    Reply
  33. Annette

    I’m a knitter. I love knitting! And I also listen better when my hands are occupied. But I think knitting in the workplace (unless obviously part of the work culture) seems very unprofessional and can be terribly distracting for other people.

    I feel like workplace meetings and personal hobbies don’t mix. People don’t expect to bring their ceramics wheel or their skeet shooting gun to clean during meetings, you know?

    In order to focus and keep my hands occupied, I take extensive notes, whether I need them or not, and I doodle a lot in the margins. I leave my knitting for my own leisure time.

    Reply
    1. Hapless Bureaucrat

      As another knitter, I agree on the optics. There’s a general societal agreement that it’s unprofessional and we’re not going to change that.
      It’s too bad, though. I focus far better when knitting than when taking notes (which is what I usually do in meetings). Doodling, pen-flipping, playing with my jewelry (which is all chosen to be discreetly fidget-friendly), none of it has the kind of constructive mathematical rhythm of knitting, which helps me structure my thoughts in a more orderly fashion. Keeping my hands busy is the least important part of it.
      But I know what the optics are, and would judge someone knitting in meetings at my work simply for not realizing or caring that they’ve violated a common workplace norm.
      That said, at times when I’m struggling to focus, even with note-taking, because we’re on a third-go round of an issue where the solution was patently obvious the first time, I have to remind myself that people want the appearance of my attention more than they actually want my attention.
      And I know: all kinds of things people do at meetings can be distracting. I get distracted by doodlers and pen-flippers and phone-checkers. Unless I’m knitting, of course. Then I’m not distracted. Sigh.

      Reply
  34. JJ

    I would 100% NOT do this. I am the same as you in the attention-regard, and in my first job out of college in a creative field where drawing is a common part of the workflow, I would draw during meetings (not doodle, full-on draw) but still participate. I assumed this would be fine, as I was actively participating and this was a regular part of all our work (not just mine).

    With my head down drawing, I missed the Looks I was apparently getting, and some time later my boss approached me like “OOOOH now I understand that you can both draw and pay attention.” I realized I had been doing damage to my professional reputation.

    I stopped drawing in meetings after that, because even though I’d gotten a pass from my boss, it seemed likely that others were still assuming I was not paying attention, didn’t want to be there, etc. Doing a non-work-related hobby (like knitting) seems VERY likely to elicit exactly what you’re afraid of, if you ask me.

    With time and practice, I was able to train myself to pay attention without drawing or surfing…maybe regularly excuse yourself for the restroom when you feel yourself drifting, if your company doesn’t build adequate breaks into these marathons?

    Reply
    1. TL -

      Yes, if I am trying to communicate something and you are not looking at me, I am going to be slightly annoyed at you! Because most people I know don’t actually listen that well if they’re not looking and, even if you can do that, if you’re not looking at me, I have no idea how you’re receiving the information because I cannot see your face.

      If you’re fidgeting, though – tapping fingers or flipping a pen or putty – while mostly looking at me, I’m assuming you’re thinking and just think better when moving (and I can see if you’re engaged or not by your face.)

      Reply
  35. Dottie

    If it’s not about knitting and just a question of keeping your hands busy a fidget cube or similar toy would likely be more office appropriate and less distracting for others. I find them very helpful.

    Reply
      1. Dottie

        Not necessarily. Most cubes have some parts that make noise and some that don’t. Other toys or jewelry (like the spinner rings another poster mentioned) are totally silent.

        Reply
      2. Mints

        The one I’ve seen in real life was way louder than I was expecting, and only had two or three silent options. But hopefully it’s a cheaper option and there are more silent ones?

        Reply
    1. Iris Eyes

      So toys are ok for grownups to play with at work, but its not ok to knit/crochet? In general meetings take place around a table and if it can hide your toy then it can hide a project in your lap.

      For a regular meeting with regular people unless someone has a severe issue with the sound (which is just as legit as the need to fidget) then I think this is one of the things that people need to just adjust their opinion on. Just like we have had to adjust our opinions on any number of things.

      Reply
      1. Becca

        I don’t think of fidget cubes and the like to be toys— although they can certainly be used that way— they’re aides. And there is definitely a difference between something that fits discreetly in your palm and something that needs a full (or even half) lap.

        I agree that an adjustment of how we view things like knitting and fidget cubes as only toys or hobbies when they can be helpful tools as well is long overdue!

        Reply
      2. Optimistic Prime

        Have you seen a fidget spinner or cube? They are very small. I can conceive of a lot – a LOT – of tables that cold conceal a fidget and not a knitting project. (In fact, I don’t think even a skilled knitter could hide even a small knitting project under any of the conference tables I’ve ever sat at. I’ve certainly never seen it done. Knitting in your lap’s really not hiding it.)

        Personally I’m not a fan of the spinners or cubes in meetings either because they make noise. Why can’t people (barring ADHD or similar issues) simply pay attention and take notes? I don’t want to be there either and I get bored, too. I’d enjoy my meetings a lot more if I could do any variety of other things during them but I don’t because it’s a work meeting, and sometimes work is not fun.

        Reply
  36. Oscar Madisoy

    Maybe you can get one of those fidget cubes and play with that during the meeting. Just keep away from the parts of it that make noise.

    Not to be confused with a fidget spinner, which seems to be all the rage with the young folk these days – but would not be appropriate in a meeting only because they require two hands (one to hold the spinner and another to actually spin it), and hence would still be distracting. A fidget cube only needs one hand, and can be played with discreetly.

    Reply
  37. Greengirl

    I had not idea so many non-knitters found knitting while socializing/gaming rude. I’m glad as a knitter to know that. I will check with people from now on.

    LW, I’m in the same boat. I have ADD and knitting helps me focus. I only ever have knitted once in a business meeting and it was in an extremely relaxed work environment where the boss was a knitter who would knit during script readings because he knew it helped him focus. So I had top cover and it was also not during a particularly serious meeting.

    I would not knit in a meeting at my new job which is much less relaxed.

    What I do instead during meetings is take a lot of notes. When someone once told me “oh you don’t need to write this down” I had to tell them “if I don’t take notes my mind wanders very easily so I prefer to write notes.”

    Reply
    1. Lily Rowan

      Yeah, that’s what I do, too.

      Early in my career, I realized people were kind of making a Thing out of my extensive elaborate doodling, so I decided to (mostly) stop that, and lots of notes were my solution.

      I don’t understand how people stay focused in meetings with their computers in front of them — and have seen that a lot of the time, they really are doing other stuff.

      Reply
      1. Archie Goodwin

        I don’t get computer-note-takers either, though I know a couple – and they do take notes, and do it well. I can do it on a phone meeting, and sometimes have to, but am still getting comfortable with it. And that’s with a desktop keyboard in front of me. Laptop, forget it – I’d rather write stuff down with pencil and paper. (But then…I’m also a bit of a Luddite for someone my age, so take that for what you will.)

        I used to make elaborate doodles in high school – no one seemed to mind, and actually a few people asked me to make them one. I’ve quit since, though, since it takes up more focus than I like. Nowadays I just doodle incessantly in the margins of my notepad. Which is what I might recommend – it’s a way of fidgeting that people are familiar with, so I doubt it would cause consternation.

        Although that might depend on the doodle. :-)

        Reply
    2. Tuxedo Cat

      In my social circle, some people have an issue with knitting while we’re socializing but have no problems with people who are on their cell phones doing who knows what.

      Reply
      1. Temperance

        That’s how it works in my circle, BUT many of my friends have the sorts of jobs where we need to remain connected, so phone use is okay.

        Reply
        1. Tuxedo Cat

          None of my friends have a job like that. I think it has to do with phone usage being “normal.”

          Reply
    3. Stellaaaaa

      It’s in the category of “things it just wouldn’t occur to me to do.” I don’t have ADHD or a tendency to fidget, so I don’t think about it in terms of helping ME manage something. I look at it like, if someone else was speaking to me or my group, I wouldn’t dream of pulling out my knitting or my Outlander coloring book. That’s not how you act when someone is talking to you.

      Reply
    4. SarahTheEntwife

      Yeah, I’m glad that I seem to have been lucky to end up with friend groups of other awkward crafty introverts. I’m generally not the only one knitting in any given situation.

      Reply
  38. Pickaduck

    Please, no. It’s distracting and really sends the wrong message. Maybe work on attention skills in some other way.

    Reply
  39. AnotherAlison

    Can the folks who said knitting during meetings was okay in their office reply what industry they work in? I am very curious what professional offices would not think this was weird and give you grief for even thinking about it.

    I kind of get higher ed being a little quirky, and definitely, the Peace Corps would not necessarily follow the same rules as mainstream corporate America, but I would love to hear about an F500 accountant who did this in meetings without so much as a side eye.

    Reply
    1. Aeryn Sun

      I know that when I worked at a call center while I was in college that knitting was A-OK (to the point where I developed an affectionate reputation among the management about it), but most of us were students so I think there was a little leeway about it all.

      Reply
    2. lb

      I’ve seen it in a large foundation, a large tech nonprofit, and a training consulting firm with attendees from many different industries.

      Reply
    3. Anon Accountant

      I was shocked to read that any other posters have knitted during meetings. At none of my jobs would this have ever been acceptable. From a small company to an office of a multinational company it never would’ve been considered acceptable and would’ve been viewed as unprofessional.

      Reply
    4. Loose Seal

      Social work. Endlessly long meetings but usually people in that line of work nowadays are ok with experiencing something outside their own personal ideals. So seeing someone do this wouldn’t cause much of an eye blink.

      I have also knit in the courtroom waiting for my cases to be called.

      Reply
      1. Sal

        Ooh, waiting in the courtroom is a wild, wild West of otherwise-unprofessional activities. Beyond leisure reading and crosswords/sudoku by a mile. The worst one I’ve seen was probably visibly using Tinder. My own contribution was writing thank-you notes for my wedding shower.

        Reply
    5. Sarah in Boston

      Large 8-9k employee consumer electronics company in the northeastern US. I’ve knitted in group meetings (but only my own group’s weekly meeting and I had been at the company 7+ years at that point) and at all hands meetings our corporate auditorium (I sit in the back rows in that case and we aren’t expected to engage except for periodic Q&A times). I’ve also knitted through online classes for my masters (at my work desk) because the note taking was minimal and it kept me from surfing the web on the other monitor. No adverse impact as far as I know but my times and locations were carefully chosen.

      Reply
    6. Talia

      Librarian. I cross-stitch, and don’t do it in meetings because I feel like that’s probably more distracting to everyone else than knitting would be, but lots of people knit. (And honestly I wish I knew how to knit because I would like *something* to do with my hands in these meetings!)

      Reply
  40. irritable vowel

    I am a librarian, and for whatever reason, there seems to be a high correlation between the profession and knitting. At conferences there are always people in the audience knitting, and it makes me crazy. I do think it’s unprofessional, and if as a profession we’re normalizing it, that isn’t going to serve us well when we mix with other people in business settings for whom it’s not a professional norm. There’s a woman at work who sometimes brings her knitting to meetings and I find it difficult to believe she’s really paying attention–I know enough about knitting to know that unless you’re just making a plain scarf or something, you have to follow a pattern and that requires focus. (It doesn’t help that she’s also the person in our library who is consistently 10-15 minutes late to every meeting.)

    Reply
    1. Aeryn Sun

      Fwiw if you’re following a pattern it very well could be internalized. Once I get into the swing of a pattern I’m knitting/crocheting it’s very likely I could work through the pattern without really paying attention to it. Of course this is different for every knitter, but I can look up, have a conversation, watch TV, pay attention and work on something with a more complicated pattern. I mean, of course if you’re working on something that requires a lot of colorwork that might be harder or if it requires counting stitches it does, but I have plenty of more complicated projects (or at least projects that LOOK complicated) that don’t require much conscious thought once I’m going on it.

      Reply
    2. Rosamond

      I’m a librarian, and a knitter, and I wouldn’t knit in a meeting or especially at a conference. I don’t want the baggage. There are so many library conference knitters that they’re kind of a punch line (which is not very nice of the non-knitters, but there you have it). It’s also not something you usually see more senior people doing, probably because they mix with other professional settings more, and know it’s out of whack, as irritable vowel points out.

      Reply
  41. Fictional Butt

    I get that you want to knit to help you focus, but I think it would have a really really negative effect on everyone else’s focus. I would definitely find it super distracting. Is there anything else you could do that would cause less noise and motion? Maybe doodling, playing with a rubber band, or taking notes?

    Reply
    1. Fictional Butt

      Forgot to add–you said you get distracted by your laptop. Can you ditch the laptop and take notes by hand?

      Reply
      1. JaneB

        aargh, people playing with rubber bands! Totally distracting for me… just waiting on edge for the ping when it goes wrong…

        Reply
  42. Critter

    I’m sure you can ask – but I’m guessing it would be perceived poorly. I say this as a Fidgety McFidgeterson who also knits and crochets. Have you tried any other fidget tools?

    Finally my handle is relevant to a letter!! *Louise cackle*

    Reply
  43. N

    I might also say that this could be a regional thing–I’m on the West Coast and there’s definitely a movement afoot in government/nonprofit meetings to have all kinds of things to fidget with during meetings. The things is, for people who are attention deficit, having something to do with your hands really DOES help with focus. At my office we regularly provide play dough, fidget cubes, and pipe cleaners for long meetings and trainings.

    I also wonder if this is generational. I have worked in offices with mostly young people (under 35) and knitting/crocheting at work wasn’t really seen as an issue, but I can imagine that many older women would drop dead before they’d be seen KNITTING in a business meeting.

    Reply
    1. Student

      Maybe you should try making people focus on the meetings, while also making the meetings both shorter and include a smaller, more highly impacted group of people. There is lots of advice out there on how to conduct an effective meeting, including first and foremost having an agenda.

