I was told to stop knitting in a training class … but I knit so I can focus

A reader writes:

I had a knee-jerk reaction to a situation. Could you please advise me on handling it maturely?

I can be fidgety and while I do well overall in classroom environments, I can have a hard time listening while sitting still (I start thinking of other things and/or get drowsy quickly) and have coped in the past by doodling. Instructors have responded to this in various ways. Some don’t seem to care at all, and some have interpreted it as me not paying attention. In grad school, a fellow student knit in class for similar reasons and I learned how and found that as long as the pattern was simple enough that I didn’t have to look at it often and it was easy to put down when I needed to write something down, I could sit up and look more attentive in class while actually paying attention with my brain as well as I do when I’m doodling (where I’m looking away from the instruction).

I’m doing some intense professional development for my work that occurs one week at a time for eight weeks stretched over a year. It is a privilege to be in the program and I really want the information, so after the first week when it was evident that (1) I was struggling to focus consistently while sitting still and (2) I was an active participant in the class who the instructor knew as a contributor, I brought in a simple knitting project and asked the instructor if it was okay if I knit in class. She said it was fine, and I trust her that she would have come to me directly if there was a problem. Everything seemed golden!

A few weeks later my great-grandboss (my boss’s boss’s boss) came with a group to observe the program while I had my knitting out. Apparently there have been disruptive knitters(!) at my company before I worked there, and the message was passed down to my boss that it was unacceptable. My boss was fairly nice about it, explained the situation and that it’s not my behavior but it’s frowned upon “so just stop it.”

I was pretty put out! I really do think the knitting increases my access to the point of the training. My boss didn’t frame it as a discussion and I don’t think explaining the situation to her would help me with the great-grandboss anyway. I don’t have any formal diagnoses but I’ve started therapy and I might have ADHD or PTSD that contribute to why I learn like this. Is this something that would even fit within ADA accommodations if I do end up with a diagnosis? Will people laugh at the crazy employee who says she needs to knit? I can go back to doodling, and we’re allowed to eat in this class which can help too, but all that paper and candy and drinking 3-4 liters of water a day just to keep my hands busy is so much worse to me than knitting. I feel pouty and resentful and I don’t want to let those dominate my work reactions. Could you please shine a light on what path you recommend I take?

There’s so much more awareness now than there used to be that some people — especially but not only people with ADHD — focus much better when their hands are occupied, so it’s disappointing that your boss’s boss’s boss doesn’t seem to know that (and that no one under her pushed back with that message when the edict was handed down).

That said, that awareness is relatively new (to the point that I didn’t mention it at all in this post on knitting at work from six years ago) and someone who hasn’t kept up on it could indeed think knitting in a class was a sign that you weren’t fully engaged. Plus, someone who has never knit could easily think it requires more of your focus than it really does, and could see it as rude or disrespectful to the trainer or other class members, like openly reading an unrelated book during the class would be.

I also think that awareness — while it’s grown — hasn’t changed the fact that knitting in work meetings would still read as out of place and disengaged in many, many offices. That’s not about whether it should, just that it would.

But you weren’t in a work meeting; you were in a class, and classes tend to have more relaxed norms.

It’s also frustrating that you talked to your instructor, received her blessing, and then were told to cut it out by someone who just briefly dropped in and had no context.

I’m not sure what was up with the “disruptive knitters” in the past, but it might have been about the knitting being distracting to others. It’s true that when you need to keep your hands occupied to stay focused, you’ve got to find methods that won’t distract people around you. So in the future,  it might be worth asking people sitting around you if it distracts them, in addition to checking with the instructor.

As for what to do from here, you’ve got two options. One is to see if fidget toys, which are designed specifically for this purpose, work for you (just make sure they don’t make noise). The other is to go back and talk to your boss, explain that you knit in order to focus and that you had specifically checked with the instructor and received her okay at the start of the class, and ask if there’s room for pushback. If nothing else, you could broach it by explaining that you didn’t want to leave her with the impression that you weren’t engaged in the class — something she’d probably appreciate hearing — and then, if she seems receptive, decide if you want to ask about pushing back on the directive or not.

As for ADA accommodations: Yes! Doing something with your hands to aid in concentration is specifically listed by the Job Accommodation Network as a possible accommodation for ADHD, autism, and probably other disabilities as well. Your employer doesn’t necessarily need to agree to the specific accommodation you request — in other words, if you propose knitting, they’re allowed to ask if doodling or fidget toys or something else would work instead — but in general, this is an area recognized as a reasonable one for accommodations.

{ 630 comments… read them below }

  1. NeedRain47*

    People who don’t knit definitely sometimes overestimate the attention it takes to knit something simple. Can vouch for it, some folks really think it means you’re ignoring them.

    I have a hard time paying attention so I take notes. Lots of notes. More notes than I really need. It looks like I’m being super studious.

      1. anon for this*

        When I write notes, I don’t listen. I know that sounds weird. But I just write words, without understanding. It’s not ideal, as I can’t effectively ask questions in the moment.