      If anyone ever did this to me, putting out play-dough and pipe cleaners during a meeting, I would leave the meeting as a childish waste of my time put on by people who have no idea what a meeting should accomplish, polish my resume, and look for another job. I am literally disgusted that any company would do this, let alone that you say it’s common in your area/field.

      Reply
      1. N

        Hi Student. I see your point. It’s not common in EVERY meeting–just longer trainings (a large part of what we do involves professional training with discussion, so having something to fidget with isn’t a huge distraction). There’s a lot of research backing up the idea that people do in fact focus better when they have something to do with their hands, and so I’ve been in several meetings/trainings where experts in psychology and pedagogy make these things available. This is what I mean about it being a regional difference, though–I think this idea is becoming more popular where I am (Western Oregon) but could be seen as “disgusting” elsewhere.

        Reply
        1. Anancy

          My previous job was at a non-profit in central Oregon, and we often went to trainings in the bigger cities, and I loved the things to fidget with in trainings and meetings. It also worked very well for clients to have and fiddle with while we were talking. I’m glad to hear it is still happening on the west coast. I think it is much more natural for the human body to be in motion than still.

          Reply
  44. commensally

    I have found this to be very, very gendered. Like, the last long meeting I was at for my church, a synod conference, which was about 85% women, they actually gave us yarn and needles at the beginning and then collected the hats and scarves for charity afterward. And I sewed all through college, because I figured I was paying to be there to learn, not impress people. But in “professional” & not heavily female environments, I would only do it if I was very sure already that the culture was okay with it.

    I suggest you take up pencil drawing, particularly sketching from life. For some reason people seem to assume that if I do detailed realistic sketches of people in the meeting (especially the speakers), I am clearly both paying very close attention and also magic? I have no idea why that is less distracting and more respectful than any other fidget option, but people are weird.

    Reply
    1. Holly

      It might be because drawing sketches of the people in the room means you are looking at them. Knitting has the disadvantage that you have to look at your hands, so you kind of close yourself off from the group. If you’re sketching people in the room, you are necessarily paying attention to how they are reacting to the meeting itself.

      Reply
      1. Aeryn Sun

        I mean, you don’t always have to look at your hands but people still assume it takes a lot more concentration that it does.

        Reply
      2. commensally

        Yeah, I think the non-knitters are way overestimating how much concentration a good knitter has to put on their knitting – obvious some projects are going to be complicated, but if you’re a meeting-knitter you will have a project that you can do on autopilot, and I have to look down way more often when drawing that when knitting a simple pattern. I’m also paying a lot more attention to the meeting when knitting; when I’m sketching and looking at you I am 100% trying to mind-control you to not move, and ignoring whatever you are actually saying. And yet I draw rather than knit because of the optics. It really is 100% about other peoples’ perception – anyone who knits in meetings know exactly how it effects their attention.

        (And for the record I can’t be in a meeting with someone else who has an active fidget toy; my attention is drawn entirely to the movement of the toy. I can completely ignore other people doing yarn or sewing projects, though…)

        Reply
    2. Mirax

      Oh man, I’d be so uncomfortable if I happened to glance over during a meeting and see that someone was drawing a picture of me!

      Reply
      1. commensally

        See, I assumed that would be the case and would try to hide it at first! But most people seem to think it’s just super cool? And they seem to think it’s less of a distraction than just doodling sierpinski triangles all over a paper? IDEK.

        (I don’t do it in meetings that are highly interactive but if I have to just sit and listen to someone, I either need to be doing something that takes more attention than fidgets or I will fall asleep, and if you think people find knitting disrespectful try nodding off. So I have tried many different things.)

        Reply
            1. commensally

              I doubt it! I’ve done it in various contexts and in national gatherings. I think it’s a personality thing, and to do with how much people are exposed to art and their social histories – people seem to think it’s an honor that I thought they were worthy of a sketch and that I’m definitely paying attention to them. Which is maybe why it doesn’t read to them as disrespectful? (And it’s not them being polite, I’ve had people, like, come up after the meeting and sincerely want to post them on their cubicle walls? Which is weird and distracting in its own way. But hey, if they’d let me knit…)

              Idk. Like you said, I would be made uncomfortable by someone doing me; I only started out of desperation. I try to do either a speaker or a large group shot with multiple people (and yeah I don’t do it in small interactive meetings, only “fill a large room” ones.) But it’s had a way higher ratio of pos to neg reactions than any other attention-focuser I’ve tried.

              Reply
    3. Erin

      As someone who has taken beginning intermediate and advanced figure drawing, IMHO, It’s really rude to draw people without their knowledge. It’s like taking their photo. It also can be very creepy to be the subject and have that intense gaze on you. Also it takes a lot of concentration to do a portrait. Draw basic shapes, flowers, if you have to doodle. I’m a doodler and I draw little houses.

      Reply
  45. Tara

    If you find that knitting doesn’t seem to be a good option for your office, you should try to pick up something smaller and less noticeable. Fidget toys are probably a very popular recommendation, but I prefer something different.

    Puzzle rings. They are gorgeous, you can pick some up for decently cheap (saw a $16 one that I don’t really think looked pretty on Etsy, but puzzlering.com has a really nice sterling silver one for $25, which I’ve bought and loved) and you can literally take them *anywhere* and they don’t have the same unprofessional vibe that fidget toys might(even though they shouldn’t!) It takes a bit of practice to learn how to put them together, but once you do, they’re just awesome things to fiddle with. They’re tiny, practically unnoticeable, quiet (as some people were speculating about knitting noise) and are more engaging than a lot of fidget toys the way I imagine knitting would be. Only downside is you don’t really accomplish something the way you would with knitting.

    Reply
  46. Holly

    I wouldn’t do it for live conferences. I myself fold origami during teleconferences because 1) no one can see me 2) teleconferences are incredibly hard to focus on if you’re not talking a lot because there’s nothing to look at 3) I keep all the stuff at my desk. So, knitting for teleconference is probably fine, at least while you aren’t talking and can hit the “mute” button. But in-person , there’s a lot of problems with it. First, knitting is noisy. It’s really distracting to be in a meeting with someone clicking away in the corner. Second, and it saddens me a bit to say this, but it’s going to be seen as “grandmotherly” and not professional. Third, knitting isn’t like bringing along silly putty or idly doodling in the corner of the notepad you brought for notes. It’s a whole basket of stuff you have to bring with you that takes *both* hands. You have to put the whole mess down to do anything else. Finally, knitting isn’t idle. I’ve had people knitting at D&D games, and because it’s a social fun thing, I don’t say anything. Cause hey, if you want to spend your leisure time also knitting, fine. However, those who knit are never paying as well as attention because knitting requires you to count, you have to look at your hands frequently, and pay attention to how many rows you’ve done etc. You just cannot pay attention to that and pay as good attention to what’s going on in the meeting.
    Other crafts I wouldn’t do in a meeting 1) Chain mail 2) Crocheting 3) Making silk flowers 4) Beadwork 5) Whittling 6) Juggling.
    Things you can do 1) Squeeze a stress ball 2) Play with silly putty 3) Fidget with a paperclip 4) Doodle (NOT serious drawings) 5) Take Notes. The last one I think is the best. You don’t have to actually be planning on using the notes. You can throw them away when you get to your office. Which means they don’t have to be good or even useful. Just something to keep your hands busy and feel like you’re “doing” something.

    Reply
    1. a Gen X manager

      I was thinking the same thing about doodling. I understand that it is distracting for others, but that is such a bummer – I love doodling and sometimes interesting things can come out of the combination of the mindless doodle and the meeting topic! I force myself to never doodle *sigh*.

      Reply
      1. Liet-Kynes

        I cannot understand how an activity like doodling isn’t a total distraction from what you’re doing. I guess I can take on face value that it isn’t, but it’s a creative activity that engages your hands and your eyes. No clue how that doesn’t take a good half of your cognitive space.

        Reply
        1. One of the Sarahs

          If it’s eg doodling grids of lines, or the same repetitive pattern, it’s not a distraction. Drawing might be, but I tend to be a cross-hatcher, so it’s just the movement, not a picture.

          Reply
          1. Liet-Kynes

            That makes total sense, actually. I’m envisioning friends of mine in high school and college who’d be halfway through a detailed drawing of a anime-vixen uppercutting a tentacle monster by lunch – like, representative drawings of things. But crosshatching and simple patterns would be totally different, sure.

            Reply
            1. The OG Anonsie

              When I doodled a lot during lectures, I did do a lot of figure drawing. I took a lot of classes on that when I was younger so a lot of it is way more formulaic than you realize– assembling shapes and angles sort of from memory.

              This is the thing for ALL fidgety activities: The people who can do them as a way to just fidget are good at them. That’s why it’s just a fidget and not a full brain activity.

              Other folks here are saying they look at someone knitting or doodling or whatever and assume that, because they would have to concentrate a lot on it, that person is also doing so and is not paying attention. They’re not accounting for the fact that those activities get a lot easier (and are therefore not requiring that level of attention) when people are good a them.

              Reply
              1. Holly

                My experience is that knitters *think* they are paying attention just as much, but they aren’t. Even good knitters. I’ve had knitters in leisure groups, and they are always asking questions like “Wait, is it my turn?” “Sorry, I just need to count this row.” “What did we decide to do?” If you were to ask them if they were paying attention they would say “Yes, of course, this doesn’t take any thought.”

                I say this also as someone who crochets. It doesn’t take much concentration, but it doesn’t take none.

                Reply
                1. Addie Bundren

                  This is so, so true, and often true in general of people who think they are very good at multitasking.

            2. One of the Sarahs

              It’s so interesting how the same word means different things – because to me, that’s “drawing” not doodling :-) But I guess it’s about optics too, isn’t it? Because me making little lines while looking at the speaker, taking notes and circling specific words, or drawing a diagram of how this bit could work, etc would probably go un-noticed, but I can absolutely see how focusing on getting the curve of the tentacle just right (and I love your example!) would be super-distracting for the person sitting next to them, and definitely give an impression they’re not listening.

              Reply
        2. a Gen X manager

          it engages the other half of the brain! :) it literally enhances my engagement, rather than be a distraction, but because it is for others…

          Reply
        3. SarahTheEntwife

          I don’t know if this will make any sense, but for me I really don’t need my entire attention for most normal work meetings. But if a routine meeting needs, say, 40% of my brain to participate and understand the information, it really helps to give the other 60% a predictable job or it will go off and find something more interesting to do and take the work-40% with it. It’s like having a poorly-trained dog at the meeting — would you rather I give it a chew toy, or spend half my time going “no! come back with that clipboard!” and trying to figure out where we were in the minutes?

          Reply
        4. Anonorama

          The thing is, sitting still and listening without doing something with my hands takes literally all of my cognitive space. Doodling is what lets me listen. Doodling isn’t really creative to me though. Its motion.

          Reply
        5. aebhel

          I doodle on autopilot, for what it’s worth; if I have a pen and paper and I’m not actively taking notes, I will doodle without even noticing I’m doing it. I’m not putting any thought or creative effort into it, for sure.

          Reply
        6. TootsNYC

          actually, taking up some of my cognitive space is usually the thing that helps me focus. I have an excess of cognitive space. Or, I have a toddler in my brain that runs around and pokes the grown-up, going, “Hey, look at this!” If the toddler can draw rhythmic triangles down the side of the page, or color in all the O’s and A’s, then she won’t be poking the grown-up.

          Reply
    2. Night Cheese

      Again, it very much depends on what you’re knitting. I’m currently working on a hat on circular needles that is just “knit until you hit the marker, then purl until you hit the marker, repeat until the thing is X long. No counting necessary. If I know I’m getting close to the point where I have to measure and start decreasing, that project cycles out of the “mindless” knitting projects. I generally have (at least) two projects on the needles at any given time, one of which is mindless knitting.

      Reply
  47. Ellen N.

    If you decide to keep your hands busy during meetings, I would recommend crochet or needlepoint over knitting. Knitting needles clack against each other which would be distracting and irritating to others.

    Reply
    1. N

      Knitter here–it depends on the needles and some click more than others. But if OP is going down this road, it wouldn’t hurt to leave the aluminum needles at home.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        I think this might be one of those things where *some* knitters can tune out the sounds, so they assume they’re not making any noise – like the hummers, tappers, people with headphones on etc etc – and they’ll swear up and down no one can hear anything – BUT it is always worth double-checking, and believing the people who say the noise is irritating.

        (#NotAllKnitters, I know, but it’s interesting that lots of people are saying “the noise really bothers me” and some knitters are saying “but you can knit silently, as clearly lots of people can’t!)

        Reply
        1. The OG Anonsie

          The thing is that your needles really shouldn’t make noise in most cases, not that the noise is soft and unnoticeable. And, at risk of insulting a few people, it’s a skill level thing most of the time. Most folks who knit who make noise with it aren’t good enough at knitting to be able to muscle memory it and still pay attention to what’s going on around them. I know a few great knitters who do click their needles, but they are far and away a minority in my experience.

          This is, like I’ve noted in a couple other places, I think a complaint due largely to the fact that most people don’t know anyone who is the kind of knitter that can sit there and do it while focusing on something else. Most people have probably only ever seen relative newbies intently working on something and, I suppose, clicking needles. Because of that have a very different idea of what knitting as a fidget activity would look like than what it looks like in reality.

          Reply
          1. One of the Sarahs

            I completely agree that it’s the newbie knitters that we notice more – BUT I don’t think every knitter automatically gets to the invisible/silent stage. So I do think it’s worth checking in with colleagues how they perceive you.

            (I often started meetings with individuals/small groups I don’t know well, by saying “I take a lot of notes, that’s just my meeting style, I hope that’s OK”, especially when I was in positions where I had power, eg grant giver, just to make sure it didn’t look like I was examining them”)

            Reply
  48. Rachel Green

    Is knitting something that can be done without looking at your hands? Like typing? I don’t’ understand how someone could be an “active participant” while knitting. I can see being able to listen and keep up with the general goings on of the meeting. But, what about taking notes or making eye contact with others in the meeting. I guess it depends on whether these are actual conversational meetings or presentation meetings. I personally would see this as just as disrespectful as someone playing a game on their phone during a meeting.