        I did used to knit in meetings where I needed to actively engage (like really needed to participate in the conversation in the moment) and the only way I managed to “make it ok” was 1) that active engagement, and 2) the fact that I could do it under the table without looking, with bamboo rather than metal needles so it didn’t click. Then many ppl didn’t notice and those who did were forced to acknowledge that I was indeed participating.

        1. Suze*

          Honestly, knitting saved my sanity during endless Zoom meetings. I kept it below the view of the camera, and was still engaging and contributing. It helped prevent me from zoning out. Plus, hey, I made my friends some baby blankets!

          1. NYWeasel*

            Until I read a previous (comment?) here, it never dawned on me to try knitting. It works great for helping me stay focused on the presentation but sadly I can only do it when I’m at home. At work I use my phone bc at least I can explain that away if I need to.

            1. Judy Johnsen*

              You can try those crochet kits that might help and are smaller, easier to conceal. Woobles are great.

              1. icedcoffee*

                As a knitter with ADHD, I prefer crochet for surreptitious (online) work meetings because it’s easier to put down on a second’s notice. With knitting, if your work slips off the needles you can lose a lot of stitches, which can ladder down and lose more work. With crochet, if your hook falls out you only lose the chain, which is easier to pick back up imo.

                My only problem is that while I can knit without looking, I can’t always crochet without looking.

                1. parsley*

                  If it’s something like a granny square I can crochet without looking for a little while, but I inevitably end up dropping or adding stitches in each section, or accidentally pushing the hook through a loop instead of a gap. Anything more complicated than that and I absolutely have to look because crochet forced me to ask myself “do I know how to count?” and the answer turned out to be “no”.

          2. Addison DeWitt*

            Exactly what my wife does—but needlepoint. Just out of Zoom camera range.

            And I’m naming my punk band Disruptive Knitters.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Same. The more engaged I am the less notes I’m taking, but my hands may stay the same level of fidgety

        3. Library Penguin*

          This is my experience too! I’m not learning, I’m just transcribing what I hear. It’s great for afterwards, because I can type up a pretty solid summary of what was said, but I took in none of it.

          I like fidget cubes for short periods of time, but I find they’re not quite stimulating *enough* for anything longer than like fifteen minutes.

          I also get told off by my Grandboss for knitting at a training day, so I stopped… And promptly fell asleep in the next four training courses I went on. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Fortunately I got my ADHD diagnosis and a manager who explicitly tells me to doodle if it will help, and look at that! Actually able to pay attention to what I’m learning, who’d have thought.

      2. PhyllisB*

        I went to a Catholic school for a couple of years during my middle school years. Once during a Catechism class, I was doodling in my notebook while listening to the priest. He saw me, threw an eraser at me (this was in the 60’s. That kind of thing was common then.) He then ordered me to stand and repeat everything he had said in the last 10 minutes. I did so. He kind of fumed for a second, said “Sit down!!” and never bothered me again.

      3. Random Dice*

        I have ADHD. I concentrate much better when my hands are busy, but also don’t want folks to think I’m not paying attention. I have several fidgets for concentration:

        1) Discreet squishing. I have little magnets that I fiddle with, make into a ring and then squish. It’s more discreet than someone dropping in would notice.

        2) Modern calligraphy / hand lettering practive. I learned on Etsy. It’s super discreet, for when I need to concentrate hard on what’s being said, but also look like I’m writing notes. There are sheets you can buy on Etsy that have grey outlines to trace, but even more unobtrusive is just plain lined paper. I write whatever I can easily find nearby to copy without thought – a poem, the seed catalog’s description, a PowerPoint title. I love Fudenosuke pens by Tombow, they look normal and have just the right flex.

        3) Doodling. I learned easy doodles from Pinterest that don’t require thought. (If you set it up in advance, a mandala can be low thought too – it’s the set up that’s time consuming.) Personally I like white pen on black paper, but that’s pretty visible. For this training, I’d use a grey pen or pencil on white paper.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Jewelry can also be a good fidget prop. I like rings, so I have one with a spinning inset, one that has a spiral I can trace by feel, and one with a large smooth stone that feels nice to rub.

        2. Lavender*

          I love Fudenosuke pens! I recently bought an old-school fountain pen and that’s been fun to write with as well. (An added benefit is that I tend to take better notes if I like the pen I’m using.)

    1. Lavender*

      I agree. I’m a doctoral student and my research involves watching a lot of video, and I keep a knitting basket in my workspace. I usually save simple, repetitive projects for when I’m working, and work on more complex projects during my downtime.

    2. Doodad*

      Right? If I’m knitting a simple sock or something, I can do it with my eyes closed. In fact, I’ve fallen asleep while knitting. It takes just the right amount of attention so I can be distracted enough to relax and concentrate.

      1. Orora*

        Endless rounds of stockinette or ribbing are ideal for Zoom meetings. I keep some yarn & needles in my desk drawer for just this purpose. I have yet to take my knitting into a staff meeting but I’m always tempted. My workplace is informal and I’m the “weird” co worker anyway so I don’t think anyone would care.

      2. TinySoprano*

        Ooh you’ve just reminded me of this story! I can literally knit in my sleep!

        I took some knitting with me when I had some surgery a while back, to manage my anxiety beforehand. The recovery nurse gave it back to me afterwards while I was off my face on morphine. Apparently I kept knitting automatically even when I dozed off, and the nurses thought it was hilarious. Didn’t even drop any stitches.

    3. Erinwithans*

      Seconding this – a lot of non-knitters don’t understand how zen, mindless, and easy knitting can be. I only proved it to my mother when I was able to knit a simple stockinette pattern in the dark while watching a movie with subtitles.

      I also find it incredibly helpful to knit while I have to listen to anything. Thankfully I work remotely and can often turn off my camera for longer meetings or trainings, but I have to switch to doodling in person and it doesn’t work as well for me.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        I actually do get how zen it can be. I used to knit years ago. It was super soothing.

        However it is distracting. I also have ADHD and seeing a colleague knitting in an in person meeting would throw my focus. It’s just out of place, which is why people would find it distracting.

        1. icedcoffee*

          I had a professor ask me to not knit in class (in person), and while I was frustrated I eventually understood. It WAS distracting, whether you were a knitter or a non-knitter. In classes where I still could knit, I noticed that people were watching me out of curiosity, and would sometimes come up to me to ask about it later. (I briefly dated someone I met that way haha) Plus, I had only been knitting for a few years by that point, and so wasn’t as smooth and unconscious about it as I am now.

          I only knit in work meetings today when I don’t have to take notes and can be off camera or hide it out of webcam view and only rarely look down. It’s not foolproof–a coworker said that she could tell–but nobody has said they mind. Many people have some sort of fidget.

    4. H2*

      I think that this is possible – I do not knit and I’m having a hard time imagining that it would be possible to be an active learner while knitting. I am a professor, and my expectation is definitely that people are taking notes and engaging with the material in ways other than listening, and I understand that the knitting itself may work like a fidget, but picking it up and putting it down does not seem conducive to active learning. Learners need to be watching, listening, writing, etc. —the more different ways that a learner engages with the material, the better she learns it. It doesn’t seem possible to me as a non-knitter— i’m open to the idea that I’m wrong, but I definitely do think that the optics have the potential to be extremely poor.

      I can also say, as someone who has been a professor a long time, and has learned to ignore a lot of things, that would absolutely derail me. I would notice every time someone picked it up and put it down, it would be very distracting for me and I think others around.

      1. wcgreen*

        I had a professor who forbade me to knit in class for these same reasons. After I aced the first exam–something the prof considered impossible, I went back to knitting and never heard anything else about it.

        Note: I did take notes when I needed to do so. I also was an older student who had been knitting for decades.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Interestingly and ironically, I am also a professor who just came from a class where a student was knitting not 30 minutes ago!

        Personally, I didn’t at all find it distracting. Other than taking note of the color of yarn and noticing it was a different color than she was working on on Monday, she was both very polite as well as very engaged in our discussion. She did seem less interested in writing down notes, but many of my students opt not to or share notes in class with others. But, as I said, she was keeping up with the discussion very well and was far more engaged than 80% of the rest of the class. If knitting lets her do that, I’m all for it!

        1. H2*

          Reflecting on this, I think it does definitely depend on the subject matter. I teach a very technical stem field, and I write on the board constantly, and the expectation is that students are watching and writing a lot. So if I’m imagining having a discussion about a reading or something, then I can see that the situation would be very different. It’s tough to say how this would apply to this training, it’s probably somewhere in between. But it also sounds like it’s a really big deal, professionally, so maybe not as casual as a class?

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I can see this being very different depending on field. I couldn’t imagine knitting* in an engineering course or physics. But while doing a group discussion? Sure. (And even my math notes had doodles in them).

            * Well, I can’t knit but I know knitters and crocheters, and the depth of conversation they can get into with needles in hand is amazing, and they don’t look down for more than a few seconds. And I have my own fidgets.

            1. mungojulia*

              Add me to the list of science and engineering knitters. I knit all through school and have been known to bring it to meetings. I was never big into taking detailed notes, like several people mentioned it actually takes my focus away from the learning. I find doodles to be similar, plus I need to look at the page for that. I have the muscle memory to knit pretty discreetly and it keeps me off my phone.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I think you’d be surprised how many of my technical STEM notes are just pages of doodles. If I’m trying to write down a proof or problem example while the professor works through it, I often lose track of the underlying logic or the process I’m supposed to be learning. I’m better off listening, watching, doodling and taking a photo of the board before the teacher erases it.

          3. Rach*

            I have a physics degree and am currently an engineer. Even students in STEM fields may not be able to listen and take notes or may need to fidget in order to retain information given in class. It was certainly true in my case, the university paid other students to photocopy their notes for me. Tho I probably looked as I was writing as my preferred fidget was doodling.