    Reply
    1. Holly

      It depends on what you’re knitting and your skill. Something very very simple with no real pattern, you don’t have to look at it much IF you are skilled. But you still have to count each row and look at when you change hands.Anything else, will require more looking. A not skilled person will need to look at their hands the whole time. A skilled person will need to look if doing a non-simple pattern.

      Reply
    2. Aeryn Sun

      Depending on what you’re knitting yeah, it can be done without looking at your hands. I mean, it depends on how used to it you are, but I’ve held full conversations with eye contact while knitting.

      Reply
    3. BananaPants

      If the knitter is skilled and it’s a simple pattern without a lot of counting, one can knit by feel. I’ve been knitting since I was a child and some things would be very doable. Like, a pair of plain stockinette or ribbed socks would be good meeting knitting for a skilled knitter. A complex lace shawl or something with intricate colorwork? Not so much.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        I am another one who has knit since childhood and, as long as there is nothing ditzy in the pattern, I can do it without thought. In fact, I do it while watching tv to keep myself from snacking. I can do socks until I turn the heel or a simple 10 stitch blanket until I get to the end of the ball of wool. Ideas taught by my grandmother who had gotten to a point of doing a pair of lined mitts in one evening in front of the tv.

        Reply
    4. Blue Anne

      For me, it is exactly like typing. I’ve been doing both for about the same amount of time, they’re both tasks that look hard to someone who hasn’t done them very much, and I can do them accurately without looking and while talking to someone else. Complete muscle memory.

      Reply
    5. nonegiven

      Some people really can’t pay attention to what you say while looking at you. Watching you talk is just too distracting.

      Reply
      1. teclatrans

        Oh, dear god, yes. In my early adulthood I struggled in meetings because I was trying so hard to look at the speaker. I would notice their mouths going up and down, get lost in their teeth alignment, stare at their shirt buttons, etc. One of the major benefits of doodling is that I can give my overactive visual sense something soothing and nonsensical to focus on, allowing my auditory sense to finally focus on the speaker.

        Reply
    6. MadStuart

      Yes, absolutely. A plain stockinette or garter project does not require me to look at my hands at all, generally stays on the needles well enough that I can easily set it aside and take notes, and results in me actually being engaged with what’s going on around me. The knitting gets put down if I need to contribute more, but if I’m just listening to a lecture or the contributions of others in a meeting, the knitting makes sure I’m actually looking at them and focusing on what they’re saying and will take regular notes (as opposed to trying to take computer notes and getting distracted by the internet, checking my phone and getting distracted by the internet, trying to take notes by hand without knitting handy and getting distracted by doodling, so on, so forth).

      Reply
  49. K.

    My former roommate knits (I once complimented her on a sweater she was wearing; turns out she’d made it) but she didn’t do it when she was engaging with people. She did it on the subway or when sitting on the couch watching TV or if she got somewhere early – she didn’t do it when you were trying to talk to her. I don’t knit, but knitting is one of those activities where it looks like you need to devote your energy to it, even if, as you say, you don’t have to pay attention when you do it. It’s also an activity that is solely associated with leisure time, so doing it while working looks bad. I would find it very rude if I were presenting in a meeting and someone was sitting there knitting – I would assume she wasn’t paying attention, and the motion and click of the needles would distract me.

    Reply
  50. girl defective

    I led a software conversion that required a lot of long meetings involving discussions and decisions about business practices, etc. My boss brought needlepoint and worked on it during these meetings. As the meeting leader I found it incredibly distracting and disrespectful of the time I, my consultants, and my colleagues were putting into the process. And I say this as someone who usually needs to doodle to stay focused (and was criticized for this by the same person in the past). The difference, in my opinion, is that doodling and note-taking look (and sound) pretty similar from the front of a room.

    I get the need to keep your hands busy to stay focused. I do. But I urge you to reconsider the knitting idea. (And I was in higher ed, if it matters.)

    Reply
  51. Betty Cooper

    If you feel comfortable enough with your coworkers, you can try floating the idea casually and see how they react. Try saying over lunch or coffee, “I wish I could knit during long meetings. It would really help me focus if I had something to do with my hands.” Then see whether they think it’s a good idea or a funny joke, and let that be your guide.

    I usually need something to do with my hands as well, but if I’m in a situation where knitting wouldn’t be appropriate, I tend to doodle. I’ve left many a long meeting with an agenda covered in tiny squares or flowers. It’s a form of fidgeting that still seems to be pretty well accepted.

    Reply
  52. Undine

    I actually worked at a company that had a rule against knitting in meetings. It can be distracting, and it’s both productive and non-work related, which makes it come off odd. The default perception becomes that you would rather not be at work, you’re doing your hobby. If we all started doing a highly visible, slightly disruptive activity that heops us focus, it could get confusing.

    For me this falls under “workplace theater”. Sometimes being perceived to be working/productive/engaged is more important than being working/productive/engaged. (This is not all negative. Work is a communal endeavor shored up by various rituals.)

    Reply
    1. Gelliebean

      I think “workplace theater” is a really great phrase for a reminder that no matter how it is for me, who needs something to keep my hands busy at pretty much all times or I get anxious and lose focus, other people don’t realize that’s the case. It’s counter-intuitive for me to think that I shouldn’t do something like crochet or doodle (I wouldn’t cross-stitch, as that requires my direct attention and would distract me from the discussion), but it’s easily counter-intuitive for someone else to think that I *should*.

      Reply
  53. neverjaunty

    It’s something to do with your hands,, LW, but it’s also something that’s taking up part of your concentration and attention, and that’s going to be obvious to others.

    Reply
  54. Justme

    I’m a knitter and I still wouldn’t think it’s okay to during work meetings. Class or church, sure. Definitely on lunch. But not during a meeting.

    Reply
    1. BananaPants

      I knit during the sermon at church, but our pastor is totally fine with it. I also knit during grad school lectures and never had a professor object.

      I wouldn’t knit during a work meeting because in the workplace there are very gendered views about being seen doing a stereotypically-feminine craft, especially in the male-dominated environment where I work. It’s already sometimes a battle to get managers to see me as an equal to my male peers, I’m not doing ANYTHING that might call my professionalism into question.

      I do knit during my lunch break if I don’t go for a walk. When I was a nursing mom and pumping milk, I often knit during pumping breaks. And during evening teleconferences from home, where my only contribution is to say hello, announce my presence, and then say goodbye at the end, I put my phone on mute and knit merrily away. But I won’t be seen knitting at the office when I’m supposed to be participating in a meeting.

      Reply
      1. E

        This was my thought, I’d happily knit on a conference call especially when my contribution is minimal other than listening. But in a room with other coworkers, no, because I don’t want to distract them even if I’m able to knit and take notes/listen well.

        Reply
      2. Chinook

        I laugh at the number of people who knit at church. I can understand the urge because I find it hard to concentrate while sitting still. It is literally the reason I became an altar server – so I could move during mass. Ironically, I now spend half the service reminding the kids I work with to sit still and stole playing with the rope belts.

        Reply
  55. LizB

    As a super fidgety person and also a youth worker/part-time educator, I am something of a connoisseur of fidgeting tools, so if knitting doesn’t work out there are lots of options out there! In addition to thinking putty and fidget cubes, which have been mentioned above, I have:
    – a really basic beads-and-elastic fidget that I can either roll between my fingers or stretch with two hands
    – a small stress ball
    – a bike-chain-and-key-ring fidgets (search for the “flip-it” brand and you’ll see what it looks like)
    – innumerable little strips of paper that I can subtly roll up and unroll with one hand (this is what I did for the first ~24 years of my life before fidgets became A Thing)
    – I do a lot of fiddling with the rings I wear every day, and you can actually buy rings that have a part that spins for you to mess with

    The key for me is that a fidget item should be small enough to hide in your hand and absolutely silent. Fidget spinners are neither of those things, although they are kind of fun. Same with slinkies. I use those when the noise and visual factors don’t matter – during a webinar when my mic is muted, for example. That would be a good time for knitting, too.

    Reply
    1. Tara

      I want to add to the ring thing you mentioned, for both you and the LW, that puzzle rings are AMAZING.

      Its a beautiful ring that when you take it off, it can fall apart into four bands that are interconnected and then you position them and twist them in the right way and they’ll fit together into the original ring shape. Once you learn how to put them together properly (there are many videos online for all the different types) they’re really easy to do, even without looking at them.

      I had mine since I was in elementary school, and even though I went to school in an area and time when fidgeting was not a Thing you were allowed to do, no teacher ever noticed this ring or tried to take it away or even say anything. Its also a bit more engaging than most fidget cubes, where you just have a switch to flip back and forth or a button to press over and over, which someone switching from knitting will probably like.

      Reply
  56. Amy

    This makes me think of a story my grandma used to tell about her college days. Apparently it was really common to knit through boring lectures. She said professors hated it because even if the knitters were paying attention, it was distracting to other students–someone would inevitably drop a needle and it would clatter (and maybe even fall far enough that there would be a commotion to get it back), or someone would go digging in their bag to switch colors, or students would just get distracted watching. And of course they had trouble telling if the knitters were actually paying attention or not.

    I think in the vast majority of work situations, knitting is going to be inappropriate for the same reasons it drove my grandma’s professors nuts.

    Reply
    1. irritable vowel

      I think there may also be a really interesting historical aspect to what your grandma reported, which is that when women first started going to college in large numbers, there was a lot of negative opinion that they were just there to find husbands. I bet some of those professors thought that the knitting students shouldn’t be there if they were more interested in knitting baby booties or whatever than in their studies.

      Reply
      1. Amy

        There might have been some of that. She was also at a women’s college (Smith), which adds an additional layer on top of general attitudes at the time. (It still does–I also went to a women’s college, and people still get weird about it when they find out.) The reasoning she told me in her stories was the distraction reason, though–I thought it was funny how much of a stir it apparently could cause!

        Reply
        1. knitting fiend

          My mother, who was the one who taught me to knit and who knitted her way through a quite successful academic career, maintained that learning to knit was the most important thing she learned while in graduate school at Harvard ;-)

          Reply
          1. Amy

            I’m so glad to hear more stories of people knitting through classes! It makes me think of my grandma, so I’m smiling about it.

            I should say, my grandma never stopped doing it just because her professors didn’t like it. ;)

            Reply
            1. Anonymous for this

              That’s a nice memory, but I’m afraid it also illustrates exactly why OP shouldn’t be knitting in a professional setting. She’ll conjure up the images of someone’s grandma, not of a professional woman.

              Reply
              1. Amy

                Yes, what students can get away with in class is very different than what professionals should do in the workplace. I wasn’t saying they’re the same.

                Reply
    2. BananaPants

      In more recent years, I knit my way through many grad school lectures – in engineering, no less – and several professors took quite a bit of interest in my projects throughout the semester.

      My grades spoke for themselves when it came to my ability to focus on the lecture while knitting quietly in my lap (with bamboo needles – no metallic clicking).

      Reply
      1. Liet-Kynes

        My guess that more than a few of those inquiries carried the message of “The knitting is not as subtle as you think it is and I’m noticing you doing it, so please knock it off without me having to confront you about it.”

        Reply
  57. ReadItWithSpanishAccent

    There is also a strong component of culture here. I, for example, was astonished by this letter. I expect to be looked at the eyes while talking in a meeting. In my country, knitting in a meeting will result in the cancellation of it, a series of “oh my God!” yelled by different people and a walk to Boss/HR office.
    It is just unthinkable.

    But this is very murky terrain, and the risk of appearing like not only not paying attention, but not giving a single F is too great. I completely understand LW (and I knit too), but the risk is too high.

    Reply
    1. nonegiven

      If I’m looking you in the eyes while you are talking, I’m definitely not absorbing what you are saying, I may not even hear it.

      Reply
    2. Mb13

      I think that there’s almost no way to read someone taking out their knitting bag in the middle of a meeting as nothing else but “oh go on with your meeting, I couldn’t care less what you have to say”. And I am someone who learns best from just listening with my eyes closed.

      Reply
  58. AnonAcademic

    The key things that make me lean “no” on knitting in meetings are:

    1. It has the potential to be distracting to others, and your ability to focus should not come at the expense of other people’s.

    2. It has gendered connotations that may impact how competent or authoritative your coworkers find you (however unfair that may be).

    3. It is a leisure/personal activity you are doing in a work setting, unlike using a fidget cube or writing lists.

    However, as someone who’s gotten away with a good dose of eccentricity as an academic – my advice is that if you do decide that knitting is mostly ok and you want to do it, then keep your visible weirdness limited to that. I wouldn’t also recommend dying your hair pink and wearing a hat with cat ears or a tasteful BDSM locket (or whatever – unless maybe you work at Etsy).

    Reply
  59. Jubilance

    I need one of these jobs where it’s ok to knit in meetings – it would be frowned upon in my company. The best I can do is knitting during lunch.

    Reply
  60. Madeleine Matilda

    OP – I know many knitters who have explained how knitting helps them focus, but as many others have described, having a knitter in a meeting can be distracting to those not knitting. On the other hand if you are the meeting organizer, you might try having some items to keep people’s hands occupied such as play doh, stress balls, or koosh balls. I attended a training once where the organizer had items such as these and explained that people were invited to use them to help keep them focused on the discussion and it really worked.