        2. Bibliothecarial*

          A professor told my class that he had a knitter in a different class. He could tell how well his lectures were hitting by the speed of her needles – the better the lecture was, the faster she would knit. When the needles started clicking, he knew he was really on fire!

          1. WiscoKate*

            I’ve never been in class or a meeting with a knitter, but I also have ADHD and would find the clicking horribly distracting. I get the need to be occupied, since most of my notes are covered in doodles, but I do wonder if competing needs could be an issue.

            1. Kit*

              Not all clicks are equal! Bamboo or wooden needles have a much softer click than metal ones, not dissimilar from someone setting down a pencil on a table, so there are options beyond simply the binary of knitting/not knitting to explore and see if those needs are as conflicting as it might first appear.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  As a kid I drove people up the wall with clicking pens open & shut. Didn’t even know I was doing it.

                  I’m sure classmates were relieved when i discovered a favorite ballpoint brand that just has a cap.

            2. Lizzianna*

              Honest question (as a knitter) – is the clicking of needles any more distracting then someone typing on a laptop?

              I knit and crochet, and I do prefer crochet for some settings because you don’t have the clicking, but I guess in my experience, when I’m in a setting where I’m knitting, there is already a lot of ambient noise.

              1. Ellen N.*

                Yes, the clacking of knitting needles is really irritating, especially to those of us with misophonia. Typing on laptops isn’t.

                I know that I can’t expect the world to accommodate my misophonia, but I believe that it’s reasonable to ask people not to knit during meetings, lectures, etc.

                I have no problem with people crocheting, doing needlepoint, using silent fidget spinners.

                1. allathian*

                  Bamboo needles have a much softer sound. A coworker always knits in our meetings, and she uses bamboo needles. It sounds very similar to typing on a laptop.

                2. Astrid*

                  You’re one person with misophonia, I’m another. The pounding of keys on a keyboarding is rage inducing to me. I’m also a knitter and I know that you do not necessarily create any sound by knitting.

                3. elle *sparkle emoji**

                  This isn’t one size fits all, I personally find typing noise to be the most irritating noise on the planet. I have ways to deal with it but it used to be panic-inducing. I am glad that it doesn’t bother you though!

                4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  A friend whose partner had misophonia couldn’t even type on her computer without him freaking out. She used to write long missives to me, painfully picking out the letters on her phone, even though it was all too small for her, or she’d wait until he left the house to be able to write to me.
                  She ended up leaving him, for a guy who lets her live. (The misophonia was just one of many problems with that guy).

              2. short'n'stout*

                It’s possible that knitting is more distracting than typing for some people because one kind of expects typing in that setting, but not knitting. I know that I’m less distracted by work conversations going on around me while I’m focusing, but more distracted by social conversation in the same setting because it feels more out of place.

                1. WiscoKate*

                  Yeah this, I think it’s the fact that certain noises are out of the ordinary – which is why they become a distraction. Typing can be irritating too, if someone is like smashing their keyboard.

              3. icedcoffee*

                Knitter with ADHD and no misophonia, but definitely easily distracted by noises: it depends on the keyboard and the needles. I find some keyboards, even laptop keyboards, VERY distracting, especially if the person pounds. Like, more annoying than metal dpns.

                Most keyboards are about as distracting as wooden circs. Soft clicking. (And I can knit so I make absolutely no noise for 9 out of 10 stitches) The rhythm also matters, knitting can be more rhythmic. Typing is less predicable, especially if you’re taking notes rather than transcribing, so you might have to backspace a lot.

                ymmv though

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        This is interesting, because I think it does matter if a student needs to be writing or watching, then they probably can’t knit (unless they have something that they don’t need to look at while knitting it). But I can say that if someone is knitting a project that is just the same dang stitch over and over and over and over and over again (repeat ad nauseum) (and there are a lot of projects like this) then it’s not even a thing to put down and pick up the knitting if you need to do something else with your hands. It’s the same thing as putting down a pen and picking it up again, it’s not even something that registers as an action. If I do not have a knitting project when I need to be listening, I am then, in any combination: a) playing with my cuticles, b) playing with my hair, c) playing with my phone, d) checking my email (on my computer, if I’m on a Zoom call), e) checking to see if there are any new AAM posts, f) checking the weather, g) thinking about what I want for my next meal, h) definitely not listening to what is being said. If I am knitting, I am not doing any of these things because my hands are too busy. And yes, I am listening to whatever is being said.

        Taking notes can be helpful if it is a thing that I need to take notes on, but I find even that distracting because then I find myself re-reading the notes and not paying attention to what is being said, and also going over my lousy handwriting to make it more legible. And it sounds like in this case, the training was of a sort that didn’t require a lot of note-taking. I just went through a class like that and taking notes would have been useless to me.

        But you as a professor would be well within your rights to ask your students not to knit because you find it distracting when you see someone knitting, and that is also a reasonable accommodation for you. Or if you want them to be taking notes, you can definitely tell them that they need to do that, which would preclude knitting.

        1. LadyJ*

          I think you need to preface that with if it is not an active accommodation under ADA. Also as someone who learned they were Nuerodivergent later in life the idea that if you are doing X thing you are not paying attention is not true or rooted in actual research. It is an entrenched belief from the Victorian era.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            You mean the last part of my comment? Yes, I suppose if the student had an ADA accommodation then that would mean the prof should let them knit, but if both of them had an ADA accommodation that would make things a bit complicated.

          2. Patty B*

            People aren’t mind readers. Perception matters, and it’s easily understood why something like knitting during a training class gives the perception of disengagement.

            And that’s part of what the ADA is for: to remove guesswork.

            “Victorian era”? Good lord…

            1. Ellis Bell*

              It is pretty archaic pedagogy to be fair. Most educators understand neurodivergence within their classrooms, and that often even neurotypical people find it typical to struggle if the only teaching method used is just listening plus note taking. Note taking is just listening while moving your hand! If you’re lucky, you can do both. Often the only benefit is being able to go over the notes later, which simply means you should have skipped the session and bought a text book to read instead. Just because some people can learn while taking notes doesn’t mean it’s the best, or only teaching method.

            2. Willow Pillow*

              People are biased (everyone, myself included), and our perception is clouded by our bias. It’s not unreasonable for us neurospicy folks to want others to be aware of their biases, or for responses to be as bias-free as reasonably possible. Even with ADA, asking for formal accommodations puts us at risk of further mistreatment and can be a huge imposition (a formal diagnosis can be thousands!).

              You don’t need to be a mind reader to be open-minded.

            3. Random Dice*

              Could you expand on how the ADA is to remove guesswork?

              I use it to remove “just cuz it’s policy” blocks for things that allow me to work with my disability.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          This is pretty much how my brain works too. The way I explain it to other people is that there’s a certain percentage of my brain that doesn’t want to pay attention to the topic at hand, and that percentage of my brain is going to be doing its own thing whether I want it to or not. If I give the wandering part of my brain a task to do (like knitting, doodling, or using a fidget), then the rest of my brain is free to focus on the task at hand. But if I don’t give that part of my brain a task, it’s going to wander off and take the rest of my focus along with it.

          My go-to knitting project when I’m in a meeting or a class is a hat pattern I have memorized. It’s small enough that I can simply drop it into my lap when I need to take notes and it doesn’t require any counting or higher level focus. It’s strictly muscle memory.

          1. Sarah M*

            This is how I explain my ADHD to neurotypicals, too. If I can keep The Distractor busy by doing something with my hands, the rest of my brain can focus on what’s being said/done in class, etc.

            1. ceiswyn*

              This characterisation of ‘The Distractor’ really, really resonates with me. I may use it :)
              (I’m not officially diagnosed, but this is probably because I’m an inattentive woman who grew up in a rural area in the 80s and 90s. I’m seeking diagnosis, but the road is long and hard…)

          2. Aggretsuko*

            I second this comment very much. I could have written this pre-pandemic, except in the Zoom era nobody sees my yarn so there’s no complaints any more. I’ve had some people gripe and complain and refuse to listen, but most teachers would lay off once they asked me something and I got the answer. I tell people that if I’m staring at them and look like I am paying rapt attention, they lost me 20 minutes ago. Fidget toys just don’t really DO anything (I had to resort to them pre-pandemic) so you just sit there fidgeting and poking buttons and twisting things incessantly.

            I note that I don’t do hard yarn projects at work or in public, just boring stitches that I don’t really have to pay attention to.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              At the risk of sounding “sandwiches don’t work for me” I will add on to this that since fidgets are completely non-productive, they are a non-solution for me. They mostly just annoy me and they don’t calm my anxiety and fidgety-ness the way knitting does. I am not sure I can put into words the difference, really, but I can say that all my non-knitting fidgeting are things that have results (even if they’re not good, like picking my cuticles until they bleed) so I guess that’s why they’re my go-to fidgets and actual fidget toys are not.

              1. Chinookwind*

                You have voiced what I couldn’t – knitting is productive in ways that most other fidgets aren’t. Not only do you have the satisfaction of seeing what you have accomplished, but you don’t feel like your time is wasted. It is literally why I prefer watching tv and knitting vs. playing video games – both are pure entertainment but one feels like a time waster while the other at least gives me something to show for my time.

                And while conferences, meetings and courses are not “wastes of time,” the fact that I could be doing 2-for-1 with my time but I can’t doesn’t help. As a result, my mind will wander (which is how I planned out mentally the pattern for a complicated fisherman’s cable sweater based on the one another student wore to class at least once a week).

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  But video games give you badges for achievements! Not real-life badges, and sometimes they’re really dumb achievements, but you can’t convince my addictive personality.