    Reply
  61. S

    I also knit on conference calls! Otherwise, I’ll look for something for my eyes to do, and that usually leads to reading emails, and before you know it I’ve lost the thread of the conversation (info coming in through my eyes always out-weighs info coming in through my ears – I guess I’m a visual person.) I would never knit at work, but I do knit at PTA meetings…

    Reply
  62. a Gen X manager

    I am SO with you, OP! I’m a knitter and I totally understand how it is soothing and how a distraction for the fingers can actually improve focus; however, I disagree with Alison a bit here – I think the professional and interpersonal price for this “luxury” is just too steep to make it worth it in any professional environment.

    I used to knit while working at call center and even in that extremely casual environment (lots of people wore PJs!) they felt that the knitting just had to be a distraction (even though call quality was monitored CONSTANTLY and I had good QA feedback all the time).

    Reply
  63. Annie

    I’ve found that taking notes during the meeting with a pen and paper really helps me focus. Plus it looks more professional than knitting during the meeting.

    Reply
    1. One of the Sarahs

      Yes, me too. It wasn’t until I went to art school and did some classes on learning styles etc that I realised my need to do something with my hands to focus wasn’t this huge negative thing, because I legit focus more when my body is moving. I got round it by taking notes – which also was useful for keeping records of the meetings anyway.

      Reply
  64. LSP

    As a knitter and all-around craftsy person, I always think about how much I’d love to bring a project with me to work, to do when I’m on long conference calls, etc. But not only do I really need to be taking notes most of the time, and thus need my hands needle-free, the optics are just not great.

    My mother is a habitual knitter, bringing her bag of yarn and needles almost wherever she goes. Of course, she was a midwife up until her recent retirement. Needles would certainly get in the way of her being able to do her job safely, so she didn’t even have the option to bring them to work.

    Reply
  65. Employment Lawyer

    I don’t think you can do it.

    Simply put: it is so aligned with your own self-interest that people are rightfully suspicious of this type of claim. So a lot of people won’t believe you at all w/r/t your claimed improvement, and they will assume you’re just trying to game the system and knit. Even if you perform adequately, they will always assume you would have performed better without knitting. (And they may be right, unless you’ve really tested it!)

    Moreover, even if they believe you that knitting will provide an overall improvement, there is no outside way for anyone else to distinguish between the 95% of the time that the knitting is actually improving your mental concentration, and the 5% of the time it’s temporarily interfering (when you realize you dropped a stitch, etc.) So everyone will constantly take any imperfection on your part to mean that you’re blowing them off (or are mentally tuned out,) which will not help your work reputation.

    Reply
  66. Lolli

    This reminds me of one of my favorite memories of my Mom. She crocheted for the same reason as the OP. My Mom was PR director for a government agency in the 1970’s. Sometimes she would come home after news conferences and change the channel on the TV to the 3 different stations to see what kind of coverage they got. Occasionally, a cameraman would pan the audience and it would show my Mom in the front row crocheting. I always found it amusing because she probably looked like she was the wife of someone important and she had to be there. They wouldn’t know she had arranged the press conference, coordinated the media, written the agenda, as well as most of the speeches. I fidget too but never took up crocheting or knitting. I have been known to draw some elaborate doodles.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous for this

      Again, a very nice memory, but OP needs to ask herself whether she wants to convey the image of “important person” or “spouse of important person.” Big difference.

      Reply
      1. Lolli

        I am with you completely. As a woman, I have worked hard to make sure I look professional. I used to doodle. Now I have a laptop and take notes for myself. It keeps me from losing focus. I just wanted to share my amusing story. She was able to get away with it. She stood out because she was a tall redheaded woman in a man’s field and people who counted, knew she was a professional in every way. I would not suggest knitting in a meeting or at any event these days. She was already breaking ground for us. We need to keep that going.

        Reply
    2. Jessica

      Exactly. She didn’t look like the competent professional who directed an agency, she looked like the daffy spouse of the person who *was* the competent professional.

      That’s, like, not a plus.

      Reply
  67. knitting fiend

    I knit during many meetings. Bamboo needles most of the time to reduce noise (quieter by far than the people around me taking notes on laptops) and usually a pattern that’s simple enough that I don’t have to look at what I’m doing. I’ve been knitting for 45-ish years, so it’s totally muscle memory at this point ~ as automatic as walking or using a fork.

    I’m definitely more engaged/less distracted in the meeting when knitting ~ to the point that one current colleague who has admitted he was skeptical at first has noticed and commented.

    I also knit in the car, on planes, and whenever else I’m sitting. But then I’m the sort who heads to Maryland Sheep and Wool and several other major knitting events most years, and a recent major birthday present to myself was a trip to Fair Isle.

    My mother, a college professor/administrator (and frequent acting dean), also knit throughout her career and hundreds of meetings, so it seems perfectly normal to me.

    Reply
      1. knitting fiend

        Given that MDS&W draws upwards of 50,000 people every year, I’d be surprised if I knew her…

        But, yeah, that number is right ;-)

        Reply
  68. Tuxedo Cat

    I’m a knitter and I’m in academia. Although I don’t knit except during my free time, it really depends on the particular institution from my experiences and the people present. I’ve had friends who have been reprimanded for knitting in class, and I know folks who find one knitter very distracting during meetings. She’s quiet but they get distracted by her hands.

    I think there’s also an illusion thing. No one minds people who have paper and pens or computers in front of them, even though a lot of times they’re not taking notes related to the meeting. However, I think they’re given the benefit of the doubt because it is possible. Our jobs don’t involve knitting or anything close to it so they don’t extend the same belief to a knitter.

    I would look into a silent fidget cube myself.

    Reply
  69. Anon Government Lawyer

    I would be highly offended if someone knitted through a meeting with me. It reads like you aren’t paying attention at all (even if you can listen without eye contact, looking away constantly to do something totally unrelated to the task at hand would be super, super frustrating to me). Also, it is an active distraction to everyone else. I have never seen someone knit and been able to not stare the entire time, so by doing this, you would give off the impression (even if it isn’t true!) that you aren’t paying attention, and even if you don’t realize it, you are also making it harder for everyone else to pay attention. If I had equal or greater seniority, I would 100% call off a meeting and say “Hey, it looks like you are busy. I have some other things to attend to but we can meet when you have some time to really put our heads together.” I say this not to pile on the OP, but if I weren’t in a senior position, I would sit there being offended and distracted and feeling like I wasn’t supposed to say anything, and it would make me resentful. If you can’t play videogames or solitaire while doing something and not come off as rude, you probably can’t knit and do it either (in my opinion as a non-knitting person).

    Reply
    1. The OG Anonsie

      I have never seen someone knit and been able to not stare the entire time

      I don’t think you should knit during meetings, but I gotta say most knitters of the type who do it to occupy hands while doing other things don’t look at their knitting almost at all. I’m getting the impression from a lot of commenters that their picture of what someone knitting around them looks like is pretty off, and I wonder if that’s why so many people are so extra put off by the idea. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but it’s not offensive either.

      But I don’t think the amount at which someone is looking at their knitting is the deciding factor as to whether or not this is a good idea, it’s that it’s a too big of a task to have out to occupy your hands.

      Reply
      1. Blue Anne

        I think what Anon Government Lawyer was saying was that they always have trouble not staring at someone who is knitting.

        I agree with you, though. Lots of people here seem to think it takes a ton more attention than it does. The reason it’s helpful is that it doesn’t take much attention at all.

        Reply
        1. Anon Government Lawyer

          Yeah, I meant that I cannot stop staring at them while they knit. I am sure I have to stare much harder than the knitter do while they knit! I am easily distracted and it’s mesmerizing.

          Reply
  70. Dr. Ruthless

    I’m a knitter. I knit during my college classes (not so much during grad school, but yes during lectures). I knit at work during conference calls (even if there are other people in my office with me).

    I wouldn’t knit at a small meeting with outsiders–the optics aren’t great. I have 0 problems knitting at lecture-y events or meetings. A few months ago, I was at an ABA meeting (that’s lawyers–a famously stodgy group), and I pulled my knitting out of my bag halfway through a panel discussion. The lady next to me told me she wished she’d brought hers. When I worked for the government, we’d have monthly-ish division-wide meetings where 100+ people would trundle into an auditorium. I knit during those, too.

    I think that it’s entirely possible to knit *sometimes* at the office and it not harm your credibility. But you need to know the time/place. And sadly, it’s best to err on the side of not knitting. Muggles never understand.

    Reply
  71. The OG Anonsie

    I’m a knitter and I wouldn’t do this because I know it would look weird and like I was bored or not paying attention. So I recommend against it as not situationally appropriate.

    But I am really surprised at everyone saying how much it distracts them to have someone knitting nearby. Especially mentioning sound– your needles shouldn’t be making a sound? –and movement, which is also really minimal and low to your lap. Surely not any more actual movement than, say, writing or typing notes?

    I’m also surprised by how many people think it’s rude and disrespectful to do in other situations where doing similar things with your hands (drawing, playing with a fidget toy) are acceptable, like in a class or lecture.

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      I think that for me it would be the astonishment that someone was actually knitting during my meeting that would be distracting, more than the activity itself. I would find pen clicking or knee-bouncing annoying and distracting too, but the fact that someone would bring a bag of knitting supplies to my meeting would leave me pondering that instead of focusing on the meeting.

      I don’t really think it’s okay to bring a fidget toy to a meeting at my company, either. My middle schooler has the spinner and the cube, but I’d rather see someone destroy a handful of paperclips or something. I think bringing a toy to a business meeting is unusual, too.

      Reply
      1. Liet-Kynes

        Yeah, this. And if it makes any sense, it’s off-baseline motion and noise. I expect to see moving pens and hands in a meeting. I don’t expect to see knitting. It stands out because it’s off-pattern.

        Reply
      2. The OG Anonsie

        Fair enough re: most of the distraction being because it’s so unusual.

        On the other hand, though, what about the times when doing big stuff with your hands isn’t weird? Like in a lecture hall or something.

        Reply
          1. The OG Anonsie

            I’m gonna disagree on that. I’ve seen people do all kinds of things, and as long as it’s not noisy or otherwise going to interrupt other people no one cares.

            Reply
    2. neverjaunty

      Having sat through many a social gathering with a knitter, people often aren’t aware of how much noise they are making with needles, how often they look at their knitting, etc.

      And unless the meeting itself about knitting, the message it conveys is “I am trying to multi-task on something unrelated to what is going on here.”

      Reply
    3. Hrovitnir

      Now, I think I could adjust to knitting if it was normal because I’m inclined to make an effort to accommodate people if it works for them. But short, sort of jerky movements draw the eye. They’re not big movements, but they are a type of movement that I’m inclined to watch and would definitely notice out of the corner of my eye.

      Reply
  72. NW Mossy

    In supplement to what Alison suggests, I think it’s a good idea to ask your trusted advisers what kinesthetic activities might fit your company’s culture better than knitting if that’s not a good choice. The underlying reason you want to do it makes sense, but as others have noted, there are many potential ways to address it that will get different levels of acceptance in different orgs.

    In my company, knitting would definitely be a “What? No.” behavior, but our culture embraces movement in other ways – it’s extremely common to see people get up and stretch, stand for a while, pace around a bit, etc. in meetings. It’s also almost universal here to see people bring a beverage in their own mug/bottle and for that to become a prop in discussions – I call it the “drink-and-think” because so many of us reach for them in breaks in conversation where we want to consider someone’s thought or take time to formulate our own. In an organization of very much size, it’s highly likely there are other employees with the same struggle as you that have come up with adaptations that fit the culture.

    Reply
  73. Student

    A lot of people deeply believe that splitting their attention among things makes them “better” at those things. The truth is, studies don’t back that up. Focusing on one thing at a time is, in fact, the most effective way to accomplish that thing. You’re justifying to yourself your desire to pay attention to something fun instead of the boring thing you are supposed to be doing by deluding yourself.

    People do this all the time with music, for example. They’ll claim listening to music makes them focus on computer work, driving, etc. better. Study after study shows it doesn’t.

    Not every task needs undivided attention, sure. Maybe this meeting is boring and doesn’t need your full attention. But it’s best to be honest with ourselves about why we do what we do, and recognize the costs instead of pretending they aren’t there.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      Not always! ADHD in particular often requires a certain amount of stimulation to keep the ‘distraction’ part of the brain busy so it doesn’t take you off into the weeds.

      A fidget spinner or cube for an ADHD student in school *who benefits from that type of tactile stimulation* can allow them to concentrate far better and their performance verifiably goes up.

      A fidget spinner in the hands of a kid who doesn’t benefit from it, whether they have ADHD or not, is a toy and a distraction.

      (You could make a case that the knitting in meetings would be an ADA accommodation for someone with the appropriate diagnosis – but it would still be odd in an office setting, and having it be an accommodation wouldn’t prevent people not in the know from taking it wrong.)

      Reply
        1. N

          With regards to the accommodation thing–I had a friend with severe ADHD in college whose accommodation included listening to lectures and books while doing something tactile such as knitting/crocheting. Do I think that every employee can receive that kind of an accommodation in the working world? Probably not. And I know that accommodations for school are different from accommodations in work. But it’s worth noting that this precedent is not unheard of.

          Reply
      1. Holly

        I think there’s a difference between having something to fidget with and doing something like knitting. Playing with a paperclip takes no real thought because it doesn’t matter what your hands do with it. No matter how good you are at knitting, it requires some thought.

        Reply
        1. JulieBulie

          Do you knit? It doesn’t sound as though you do. With a little experience, very little thought is required for simple patterns. Only just enough thought to anchor a very busy train of thought which would otherwise go chugging off the rails.

          There are other reasons not to knit in meetings around other people, but I am seeing so many comments here about how a knitter couldn’t possibly be paying attention to a meeting, friends, a game, etc. No doubt there are some inconsiderate knitters just like there are all kinds of other inconsiderate people. Or maybe an occasional knitter has underestimated the complexity of a pattern. But it isn’t as complicated as non-knitters seem to think it is.

          Reply
          1. Holly

            I crochet and I know how to knit. I’m actually pretty good at crochet and come up with my own patterns. Unless you do not care about how your work turns out, you must either count or at least check now and then that it’s looking right. My experience with people knitting in games and meeting is from having been in them people knitting crocheting. They invariably are either counting or having to hold the work up to make sure it’s right now and then.
            My point isn’t that knitting doesn’t mean you paying zero attention, but it’s an activity that takes enough attention that you are not quite picking up on everything. As you say it requires “little” thought not “no” thought. “No” thought would be twirling a pen or squeezing a stress ball.
            That said, if the LW is talking about bringing her knitting to a giant conference where she’s not going to be asked to participate or if she’s on a huge conference call where she just needs to “listen in” – knitting is fine. It’s when it’s an in-person meeting that I’d leave the knitting at your desk.

            Reply
            1. Chinook

              Twirling a pen does require paying attention, though. If I don’t, then it goes flying across the room. When was teaching, I started carrying multiple pens in my pockets so I could wait until the end of class to retrieve them from around the room.

              Reply
        2. Kyrielle

          It very much depends on the individual, their skill level, and *how much* activity/focus they need drained to stay focused on what’s going on.

          I’m not a knitter. I’d have to do a _lot_ of practice before I got to the point where it was ‘background noise’…and because it’s neither a native interest of mine nor in one of my native strength areas, it’s very probable that it would be draining more attention than I wanted it to.

          But if I am JUST listening to a conference call with ALL my attention, that running hamster-in-a-wheel part of my brain gets bored and the next thing I know I’ve missed some minutes of the meeting and I’m thinking about…well, almost anything. Dinner. The next appointment I have to get someone to that isn’t even the same day. Political news. Non-political news. Random topics free-associated at five degrees of distance from one of those.

          Coloring uses too much brain; so does any phone game (including zen koi). But idly doodling with a pen, spinning or flipping a pen or an eraser, even rubbing my fingers against each other in a pattern work well.

          But how much distraction you need from your distraction depends on your personal brain.

          Reply
    2. Lunch Meat

      Sometimes, *sitting still* is the task that requires focus, and if I let myself move subtly, I’m better at paying attention to the task of talking/listening.

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        This. With ADHD and similar issues, sitting quietly without fidgeting in an all-day meeting would require a great deal of thought and effort – thought and effort that would not be focused on the meeting itself.

        Reply
    3. KellyK

      That’s an incredibly uncharitable read of the LW’s post, for starters. When someone says, “I find I concentrate better when I do X,” it’s pretty rude to say, “You’re lying to yourself. You don’t really concentrate better.”

      Secondly, which studies, specifically?

      Reply
      1. No Knit

        I received a very important piece of wisdom through our middle school student handbook. “Some students say they study better with music on. They are usually not very good students.”
        OP is not merely giving off the *impression* of being disengaged. She *is* disengaged.

        Reply
        1. Annie

          I find I focus better at work by listening to music, mainly because it helps me tune out distracting noises (coworkers eating or chewing gum, having conversations, doors slamming, machines beeping, etc…)

          Reply
        2. F Manley

          I study better with music on, but I guess my 4.2 GPA in high school could’ve been a 4.3 if I’d just turned that darn music off!

          Reply
          1. JulieBulie

            Yeah, far be it from me to contradict the wisdom of a middle school administrator, but I won three full-tuition scholarships doing my homework listening to the tunes on WBCN.

            Reply
        3. teclatrans

          I wish I had an emoji for all the side-eye I am giving this. The claim that students who listen to music are poor students is unfounded and patently absurd.

          My personal experience is that music is what makes it possible for me to tune out all the other potential distractions and concentrate. I was a mediocre student *until* I learned how to harness my need for stimulation (coffee shops allow me to focus whereas quiet offices do not). Now, I have to be selective about which music I listen to, and I tend to need quiet when I am really struggling over a written composition, but no music? Pet.

          I once had to dive really deep into concentration to master some Ochem concepts that I had been half-assing, and returned to awareness only to realize that I had accidentally put my CD player on one-song repeat. Two hours of one song, looping, and I’d had no idea — the music didn’t distract me, it drove me deeper into concentration.

          Reply
        4. KellyK

          The fact that a middle school student handbook claims something as a fact does not make it a fact. Did they have any evidence to back this up?

          I graduated magna cum laude in undergrad and had a perfect 4.0 in grad school, and I studied with music. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone, or that it’s not common for people to be more distracted than they think they are. *But* just stating “knitters are disengaged” isn’t actual evidence that they are.

          As other people have explained, repeatedly, if your mind tends to wander or your hands get fidgety, that itself is the distraction.

          Reply
    4. aebhel

      WRT to music specifically, it doesn’t help me focus better on things that require me to engage my brain, but if I’m doing a mindless, boring, repetitive task, it absolutely does keep me on task better, because it curbs my impulse to, for example, surf the web endlessly instead of working. So, yes: I would absolutely rather pay attention to my podcast rather than data entry, but I don’t really need to pay attention to data entry in order to do it competently (also, music can in some cases drown out much more distracting background noise; it’s probably true that I could write better in a silent house, but I don’t have the option of a silent house; my options are ‘music on my headphones’ or ‘other people talking/the TV/the neighbor’s dogs’. Music is a lot easier to tune out).

      So I suspect to some degree this is just differing definitions of ‘focus’.

      Reply
    5. MuseumChick

      I think that is a pretty harsh way to word your point. And, there are conditions (ADD has been mentioned) where a person does need to physically be doing something to help them pay attention.

      But, technically, you are correct studies show multitasking is more or less a lie. We don’t know if the OP has a condition where physically doing something is helpful or one of the few people who can multitask. Because Alison asks that we take writers at their word I would simply encourage the OP to really consider if knitting does help her and if it does are there other things she could do that would not distract others around her.

      Someone knitting in a meeting would be a huge distraction for me. All the movement would be very hard to block out and depending on the type of needles and skill of the knitter the clicking of the needles…ugh. Your right to be able to focus doesn’t mean to get to (even unintentionally) distract and pull focus from other people.

      Reply
    6. TL -

      Yes, people don’t multitask well but fidgeting isn’t really multitasking. If your natural state is movement, then keeping still is a task. My natural state is noisy so I will make noises while concentrating and not notice at all – clacking and whistling and tapping and humming. (I’m told it’s irritating.) I don’t work well in silent spaces, because not making noises is a task I have to focus on. I also can’t focus intently if I can hear distinct sounds – background hum in a coffee shop is perfect; a single overheard conversation splits my attention.

      Thus, fidgeting is indeed likely to help someone focus better because they (paradoxically) aren’t multitasking, because they can move (default state) and focus on one task – the task of paying attention. The trick is finding the line between fidgeting and incorporating a new task.

      Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        Yes, multitasking isn’t really what we’re talking about here. People who need to do things with their hands to concentrate, whether they have a diagnosable condition or not, are absolutely 100% a thing. And talking averages from studies of neurotypical people isn’t particularly helpful when discussing human variation.

        Multitasking is an interesting one, because I think the degree to which people can multitask varies wildly. I can multitask well at some things, and noticeably can’t for others. When I worked in manufacturing I was more efficient making conversation at the same time not because I couldn’t work faster without talking, but because if I had to sit in silence for 4 hours making holes in leather I would have slowed down out of boredom. However one coworker in that job was incapable of multitasking like that and would stop what they were doing with their hands whenever they got deeply involved in a conversation.

        Reply
  74. Kyrielle

    I would be distracted by the knitting, not because it’s unreasonable but because it’s interesting and out of place. It would make it harder for me to concentrate.

    If your culture lets you do this, go with it! Bearing in mind what others have said. Some other things to consider (again, check your culture out first): note taking, doodling (ideally something that mostly involves your hands and not staring at your paper; who cares what it looks like? although zentangles work really well for some people I know, they take too much of my attention personally), fidget spinner (check for noise), fidget cube (check for noise), tangle toy (the kind that has a fuzzy fabric covering is quieter than the rest which can get kind of click-y), something you can flip or twist in your hand* that is quiet when you do so (I’ve rotated pens end over end, done similar with erasers, etc.). Any quiet fidget with your feet if the room makes them non-visible.

    * Do NOT flip it in the air. I once worked with someone who flipped pens and/or pencils during meetings. He’d start out end-over-ending them in his hand but eventually they’d start going in the air, and some ended up stuck in the acoustical ceiling tiles. It was VERY distracting. One memorable time when all the pens/pencils had been removed by someone, there was a pair of *scissors* there and he picked them up and started sliding them along his hand. Someone said something and the scissors were removed to the far end of the table, but I think everyone in that room had the same ‘oh no’ vision first.

    Knitting may or may not pass – in many offices I think it won’t. But I have to say at least it is a *physically safe* fidget.

    Reply
    1. JulieBulie

      This is why I wouldn’t dream of bringing my knitting to a meeting, though I sometimes will do it during a teleconference if I’m at home. People find it interesting.

      I brought my knitting to the cafeteria a few times, to finish up a gift in time for Christmas. I didn’t think anyone would pay any attention, but everybody (male and female, knitter and non-knitter) was full of questions, wanted to know how I did it, how did I make one of those twisty things, how am I going to do the thumb, how long does it take, did I crochet too, could I knit a klein bottle, someone’s sister knitted a Cthulhu. What kind of yarn was it, could they feel it, did it come in purple, etc. And they watched with rapt attention as I formed each stitch.

      No way would I bring that kind of distraction into a meeting! And that’s aside from the color, motion, etc. which probably wouldn’t be an issue in my office because we’ve got a conference room full of toys, including spinners. No one bats an eye at that stuff. But a mitten could have been a major disruption!

      Reply
  75. Two4OneFish

    You might find that getting a silver dollar to hold would help but not be so distracting or out of place in the work environment. This has worked for other people I’ve known.

    Reply
  76. HisGirlFriday

    I sadly agree with PPs. I don’t think there’s anyway to do it without the optics looking really, really bad.

    FWIW, I am also a knitter/crocheter. I actually took a project with me to the hospital when I was induced with my daughter because I was told, ‘You’ll be here for at least a week, you’re not ready, it’s going to take days to get the drugs to work for you.’ Yeah, that proved to be wrong — 12 hours from start to finish.

    When I was a reporter, I took yarn projects to public meetings, and worked while I listened, pausing occasionally to take notes. The municipalities always thought I wasn’t paying attention, and one memorably began having a legal discussion with me still in the room. They were very surprised to read about that discussion in the newspaper the next morning.

    Reply
  77. Lynn

    I think you just have to be really aware of the office culture. I practice law for a federal agency, and we’re really relaxed in the office. Someone is always knitting or crocheting during staff meetings. We’ve kind of informally adopted some best practices about plastic needles and seating to avoid noise and distraction, but no one thinks twice about it. It also helps that the crafters are also some of the most involved meeting participants, so everyone knows they’re paying close attention to work at the same time.

    Reply
  78. KellyK

    Unfortunately, as I think you can tell from the comments here, people aren’t going to believe that it helps your focus. They’re going to find it distracting, rude, and unprofessional, even if you’re fully engaged, making eye contact, and contributing to the meeting. Sadly, this is likely to be the case even if you have ADD and the knitting would be an honest-to-goodness reasonable accommodation.

    I wish it were socially acceptable to knit during meetings, because it would definitely help my focus and concentration. I have knitted during teleconferences and found it extremely helpful.

    Since it’s pretty likely that it’s going to be received negatively, I’d try to figure out whether it’s something you need to do your job appropriately. That is, if doodling or using a small, discreet fidget does the trick, I’d do that instead, and keep it as far under the radar as possible. But if it really is something necessary, I’d approach it that way with your supervisor–explain that it helps you focus and stay engaged, and ask if it’s something you can do. Even if you’re only going to knit in phone meetings, I’d run it by your supervisor to avoid her walking by and thinking you’re goofing off.

    There are professional costs to appearing distracted and not engaged, but there are also costs to *actually being* distracted, which it sounds like is where you are right now. Which is worse depends on everything from your office culture to how important your input is to the meeting. Unfortunately, in most offices, the optics will matter a lot more than the reality.

    Reply
    1. Fictional Butt

      There are costs to being distracted, but it’s way more costly to have everyone else distracted because LW is knitting. It’s not just “optics.” I really hope she can find some way to pay attention in meetings, but I don’t think it’s fair for her to do something that many people will find distracting. (And people may not feel comfortable telling her they find it distracting, if she says it’s the only way she can stay focused.)

      Reply
      1. No Knit

        Exactly, just this. OP wants to pursue her hobby at work because it helps her relax. Well, all hobbies help us relax. That does not mean I should get to build model airplanes or whatever at work.

        Reply
        1. Hrovitnir

          This is a mischaracterisation and I think you should think about where you’re coming from here. I agree knitting is not a good choice, but “I concentrate better if I have something to do with my hands” =/= “my hobbies help me relax”. It is nothing whatsoever to do with relaxing.

          Reply
        2. KellyK

          This is exactly the kind of comment that reinforces my argument that it’s 99% about optics. People are making up motivations that directly contradict the OP’s experience and attributing them to her. Unless she works with an especially understanding group of coworkers, that’s exactly what’s going to happen if she brings her knitting to a meeting.

          Reply
      2. MuseumChick

        This! I’ve said it in other posts, the quick movements are something I cannot ignore. When I notice in my peripheral vision they grab my attention and take me away from the matter at hand. The OP’s right to be able to focus in meetings doesn’t mean she gets to do something that will distract others.

        Reply
      3. KellyK

        Sure, some people could be distracted, especially the first time she does it (probably less so when the novelty wears off). I still think it’s *mostly* optics. The most negative complaints on this thread are about how rude it is and how she’s really paying less attention no matter what she says. (I’m not going to go back and count, but they seem to outnumber the “I would find it distracting” comments pretty heavily.)