              2. Kit*

                Yeah, not all fidgeters are created equal. For some, it’s the mechanical aspect of fidgeting that is necessary – providing some motion or physical stimulus – and for others, it’s the ‘result accomplished!’ cycle in their brain. Even if that result, as you say, isn’t good (hello fellow cuticle-picker) it still exists; the satisfaction of having Done Something is what soothes the impulse.

                Fidget toys are designed for the first group, the same kinds of fidgeters who might otherwise be repetitively clicking a retractable pen or drumming on the table; for those people they’re great, but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution and it’s important to acknowledge that!

              3. Dahlia*

                I like some fidget toys but the only ones that work for me are the ones that make noise of some kind. Good for home, bad for meetings.

            2. Iris Eyes*

              Yes! The fidgeting has a mental and physical component, perhaps there’s some anxious part of that fidgety curious distractor that is soothed by creating something from nothing perhaps there is the dopamine boost of finishing a thing. But much more is served by the productive nature of the fidget than just the energy expenditure of finger movement.

              If someone were looking for a smaller scale option, lucet cord especially finger lucet braiding is pretty meeting friendly. Tatting might be but it depends on the shuttle (some are quite clicky-clacky). Neither take up more hand space than most fidgets and if someone can tolerate colored pipe cleaners being bent or silly putty they should be able to tolerate those.

          3. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            Yes, this is me too! I realized in high school that even chewing gum helped me with exams and exam stress, and I understood this then as it just taking the slightest amount of brain power to keep my voluntary jaw muscles going, and when needed I could focus on the feel of chewing as a sort of mindful exercise.

          4. J*

            I suffer from some issues relating to brain fog after chemo and that’s exactly how my post-chemo brain works. It’s been 17+ years and that part of my brain hasn’t healed so I’ve found a lot of coping techniques. Sudoku is my favorite brain task that I use to minimize distractions and even then people are horrified. But I also take exacting notes (again, brain issues) and can refer to them so much that people thing I have an exquisite memory. I feel like it’s hard to understand from the outside; I certainly didn’t understand it until I was 20 and failing classes after cancer and even now I don’t get it entirely, I just benefit from it.

            1. Random Dice*

              Fellow ridiculous note taker here, and for the same memory reasons (mine is related directly to my ADHD). People are amazed at my notes but it’s all a workaround.

        3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          “Reasonable accommodation” is a term of art that applies to people with disabilities. A teacher can’t claim it’s a “reasonable accommodation” to forbid people from knitting unless she has a disability that requires it.

        4. My Cabbages!*

          I can fidget with something and pay attention to what’s being said. I can’t listen and take notes at the same time.

          My brain can handle only one verbal pathway at a time.

      4. Mianaai*

        As someone who’s knit through many a class (and worked as a lecturer during grad school, so have been on the other side of the podium) – I think it depends on the class, in part. In lectures where the prof was writing on a blackboard or whiteboard, I exclusively took notes and never knit. But in classes where the prof is largely reading off of detailed slides that will be available to the class after the lecture, note-taking gets frustrating. There’s generally not enough time to copy down the slide contents the way I would when following along on a blackboard, so there’s gaps and frustration with that, especially when it’s not initially clear what the most important things are to write down. A better tactic is to take notes on the stuff said verbally that’s *not* on the slides… but these items may be really few and far-between and not provide enough stimulation. So knitting, with setting down the item to jot down notes as they come up, works far better for me than doodling or keeping my pen down between notes.

        Discussion-based classes are another situation where I’ll sometimes knit between notes and while discussing – it helps keep me focused on everything that everyone else is saying, and helps me regulate how much I contribute (not zoning out, and not interrupting).

        I can definitely see how someone pulling out a huge project would be distracting when lecturing, but I think most of us who knit in classes or meetings tend to pick small “autopilot” projects to reduce this (and I choose my needles very carefully to be as quiet as possible). My sock knitting plus ball of yarn are like… maybe the size of a grapefruit, and I’m generally able to keep the whole project contained on my lap and out of sight. IMO it’s not dissimilar from someone quietly snacking vs. laying out and eating a whole meal during class.

        Knitting can truly just be a physical fidget that has a side benefit of producing a useable item at the end. Many many knitters can knit simple items entirely by touch – and I’m a lot better learner if I’m quietly fidgeting with my hands and listening with my brain than if I’m struggling to pull my brain away from all the other things it wants to wander off to without the knitting.

      5. Emmy Noether*

        I only need one hand to write, and it’s really easy to let go of the knitting with my right hand to take a quick note while I hold my project with my left, I don’t need to put the whole thing down. (It could be harder for people who tension their yarn with their dominant hand though).

        I can easily take notes from time to time while knitting, and if it turns out I need to furiously scribble the whole time, I will put my project away.

      6. NeedRain47*

        as a knitter: you don’t really have to pick it up and put it down like that. Unless you’re making something large, which you probably shouldn’t in this situation, you can hold it in your non dominant hand while you write.

        myself, I’ve only knit in the types of seminars/presentations/etc. where I need to listen but really don’t need to take any notes at all. At the last professional conference I went to there were four of us knitting while waiting for something to start.