        If she can be expected to just force herself to be attentive despite her mind wandering, then others can be expected to just force themselves to pay attention despite the knitting. It’s also possible to be really unobtrusive by sitting toward the back, and having a small project and quiet needles. I think people are picturing a giant bag of yarn and great big metal needles, when lots of knitting projects can be easily tucked into a purse.

        Reply
  79. CheeryO

    I’m a knitter too, and I have to agree with the masses here that it doesn’t look great, and you risk distracting others. I wouldn’t even ask unless you’re pretty sure it would be okay, since you risk coming across as tone-deaf.

    Also, just because a lot of people have mentioned being okay with knitting in class, please remember that other students are there to learn, too, and it can be super distracting in a smaller lecture hall! I had one class in grad school where I had to come early just to get a seat in the front away from the class knitter.

    Reply
    1. Quickstepping Matilda

      When I was the class knitter in grad school, I tried to sit in the back row for exactly this reason.

      Reply
  80. Krista

    I also have trouble focusing during meetings (and am not a good enough knitter for this to be an option for me!), so I often volunteer to take minutes or keep a list of tasks or whatever (to be the person who writes our ideas on the board, or puts things on the calendar, or who organizes people’s feedback, etc.). That way I have something to do and a responsibility to others that keeps me engaged, and I’ve produced something that everyone else finds useful. I know this isn’t ideal for everyone, but perhaps some of you who have this problem and can’t knit or fidget in your workplace would also find taking the shared notes or minutes effective.

    Reply
  81. Beth

    I brought knitting one time to a church meeting where I was a volunteer on a committee and casually mentioned to the chairman that I would be knitting and he seemed to think I was asking permission and told me I could knit if I could still pay attention! Now, to me, that was rude! See the recent WSJ article about the woman from the Pittsburgh Penguins who sits in a very noticeable seat and knits during the hockey games. When asked about it she replied, “I knit where I want” which has become a hashtag championed by knitters. So, as a knitter, one must use discretion but I agree, I’ll knit where I want!

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      However, knitting when you’re a spectator at a sporting event is quite a bit different from knitting during a meeting where you’re expected to participate. As many of the comments here have explained, “I’ll knit where I want” doesn’t really apply in the workplace.

      Reply
    2. Liet-Kynes

      “I brought knitting one time to a church meeting where I was a volunteer on a committee and casually mentioned to the chairman that I would be knitting and he seemed to think I was asking permission and told me I could knit if I could still pay attention! Now, to me, that was rude”

      Seriously? That’s not only not rude, it’s completely reasonable. Not everybody intuitively understands the claimed focus benefits of knitting, and not everybody feels like it’s respectful of their time and energy for you to be knitting while volunteering. It’s great that you knit, but your attitude is combative and defensive, when you need to be a little more understanding of the optics of it.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Not just the optics. Knitting can be and for most people is a distraction from what’s going on – which is the whole point of bringing knitting to the hospital, on a trip, etc.

        Reply
      2. Loose Seal

        it would have been less rude to assume a parishioner who is volunteering their time would know already if they could concentrate while knitting.

        Of course, Beth could have told him that his meetings were so boring and unproductive that she was sure she could knit while he was trying to get to the pertinent points. But she was surely not going to be as rude as he.

        Reply
  82. Me

    Knitters can’t focus on meetings as well as they think they can. Leave your knitting at home and focus on your job.

    Reply
  83. CDM

    This is timely – I crocheted through two webinars today and scored 100% on both tests.

    I crochet with just occasional glances at my work – a stranger I was chatting with at a horse show was amazed at how fast I was going without looking at my work at all, dividing my attention between my conversation partner and the action in the ring.

    I was dying to bring my crochet to a recent industry mandatory class, but decided not to. It’s a sad commentary on our business society that me dozing off with my head propped in my hand for six long boring hours is considered more professional than crocheting.

    It’s also striking that most of the alternatives suggested are time-wasters of no lasting value. It’s “professional” to fidget cube, scribble, bounce legs, tap fingers, tap toes, click pens, play with putty, play with phones, browse on laptops, get up and refresh your coffee, but not professional to make something useful and lasting with yarn.

    Interestingly, I find crochet alone to be mind-numbingly boring – I can barely go five minutes unless I have something else to occupy my mind while crochet occupies my hands. I crochet through school concerts, horse shows, Netflix binges, family visits, any place where I’m sitting still and shouldn’t fall asleep.

    Reply
  84. Katie the Fed

    I would think someone was out of their gourd if they showed to a work meeting and knitted.

    Reply
    1. Grapey

      Same here, and I work in a pretty young/liberal/tech job with lots of other women. We all actually have our crafts…just not in meetings.

      Reply
      1. Kasia

        Eh, I’m a fed too, and I’ve seen people knitting in meetings and not getting a second glance. It really depends on your office if it is ok.

        You definitely need to be a good knitter, though. I can make nice looking projects and do fairly complicated stitches, but I’m not a good enough knitter to knit during meetings even on simple stuff.

        Reply
        1. Holly

          It might be “okay” and people might not look at you, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t thinking “oh, here comes Alex with his bag of knitting again.” You will just always look more professional and together with a pad and pen and a stress ball than a bag of knitting.

          Reply
          1. Liet-Kynes

            This. It’s just not professional, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of something your boss is going to take you to the woodshed over.

            Reply
          2. Kasia

            I mean, it really isn’t a problem at my agency. I don’t knit myself, so I have no vested interest in this.

            Please remember that your experiences are not universal.

            Reply
    2. Mb13

      If I see someone knitting in a meeting I would think “oh they must be working on something for their side hustle, because they are about to be fired”

      Reply
  85. the.kat

    I think the problem with knitting and with bringing craft things to meetings is that it looks like a child preparing for a long car trip. You’re signaling that the speaker or meeting will not be able to hold your attention which says something about your opinion of the meeting.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      Oh, that’s a really good point I didn’t consider about the optics of this. You are basically sending a loud and clear message to the other people in the meeting “You all are boring so to keep my attention I’m going to do this fun thing I like.” Clearly, that’s not the intended message but more I think about the more I realize that is how it comes off.

      Reply
      1. Salamander

        Yeah. It really does look like that.

        I say this as someone who hates meetings, but they’re a part of life. It’s just polite to *look* like I’m paying attention, whether or not I actually am. Most people, presenters included, are just trying to get through these and get back to work. I think bringing something non-work-related like that to a meeting really is insulting to the presenter.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that it isn’t all about me at these meetings. So I sometimes stare at the left shoulder of the presenter, put a thoughtful expression on my face, and think about whatever I want. I don’t walk into these things at work expecting to be entertained. It’s work! I take notes on the relevant stuff and sit quietly for the rest.

        I gave a short presentation a couple of months ago to a community group on a non-work-related topic and someone actually did bring knitting. This gave me the impression that the knitter was just showing up because her friend was interested, and not very interested in the topic herself. I found myself focusing on the other people in the room instead and mentally writing her off as an empty seat.

        Reply
    2. Stellaaaaa

      For me the issue is that adults shouldn’t have the expectation that every component of their day should be completely convenient, entertaining, and comfortable for them. You’re being paid to sit in that meeting. In the absence of a diagnosis or other recognized issue, it’s not unreasonable to expect people to deal with being bored for an hour. It’s not painful or embarrassing. It’s just boring. It reads oddly to need a coping mechanism for that.

      Reply
  86. Erin

    One time I was at a conference with a woman knitting. This was a farmers/agriculture conference and they tend to sort of be their own breed, but even so, I heard people talking about it later and how rude that was.

    In theory, it should be fine, it’s obviously something you can do while multitasking, but yeah the appearance of it might throw people off. I agree you should just blatantly ask a few people if that would be weird and gauge their responses.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      That it’s multitasking is exactly the point; you’re signaling that what’s going on doesn’t take up your full attention, so you’ll get something else productive done while you’re here.

      Reply
  87. Nana

    As a knitter who can concentrate on other things, I hope you’ll persevere. I use one round plastic or bamboo needle (very small ‘footprint’ in my lap, and no sound)…so I’m just knitting around and around (I make hats for charity). Once observed a blind woman in a meeting; she was doing something with an intricate pattern…again, in her lap. I was impressed with her muscle memory, indeed.

    Reply
  88. Anancy

    I admit to being surprised at the number of comments that indicate a belief that someone knitting isn’t paying attention while knitting. I am not a knitter but have been around many and they’ve always been completely engaged, with the same eye contact as everyone else. That said, I agree with AAM that it is office dependent. My dad always takes a small length of cord to meetings and ties and unties knots. (He knows them by feel so never looks at them, it’s just his 1950s fidget tool.)

    Reply
    1. Fictional Butt

      This seems like a great option! It’s quiet and it doesn’t have that “flashes of movement” effect that lots of people (me!!!) find unsettling.

      Reply
  89. Susan

    If the meeting were just with my immediate co-workers & boss, there would be NO issue in my office. However, most of our meetings are with outside contractors or departments…and my boss would FLIP if I did something like that in front of them!

    Reply
  90. Chilling in the arctic

    No knitting, crocheting, or any other thing that says “hey, figured this meeting to be a slumber party so I brought something to keep me awake.”

    I’ve seen this, had a friend who explained it, and spoken while somebody (one in a meeting out of 50) is doing it. Bullpucky on it being helpful to concentrate. I knit and crochet, too, and know one has to count to make anything with yarn. The issue isn’t calming the nerves; it’s that the knitter has something to say that doesn’t help their career, like, “Geez, a meeting on FEMA coordination in a disaster; so don’t need to pay attention to that, sooo boring. Better bring something to do that interests me.”

    Save your career. Don’t knit during meetings, it just reflects your contempt for the topic, speaker, or both.

    Reply
    1. JaneB

      Hey, YOU may be unable to do finger-work without counting, but that’s not true of everyone!

      I only do “plain work” in meetings – I make strips which then get joined into blankets then donated to an animal shelter. Once the first couple of rows are started there’s no conscious counting involved, you just work into the gaps on the row below – there probably is some sort of unconscious counting but as mentioned I need to skim off the top 10-20% of attention or I go either into hyperfocus and lose control of my ability to keep my mouth shut or I get distracted by something shiny/into an anxiety spiral/otherwise disengaged. Personally, I find watching someone do handwork soothing, but those wretched fidget-spinners and toys like that pull my attention uncomfortably, either being annoying (there is a THING MOVING FAST, there is a little sound, there is no PATTERN to it, gah!) or distracting (I start trying to calculate the forces or work out the pattern the person is using or wonder exactly how the thing was made).

      I have anxiety and many of the characteristics of ADHD (in the UK, the path to adult diagnosis is very obscure). Your example of a disaster coordination meeting? You’d better believe that I’ll spend the whole of that trying to control my anxiety and not catastrophise, anything which brings my nerve level down to the point where I can listen and think is helpful! I actually NEED to occupy about 10-20% of my “attention” with something or it will wander, however fascinating and relevant the topic (I have my own office, so I fidget and hum and talk to myself as I need to whilst I work on my computer). Doodling is an option in meetings and it has “better optics”, perhaps, but I find it too easy to get into it enough that I’m no longer listening AND it’s really hard to make eye contact, read slides etc. whilst doodling – I need something repetitive which uses non-writing bits of my muscle and brain (I write/draw a great deal for work so doodling tends to pull me into writing other stuff and not attending the meeting).

      I have permission from my boss to crochet in internal meetings – I wanted to be a better meeting attendee (I’m talkative, and I like to explore ideas, mostly because of genuine enthusiasm and interest, plus having the kind of mind that makes connections fast and wide, but he prefers a more formal style of one-person-talks-the-rest-listen-then-you-say-one-sentence-each kind of meeting), and I knew that if I brought my phone or laptop I’d be unable to stay on focus consistently (plus I rather resented having to repeat myself often in meetings when it’s my turn to talk or lead discussion because folks were on their email or doing their grading or whatever, it seems rude – and I genuinely want to listen to and engage with the meeting content). I explained that repetitive handwork helped me, he agreed to a trial, and the conclusion of the trial was that especially for longer meetings I’m a better attendee and the meetings run better (knitting is off the table because one of my coworkers has A Thing about the needles possibly clicking, but is OK with the single hook of crochet). If there are outsiders present I don’t crochet, I take extensive and mostly pointless notes, and in longer meetings I really struggle – I sometimes have to find excuses to leave for a few minutes when I realise some other physical tic has started up or that I’m getting a bit hyper/too anxious to sit, or I find myself destroying things (shredding paper cups, making origami, pulling threads off my cuff), and whilst I can act pretty much professional for a few hours it’s completely exhausting and I often have a terrible no-work-gets-done day the next day.

      I work in academia, at a fairly informal place which is reasonably accepting of difference. Part of the reason I am in this line of work is that I very quickly realised that the sort of model of “professionalism” your email presents was something I’d never find natural or comfortable – I sought out work where the pace and variety of tasks on normal, non-meeting days actually benefits from my distractability, fast thinking and ability to engage with novelty quickly, and where things like courtesy and responsiveness and delivering quality work products matter more than whether I look right or act how other people think I should in every circumstance.

      Reply
    2. KellyK

      That’s not actually true. If the pattern repeats, you only need to count when you cast on. There’s no counting involved in row after row of garter stitch or stockinette. Seed stitch or 1×1 ribbing is pretty much muscle memory too. You probably have to look at a new row, but that’s not continual counting.

      Reply
    3. M-C

      Chilling in the arctic, you need to expand your knitting horizons if you think counting is always involved. I rarely count anything after the first couple rows. Starting a project in a meeting would be incredibly distracting, as you’d need to cast on the right number, learn the pattern, check gauge etc. But anything past the first say inch is plain sailing, and I’d never finish anything at all if I had to -count- while doing it.

      Seek out different patterns, ‘recipes’ as they say on ravelry, learn to use stitch markers? Read Elizabeth Zimmerman, understand what you’re trying to accomplish on a larger scale.. Life’s too short to stay in that mode.

      Reply
  91. HR Girl

    I started bringing Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty to meetings. It gives my hands something to do and I actually have extra cans that I bring so others can participate too. It’s become a “thing” in my VP’s line. So maybe finding something a little less big would help? I think the clicking from the knitting needles would drive me nuts.

    Reply
  92. Elizabeth H.

    I wouldn’t do it either, but it kind of bothers me the reasons others are giving. I think mostly it’s because as someone else indicated knitting is kind of large (larger than a phone or a note pad anyway, looks out of place in the office and people can see what you are doing. I think that it would be sort of like you were doodling but you brought multiple different colored pencils in order to do it.

    I think that if you’re an experienced knitter, you can absolutely concentrate just fine as if you were not knitting, knit without looking at it, etc. At any rate, it’s not any more distracting than doodling or taking notes and probably less so. If I think I am going to be bored in some setting I take a notebook and just write stuff down (usually lists, to do lists, stuff I’ve been thinking about, etc.) This uses almost all of my brain and is indubitably much more distracting than knitting. With knitting you can still listen and watch.

    I also completely agree that for people who have a tendency to have racing minds some kind of minor stimulation can keep the part of your brain that would otherwise race around busy enough so that you can concentrate on what you want to. I don’t have ADHD or anything like that but I like listening to very chill music or sometimes the news at an incredibly low volume because it blocks out random stimuli that I would otherwise start focusing on and being distracted by. While people CAN’T multitask, there’s a difference between knitting and listening to music vs the kind of switching your attention from email to phone to spreadsheet to Word document that people think about when they say “multitasking.”

    Reply
    1. peachie

      I agree–I would say the answer is probably “no,” but the tone of many of the responses rubs me the wrong way (eg. (paraphrasing), ‘I would think someone who did this was crazy,’ ‘You have to be an ADULT,’ ‘Anyone can sit still if they try hard enough!’ or ‘You’re just trying to get out of doing your job!’). Not to mention all the ADHD-stigma! (I know OP doesn’t necessarily have ADHD, but many of us with similar fidgety habits do and can’t help it.)

      (My replacement habit, BTW, is taking very long and detailed notes. Fortunately, I really enjoy handwriting, so it’s a good tactile thing to be doing.)

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        Yeah – I get all the people who say they would be distracted by someone knitting, and I agree with them. But some of the comments are really nasty and judgmental. Others are false – for example, someone says you have to count in order to make anything with yarn. No.

        Reply
        1. Loose Seal

          Someone upthread said the yarn makes noise coming off the ball. If that’s the case, I’m sure my blouse rubbing against my skin when I breathe is terribly distracting as well. I’m frankly a little surprised that some of these people can be out in public since they are so easily distractible.

          Reply
        2. Elise

          Yes, I am a knitter (who wouldn’t knit at work), but some of these comments! I knit socks when I need something mindless (I can knit them in a dark theater without seeing my hands at all). How do these people get by if the sounds of knitting bother them? In a business meeting, yes I can see that, but when you’re playing a game with friends?

          I’m just really grateful for my crafty friend group right now. Knitting keeps me sane and is the only way I can sit through movies/tabletop games without moving around.

          Wow, who knew there was so much knitting hate?

          Reply
          1. peachie

            (late response, but I just saw this)

            I know!! I can see a case for not allowing it in business meetings (though I think it’s more optics than actual impact) but I was surprised to see that people think it’s rude to do while, say, hanging out with friends. I guess I’m lucky that my non-crafty friends don’t mind! I don’t see the problem–if I’m crocheting at home, I’m also either watching TV, listening to a podcast, or talking on the phone, and I’m definitely more engaged with other people while doing such a relatively-mindless activity than I would be if I were fiddling with my phone.

            Reply
          2. agmat

            In agreement here – I really didn’t realize it would be seen as *so offensive* by some. I suppose it is more distracting than I had realized, so I’ll reconsider doing it in the future (I’ve only ever brought it to an awards ceremony, not a meeting – I am also very lucky that I largely work from home so if I don’t need to take many notes I definitely have knitting I can work on with no judgey eyes on me).

            However, when I’m carpooling with coworkers for an hour or more, you’re damned right I’m bringing my knitting. And that occurs at least a few times a year.

            Reply
  93. Tiger Snake

    Along with everything everyone else has said – you work at a FEDERAL OFFICE. As in, public service, your-tax-money-at-work-people employment.

    Speaking as a similarly employed indivual, you really have less wriggle-room for giving the correct appearance to people when you’re in government (or subcontracted to government). We all know the jokes about how it makes you impossible to fire, but government offices need to take the appearance of priority much more seriously. We’re all accountable to public opinion. Even just possibly appearing to be disengaged should be a LOT less unacceptable in a federal agency than in private enterprise.

    Reply
    1. Ninja

      Given the huge gobs of tax money given to shore up financial institutions (here in the UK), tax credits that support businesses by allowing them to pay workers less than a living wage, and the minimal amounts of tax paid by large companies, I find the focus on “but government worker!” to be really depressing. That said, I knit on conference calls (home worker here) but I don’t think I’m 100% focused. I certainly wouldn’t do it in an office.

      Reply
      1. Tiger Snake

        I think you have an issue with the UK’s budget planning that isn’t actually at all related to the point I was trying to make.

        The thing about government workers is that we are _public_ service. We effectively answer to everyone, not a board of directors. There’s a different standard of appearances that need to be maintained. The government and its agencies need to hold itself to a higher standard than what it demands of private enterprise. That’s just how it is.

        For example, its widely accepted that when you’re not working, you’re not representing your company. Modern media is blurring that line, and there are now many examples of employees being fired for poor behavior in their personal lives being escalated through the internet. But in a government job, it has _always_ been the case that you are expected to follow the code of conduct _even in your personal life_ and that you can be reprimanded/fired/etc if you were not.

        Reply
  94. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)

    Don’t be “that person”. A former manager in a related group here was a meeting knitter and that’s how most people remembered her. I was at a national meeting of the environmental organization we belong to on the opposite coast and someone asked me, “What is Sansa knitting now?” Sansa wasn’t at the meeting…

    She was very capable, but to everyone she was The Knitter.

    Reply
  95. vpc

    I’m surprised at how many of the commenters think this would be a bit off! I may be the embodiment of the “YMMV” point of view here.

    I am also a federal employee, and bring my knitting with me when I can. It probably helps that I work in an environment where we do a lot of training for others (as well as attending a fair bit ourselves), so most of us have a solid understanding of adult learning principles — and when we lead classes, we always put fidget-toys on the tables (play-dough, pipe cleaners, colored pencils and line drawings, slinkys, some other stuff). It’s completely normal to us for someone to want to keep their fingers busy, and everyone understands that yarn is the way I do that.

    Of course, I don’t knit in every meeting during a regular workday. I only do it in all-day meetings or trainings (including professional conferences), which is what it sounds like OP is talking about here. I always ask the meeting leader / facilitator / instructor if it’s okay with them at the beginning of the day and I have never yet had one say no. I make an effort to sit far to one side or near the back of the classroom so that I will be less distracting to others. I only knit during lecture periods and I put the needles down if we are doing small group work or if I need to take notes. I do tend to make a point of making sure the instructor knows I am staying engaged, too – I will raise my hand to answer questions, or volunteer information when they ask for people to describe a practical example of whatever theoretical thing they are talking about.

    I think Alison is spot-on about checking in with a supervisor and a couple of co-workers to see what they think, especially about the level of the meetings. I’m pretty junior, and surrounded by others at my level when I go to conferences and workshops. If I were in an all-day meeting with staff senior to me and outside my immediate work group I might be less comfortable whipping out my latest project.

    Reply
    1. Non-Prophet

      This is a really interesting perspective. I have to admit that I was surprised to see the number of federal employees who knit during meetings. It’s good to hear that your office has a solid understanding of different learning styles. I would have assumed that the government offices would be worried about the optics…I can imagine a news article going viral with a headline like “investigation shows federal employees knit on taxpayers’ dime.” Sounds like my assumption was off!

      Reply
  96. Anon for the nonce

    I 100% hate it when people knit during meetings. I find it *insanely* distracting! You’re not the only person who’s bored and/or distractible and I’m not sure why your way to pay attention should impinge on my concentration. Plus, I think it looks completely unprofessional in a business or formal setting. What do you do when you need to take notes or look at a presentation or pass around documents? Plop all your yarn and needles on the conference table? Make people wait until you’ve finished a row?

    Reply
    1. Loose Seal

      I do wish people would clarify something (not just you, I’ve seen this sentiment on lots of comments). Are you distracted because it’s distracting or are you distracted because you find it unprofessional? People keep listing both things like they are two separate reasons not to knit in meetings. But I think that most people are making a judgement about professionalism and are distracted at that point. Then stew over it the whole meeting.

      So if someone has the reputation of being the best in the office, always sought out by coworkers for their knowledge and ideas, and is never late or uses too many sick days, can that person knit without being considered unprofessional?

      Reply
      1. Dot Warner

        I’m distracted because it’s distracting – in part because I’m a knitter too and would be wondering about what you’re making, where you found the pattern/yarn, etc. To me, it’s not that knitting itself is unprofessional, it’s that you’re doing something that distracts everyone else; it would be no different than if you were making origami or clicking your pen incessantly.

        So if someone has the reputation of being the best in the office, always sought out by coworkers for their knowledge and ideas, and is never late or uses too many sick days, can that person knit without being considered unprofessional?

        Sure. But I’d also consider that person highly annoying because they’ve prioritized their ability to focus over mine.

        Reply
    2. M-C

      Stop right then, of course, preferably plopping it on your lap rather than on the table. Where did you get the idea that knitting must be kept up at every second? The real problem with it is the incredible depth of ignorance about any textile work in the general community. People who’ve never used their hands for anything have all kinds of pernicious mythology about it, as this discussion demonstrates..

      Reply
    3. Anon for the nonce

      It’s distracting because I can’t *not* watch it if the knitter is nearby. I hear the needles click (you’re not as quiet as you think you are). I think about what the final product will look like.

      And honestly, I do all kinds of work with my hands and have since I was a child– I draw and paint, I cross-stitch, I cook, I frame pictures and repair books, I play the piano, and I even knit!I’m not very good at knitting, so I wouldn’t subject anyone to my painful progress, and I am definitely not at the point where I can do it automatically. I can assure you I have no pernicious mythology about any of it and don’t appreciate being told otherwise.

      But golly, Eleanor Roosevelt was photographed many times with *her* knitting, so I guess I should get over it and watch y’all knit.

      Reply
  97. Thomas

    I knit during some meetings, but so does my Executive Director and at least two other managers so I figure it’s not a problem. Interesting, there seems to be a correlation– in this thread and one I’ve noticed in real life– amongst the professions where this seems to be acceptable/appropriate and where it doesn’t. Kitting and crocheting seems to be more acceptable in academia, libraries, and museums than anywhere else. I wonder if that is due to the “eccentric” nature of the people that choose those fields? It also seems to be gaining traction amongst university students in their classes. I also knit in church, but I sit up in the choir gallery where no one can see me, and likely wouldn’t do it otherwise.

    This all reminds me of the “fidget spinner” debate that is going on in Canada (and perhaps other parts of the world). Teachers and others who work with young people are in the midst of a debate as to whether or not toys and spinny things are useful to help kids focus. I would sooner see someone knitting/crocheting than playing with something like a fidget spinner. I think it has to do with the productivity of a craft versus the inutility of the toy.

    All of this said, if you’re going to knit/crochet in a meeting/class/church service/anywhere else, you’re best off, obviously, to bring something small and not a queen-sized afghan.

    Reply
    1. TL -

      Whereas for me, it’s much easier for me to believe you’re fidgeting to focus if you’re not doing anything productive. You’re never going to miscount a fidget toy or mess up how you squeeze a stress ball. Or tap wrong, for that matter. But presumably if you’re knitting, there’s some investment in doing it right, rather than just doing it to move. That’s the pickle, I think.

      Reply
      1. Noobtastic

        Yeah. As a knitter, I can believe you’re doing it to focus is you are doing a long garter-stitch scarf (basically row on row on row of exactly the same stitch, with absolutely no counting required). However, if you start doing anything that requires counting, or a pattern, then you’ve lost me.

        And I can knit with my eyes shut, including rib stitch, so I’m not saying that just because I think knitting is that hard. I don’t. I just don’t think that counting and patterns go well with concentrating on a meeting. Don’t do that, if you want to look remotely professional.

        The only way I can see this working is if ALL of your co-workers are also crafty, and have their own projects. For example, if you decided to have some sort of company-wide knit-for-charity thing, like making scarves for the homeless, or caps for cancer patients, or something like that, and you had regular knitting bees with the co-workers, then seeing someone calmly knitting during a meeting would probably inspire confidence. But if you’re not among a whole big group of knitters, I don’t recommend knitting in meetings.

        Reply
  98. Noobtastic

    Or get one of those finger-twiddler toys they sell nowadays. Studies have shown that a lot of people concentrate better when keeping their fingers busy with twiddlers, and so they sell these things. And yet, for some reason, they are banned at many schools. “This makes students learn better!” “Great! Let’s ban it!”

    Seriously, though, I’ve seen lots of people in meetings twiddling with something. Before they started making twiddle-toys, people made do with paper clips, twistie-ties, rubber bands, and the like. No one will look at you weird for that. Or bring a pad and pen, and take notes, and doodle in the margins.

    Just don’t click your pen. Ugh. That “click click click” sound may be soothing to you, but it’s annoying as all get out to your neighbors. Make sure your twiddler is quiet.

    Reply
    1. puzzld

      One of my co-workers is a pen clicker. We came to the point where I check her pen before we go to a meeting. “Don’t you dare bring that pen, here’s a nice non clickable one.”

      I myself am a reformed paper folder…

      That said I have on occasion knitted/crochet in a computer based training session… when they turn out the lights, no one knows you’re hooking.