      7. Parrot*

        Not weighing in on whether you should allow knitting in class, but I genuinely do focus better when I’m crocheting.

        A big part of that is that, for me, “just pay attention and take lots of notes” is not actually a viable alternative. No matter how hard I try, I’ll end up doing something else — doodling, doing other work, just generally being fidgety — and all those things are less conducive to focusing (for me!) than crochet. With a simple crochet project, I barely need to look at my hands, and it’s easy to pick up a pen to jot down some notes without setting the project down.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Agreed. Unless I need to write down every single thing that is being said, note-taking doesn’t keep my hands busy the way knitting or crocheting does.

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I’ve had some positive results from visual note taking–making doodles along with notes that reflect the content.

        3. Mill Miker*

          I have entire notebooks full of generally illegible, incomprehensible, or incomplete notes that I cannot read. And because I was taking notes, I cannot remember the class or meeting or whatever I was taking notes from.

        4. Joielle*

          Agreed! I just got off a call where I crocheted a couple of granny squares, in fact, which I can practically do in my sleep. Someone was giving a presentation where all the important details were on the slides, which they sent out ahead of time. No need to take notes, and like you, I would have ended up just reading my emails or AAM if I had tried. I don’t crochet in meetings where I’m attending in person or have my camera on, because of the optics – but I wish that wasn’t the case because it genuinely does help me focus!

        5. Katy*

          Yes! I’ve always been a “zone out in meetings” person, but a few years ago I went through a crocheting phase and would bring in a little square of crochet to staff meetings. I was astonished by how awake and aware and genuinely useful to the discussion I suddenly became. I had just assumed I had a brain that couldn’t focus during meetings; turns out all I needed to focus was a hook and some yarn.

          So it’s frustrating to see comments that are basically, “I hear you but I don’t believe you because it just doesn’t sound likely to me, and also I don’t like how it looks, so don’t do it.”

          1. Clumsy Ninja*

            I’m totally with you. In fact, I’m known at local continuing education classes for sitting in the back row (so as to minimize distractions to others) and crocheting. It always has to be a mindless pattern, but if you choose projects wisely, it works great!

      8. Tracy Flick*

        You say you’re a professor – I’m curious about why you’re describing this in hypothetical terms.

        Your job involves supervising classes of students. Each class of students represents a diverse group of people. You also were a student in a cohort of students yourself. You work in a department with other professors and graduate students.

        You undoubtedly have encountered a wide range of habits: need to listen to music, can’t listen to music, tap their pencils, get annoyed when other students tap their pencils, take copious free-flowing notes, take carefully diagrammed and pre-planned notes, engage verbally, engage async, hate audio and video lectures, hate printed information with no audio/video component, pace, sit still, rise early, stay up late, short bursts, long periods of quiet work, solo, collaborative, etc. etc. etc.

        Since it’s 2023, you probably have taught a non-negligible number of students with documented conditions like ADHD and autism who have formal accommodations like fidget toys – and who sometimes display behaviors like, well, fidgeting.

        On top of *that*, practices that serve the same purpose as knitting in this context are a common practice throughout human history: singing, chanting, working in groups so that people can share conversation. Knitting during a lecture isn’t a new focus-boosting strategy at all – women used to bring knitting and other handicrafts to church so that they had something to occupy their hands while they listened to sermons. Puritans didn’t think this was “bad optics.”

        So I’m surprised that you use words like “seems” and “imagining” and “expectation.” You have had ample time to gather evidence that these students underperform compared to students who are more like you, right? It must be unheard-of for any student with ADHD or a similar issue to graduate, let alone excel, right?

        Or does that not seem to be the case?

      9. She'sKnittingAgain*

        Hi, OP here.

        I would definitely not knit in your class! I’ve never had a professor tell me no, but I always ask before in case it’s something that would “absolutely derail” them.

        My intent in replying is to encourage you to check the difference between what you imagine and what someone else tells you is their reality. I am an active learner who also happens to knit. I was a leader in the class and actually the only one who took an opportunity to practice teaching the material (it was a teachers of teachers training) to my fellow students and regularly received positive feedback on my ability to guide other students through tricky concepts when we worked in small groups. I was arguably the most active learner in the class, and passed every metric with flying colors.

        1. H2*

          So, I was responding to a comment that said that non-knitters do not realize how possible it is to knit and do other things. I was agreeing that as a non-knitter, it does not seem possible to do those two things at once. And that is exactly why I said that I was open to being wrong—knitters are saying that it’s possible. But I think that by the same token, it’s important to be open to the idea that non-knitters may think that and so it may come across poorly. I had a gut reaction that is basically the opposite of your gut reaction (and I acknowledged that I may be wrong), but I think that the takeaway is that it will come across differently to different people and in different situations.

          1. She'sKnittingAgain*

            Yeah, the first draft of my reply was: you’re correct that you’re wrong that knitting interferes with active learning.