      Reply
  99. Pathfinder Ryder

    I’ve found the fidgeting with something/doing something during meetings/fidget spinners in schools debate so much more interesting since I attended a volunteer training course that put out pipe cleaners on tables explicitly for people who need to do something with their hands while listening and found that I was far more engaged than in my work meetings where I sit still.

    Reply
  100. KelsBells

    I secretly knit through many conference calls, but then I mostly work from home so no one can actually see what I’m doing. It actually really helps me concentrate and not open browser tabs/answer emails/fix that little bit of code I was working on before the meeting, and I put it down when I need to give the conversation my full attention. However. I don’t think I’d ever actually bring my knitting into an in person meeting, as it’s super distracting to everyone else. Large lectures/conferences might be different, but even then the repetitive motion might be distracting to the speaker. Unfortunately, I think this is what doodling was invented for.

    Reply
  101. emma2

    I don’t knit, but I have a similar issue with focusing (I was someone who doodled in classes.) But I can’t imagine this not looking weird in an office meeting. You have to conform in this situation. I just pretend to take notes but could be doodling gibberish or random words for anyone cares to keep my mind from wandering.

    Reply
  102. Workaholic

    The subject made me so excited and hopeful… now I’m depressed that this is so overwhelmingly “not ok”. I need to do many things to stay focused (and awake) too. I was called out in the middle of a prof. Lecture at university because i was writing a paper for class b, brainstorming a project for class c and d, listening and taking notes for class a (the class i was in), and working on a diagram for a project i was planning at home. i caught more of the lecture, took better notes than i had all quarter, And was able to discuss his lecture in detail when he stopped class to put me on the spot. He was impressed but still irritated and made me put everything except class notes away. Mostly i doodle and fidget and pray not to fall asleep.

    Thankfully our morning meetings last 5 minutes and there is enough variety in work i can switch things up as needed.

    Reply
    1. Liet-Kynes

      As someone who has taught college classes, I think that was incredibly disrespectful. If you’re working on something else, stay home. If you’re in lecture, engage fully, put other work and distractions away, and focus.

      Reply
  103. stevenz

    I would find it less distracting than someone texting. My girlfriend can knit in her sleep (at least I think she can, I’m always asleep so I’m not totally sure) but otherwise she can be totally engaged in what’s going on around her. But I’m less hung up on appearances or what others do. I would think most offices wouldn’t like it, and if there are outsiders at a meeting it would probably have to be explain and that could get old.

    Reply
  104. sanbikinoraion

    I feel like if your meetings are so low-quality and/or so long that you have time to fidget and be distracted, then you need to change your organization’s meeting culture.

    My partner knits and there are clearly times when, in conversation, she is concentrating hard on her knitting because she’s dropped a stitch or whatever. That’s really not going to go down well in a meeting.

    Reply
    1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

      This is kind of a ridiculous standard. Boring meetings don’t necessarily mean company culture in general is poor, and someone needing to fidget to pay attention (a problem common amongst people with ADHD) doesn’t mean what they’re listening to isn’t interesting. I’ve never worked anywhere where the meetings were nonstop thrill rides that completely distracted my brain from any processing issues it might have, so I’d really like to see meetings at your office.

      Sometimes long meetings are necessary, which can be REALLY hard for people with ADHD. Fidgeting (whether it’s clicking a pen, bouncing a foot, unbending a pepper clip, or even sitting on one of those chairs made out of an exercise ball) can really help those with that condition. Not everyone processes things the same way, so some people will need different ways to stay engaged. It doesn’t mean the company has poor culture.

      Reply
  105. Linda

    If I attended a meeting where someone was knitting, I would find it very visually distracting. It’s like animated GIF ads on the internet – I’m trying to focus on the main task, but there’s this flickering moving thing that keeps catching my eye and distracting me.

    Reply
  106. Doe-Eyed

    What I have learned from this is that there are a ton of AAM yarnies, we should probably start a ravelry group!

    Reply
  107. TalAnon

    The great Lucy Morgan – one of the best reporters ever to work in Florida and certainly one of the most pugnacious (despite looking like everyone’s sweet grandma) – used to unnerve Jeb Bush by crocheting in press conferences.

    But she is Lucy Morgan. She can do whatever the heck she wants. Anybody else? Probably not.

    Reply
  108. Making myself nuts...

    Knitting is only distracting to me because I am jealous (can’t do it).
    I like the other items suggested for fidgety folks and will suggest having a box of such in our CCC. Those meetings are ridiculous.

    Reply
  109. TotesMaGoats

    I watched someone knit during commencement on Wednesday. We were sitting on the stage in our local opera house, so raised above the floor by alot. We were on the second row. I was sitting behind the mayor of our city. I was appalled. You just don’t do that but evidently she did. Probably been doing it for years.

    Reply
    1. Knitter

      But why shouldn’t she? She would have been engaged in the program assuming she’s been knitting for any amount of time. So she can sit through a long commencement and twiddle her thumbs or play with her phone, but as soon as she does something productive with the time, it’s rude?

      Reply
      1. Dot Warner

        She should not play with her phone either. And if she was the guest of a graduate, it’s incredibly rude to that person to sit there knitting through one of the biggest days of their life! Not to mention that she was probably distracting people who actually do want to watch the ceremony.

        I’m sorry, I’m a knitter myself and I can understand how it can help one focus. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and sometimes you need to just put your needles away. If it would be rude to read a book, do Sudoku, or make paper airplanes at an event (and in this case, I’d say yes), it’s rude to knit there too.

        Reply
  110. Pro Knitter

    My first reaction was “only work-related knitting is appropriate at work,” but I’m a Knit Technician in materials innovation!

    I’ll handknit experimental yarns that won’t fit on the machine or are too fragile… knitting in meetings becomes a good way to keep folks aware of progress in my department. (And how cool it is and how we should get more funding for our projects, etc.) Also, it helps me pay attention and I have the best excuse.

    Reply
  111. M-C

    I did knit during work meetings for a while, but it was a very specific set of circumstances. My smallish team (<10) was subjected to a weekly ordeal that often lasted more than 2h, with the main-office people droning on about why they were wonderful, and only a very rare tidbit being of any general or practical interest at all. We were on audio only, and basically 15-20mn in our entire office was asleep. Snoring, drooling, snorting, falling off chairs or draped across the table, we had it all. Including the boss.

    So I started bringing my knitting. At a software company where I was the only woman, yes. But it quickly became apparent that this really allowed me to stay awake. And I could take notes of the couple crumbs that were actually useful to us. And I even saved the day on a couple occasions when a direct question was asked of us out of the blue. So everyone relaxed, they thought my method was quite clever, and I got away with it.

    Then we got the video setup. So we had to establish a rotation of who was in the line of sight this week and had to stay alert-looking, complete with mutual kicking under the table. And I never brought out the knitting again. Being seen at that by people who didn't know me personally and weren't familiar with my work would have been out of the question. But I enjoyed it while it lasted :-).

    Reply
  112. Sue Wilson

    God, this emphasis on eye-contact is putting my shoulder above my ears. Focus on demonstrable signs of “attention” (people responding promptly, participating) for which “paying attention” is the only way someone could act in such a manner, or get the hell over it.

    Reply
    1. Liet-Kynes

      Whether you like it or not, there are certain behavioral signifiers of attention that have social currency in this culture, and pursuing a hobby with your eyes elsewhere is very much not one of them. I realize you don’t like that, but the culture doesn’t change just because you need something to do with your hands. And as the minority view on that, you’re probably the one that’s going to have to get over it.

      Reply
  113. HigherEd on Toast

    Probably best to just ask around your office, like Allison says. And think about the level of attention you’ll be able to pay even if it’s fine with other people there. I’ve worked in relaxed higher ed environments and still have had problems with people who knit and crochet in meetings; they don’t pay attention and then ask to have something re-explained to them. And then they start knitting or crocheting while I’m doing the re-explanation! Leave the damn handicrafts alone for five minutes.

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  114. Jill

    I type this as a seamstress who sews and makes most of my own clothes….
    I find it interesting that, skimming the comments, people are referring to the OP as “she” when the OP never identified themself by gender.

    And therein lies the problem with knitting or crocheting during a work meeting. It’s still seen as an incredibly feminine activity – I picture a mom-to-be knitting booties, for example. Women in many industries still have to struggle to be respected as it is. Why add to the struggle by engaging in a hobby at work that is still seen as “girly”? I’d say take up doodling . It’ll look like you’re taking notes, but you’re really keeping your hands busy to avoid distraction.

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  115. GreenForDanger

    I have had to deal with this issue more than once and I am a sympathetic and and compulsive knitter myself. I have allowed people to knit at workplace meetings where we are dealing with strictly internal matters and they are amongst people they know who are aware that they are able to focus while knitting. I have not permitted it at meetings where there are attendees from other branches or governments who could very well feel that the knitter is not paying sufficient attention to the issues – and I have had several officials from other departments complain to me that they don’t think a knitter is giving the matter being addressed their full attention. bring this complaint to me. But every knitter I have ever explained this to is shocked and grievously offended that anyone would question their ability to pay attention to a complicated piece of coloured knitting and pay attention to their work at the same time. I tell them , “If someone brought their whittling or their leather embossing to a meeting with you, wouldn’t you wonder if they are paying attention to what you are saying.” But that’s not the same thing at all I’m told.

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  116. Spiegs

    I read this and just had to make my first comment to this site. My mother was an NYPD detective and during down times, she used to sit at her desk in the detective unit and do needlepoint. Unfortunately she passed away from cancer before she had a chance to retire, and the police department had an annual ceremony that they invited the families of deceased officers to, to present them with honors/plaques for the officers. So our family was there and the person presenting the plaque to us in honor of my mother told a story about how people would walk into the detective squad at this tough precinct house up in Harlem, and just be taken aback to see this detective sitting there doing needlepoint. And everyone that knew my mother just busted out laughing. It still makes me smile. So, to swing it back to the topic, I guess it really does just depend on the circumstances!

    And for anyone that is curious, my mother was actually somewhat of a ground-breaker. She graduated from the NY Police Academy in the first class that had women who went to street patrols. I think prior to that women only worked in the NYPD offices, and usually with juveniles. This would have been in the early 1970s.

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  117. Jeanette

    I find the motion of knitting incredibly distracting – I’m in a profession where some people do knit/crochet in meetings. I’ve seen it a few times, and everytime it has been like someone waving in the corner of my eye. I was at a training session recently and the person opposite me was crocheting – whilst it might have helped her concentrate, it wasn’t helping me!

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  118. LeRainDrop

    This post played a role in my dream last night. I’m an attorney and had a dream that I was preparing for a court hearing. On my way out the office door, my paralegal presented me with two scarves that she had knitted — one for the judge and one for opposing counsel. How weird!

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  119. Dust Bunny

    No.

    Just, no. And I’m also a knitter, but I would find the motion and noise distracting, and the general idea that you think you can do both at the same time unprofessional.

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  120. Erin the Librarian

    I’m a little sad that so many commenters think that knitting is less acceptable than doodling in meetings. I knit during every meeting and class I attend and it really helps. If I don’t have my knitting, I’m guaranteed not to be paying attention. Knitting is my key to success in learning. I point to knitting for why I am a top performer at my “company” (I’m a librarian actually) and earned a 4.0 in my masters program.

    I do know, however, that some people don’t realize that knitting is a fidget for a lot of people and so pre-emptively participate heavily in meetings where there are people who don’t know me. I just hope that people who encounter knitters in the world will pause and consider that they have probably thought about their choice and that it’s the best one for them.

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  121. Momonga

    As long as you’re visibly listening, it might be fine… though to be fair, I’m commenting from a point of view that involves having a coworker that wears bright-green earbuds during departmental meetings.

    I just can’t.

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  122. Dance like everyone's watching

    As a mad-keen knitter/crocheter, I would never do it at work (except at our craft lunches). For me there’s a strict delineation between craft, which is “fun” (even the mindless bits), and work, which is “serious business”. I’ve not been in meetings with knitters (generally we keep meetings to 1 hr, 2 tops) but I’ve been in conferences with them, and it can be incredibly distracting. One conference session I was stuck next to someone knitting a sock with a cable pattern, on dpns, with cream sock yarn with flecks in – a near-silent knitter, and a very small and discreet project, but it was so distracting to be sat next to her that I have zero memory of the speaker and all of the knitting.

    I’ve seen a lot of defensive knitters up-thread, but unless you’ve got something like ADHD (and I don’t think OP said they did), I think you should be keeping your fidgets to something a lot more understated. There’s a cognitive dissonance because for most people knitting is going to be associated with hobbies/relaxing, which is very much what you shouldn’t be doing when you’re at work (unless you do it for a living..).

    That said, OP, if your fellow meeting attendees *really* won’t be bothered by it, go for it. As people say, it’s a bit more productive than other fidgets.

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  123. osd

    As a knitter who is allowed to knit at meetings, I know I’m part of a lucky minority, because I have a boss who understands that I’m much more active in a meeting when I’m able to knit. If I say something at a meeting, I do *stop* knitting so that I’m making eye contact with those I’m speaking to. If people can’t actually tell that I’m engaged in the meeting, then that’s their problem. And frankly, if people are that distracted that my knitting a sock with my tiny needles is going to bother them, maybe they have some other problems that need addressing.

    I usually hear something more along the lines of “watching you knit is soothing. I want to sit next to you.” Maybe I just work with nice people who aren’t so worried about LOOKING professional that they stop BEING professional. Just because having your phone out might seem more socially acceptable than knitting, at least when I’m knitting, I’m paying attention while you’re on Twitter and Facebook, totally tuned out from what’s happening. I’ll remember what happened in the meeting, while you won’t because you weren’t listening. But hey, it LOOKED like you were paying attention, so that makes you a better employee than me, by default.

    Reply

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