      10. Zephy*

        What is distracting to you is the novelty. It’s not as common to see someone knitting as it is to see someone, say, typing or doodling or whatever. You say “learners need to be watching, listening, writing, etc.” – have you considered that doing all three (or more) of those things simultaneously is harder for some people than for others? Can you watch, listen to, and write notes about something all at the same time, and still absorb the material?

      11. Just an observation*

        Lots of people I know who knitted in class kept their hands and knitting in their laps and under the table. They would reach their hand up to write and then put it back in their lap. But if your classes require contant note taking that is probably very different from the types of classes where most people successfully knit in.

      12. learnedthehardway*

        I definitely focus better when I’m knitting – and I retain MUCH more information and for a much longer time than if I’m just sitting there. Doing something physical enables my brain to use different pathways to create memories – which is a good thing, because listening alone is a guarantee for me to completely forget everything.

        I generally have to take notes as well to really retain anything in the long term, but I am more engaged in the class if I am knitting while listening.

      13. an academic*

        I also am a professor and do a lot of active learning. Students are frequently asked to respond to questions with their clicker, talk to each other about their ideas, and occasionally to write down answers on index cards or worksheets. I don’t think that would be conducive to knitting, but I also think that in my classroom, there would be less need for someone to occupy their hands in that way.
        As for myself- well, I teach in a 350 person lecture hall. I do go up into the stands to talk with individuals during the “partner discussion” time, but realistically I don’t know 90% of the stuff that goes on in the seats.

        1. Magenta*

          For me the knitting is not just to occupy my hands, it is also to occupy the wandering part of my brain, having something easy and repetitive to do allows me to focus. Knitting is a good task, but stupid games like candy crush will also work. Taking notes, or answering with a clicker would not work at all, I could do them at the same time as the knitting, but not instead of.

      14. kitryan*

        I was in a college class back in 1999 and I was also working pt at a bridal salon. I had a small beading project with me in the class and when I spoke to the professor after class about some assignment or other the professor asked about the project and after I explained, he said (unprompted) that he wouldn’t mind at all if I worked on it during class – that years ago when he’d started teaching, lots of women students used to knit / do small handcrafts in class all the time. This prof was, at the time, at least 70 so I imagine he was talking about the 60s and 70s or possibly even the 50s.
        I didn’t take him up on the offer since I was taking frequent notes in the class and the beading actually did require a bit more attention than would appropriate for a hands busy/mind free activity, but I think of that conversation and those knitting students back in the 1960s every time the modern day conversation around knitting as a fidget item/activity comes up.

        1. Heidi*

          In olden times, women could knit to supplement their income and they knit all. the. time. Like, while walking around doing their shopping and stuff. There are old-timey photos of women with special belts and aprons to hold their yarn. They could churn out a sweater in like a day, so I’m guessing they didn’t need to think too much about it.

          In college, there was a student in my class who knit. Over the semester, a blue sweater slowly came into being. Then one day, she switched to gray yarn and everyone was asking each other, “What happened to the sweater?” I think we were a little sad not to see the finished product.

          1. workswitholdstuff*

            Look up knitting sheathes! Made to faciliate that kind of walking and knitting – but also often made as love tokens too – like Welsh Love Spoons!

      15. Rock Prof*

        As a professor and knitter, I personally don’t find knitting distracting beyond curiosity about what they’re working on. I definitely get the feeling I might be an outlier in the sciences, but if we’re just doing discussions or lectures, I’d have no problem. Lots of students have a different capacity for note taking, so I wouldn’t worry unless I noticed it became an issue (I’m at a small liberal arts school, so my classes are not large and I can notice individual things). If a student were working on a project in the middle of a lab or some activity/project, knitting wouldn’t really fly, but that’s a different issue to me.

      16. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I think from the professor standpoint – believe someone when they say something helps them, even if you have a hard time conceptualizing it.

      17. Nina*

        I crochet, and while I’m certainly not making amigurumi in class or anything that requires counting stitches, I can make endless granny squares under the desk, without looking at them, and there’s only one ‘needle’ so it’s much quieter than knitting. Also easier to free up a hand to make notes. Genuinely if I was crocheting in your class you would not notice until I packed up the yarn along with my papers to leave.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          This whole time I’ve been reading comments, I was thinking how (to me, personally) crocheting is so much easier and granny squares would be the way to go. Easy to crochet, easy to undo if you want to keep recycling the same yarn, and quieter than two needles clicking together! :)

      18. SbuxAddict*

        I rarely get to knit in meetings anymore but when I do, I pay much more attention to the meeting than when my brain is working 8000000 miles a minute on distractions. I can still do it during seminars and zooms thankfully.

        That said, as someone with ADHD, I can see how it would be distracting to have the needles flashing and the item being picked up and put down next to me. I have other coping mechanisms I use if it’s a problem for someone for me to knit such as taking copious notes that I will never need.

      19. Chinookwind*

        I have taken knitting to convention where I was my group’s voting member (so it was my job to be attentive). There were a few other knitters and throughout the morning we gravitated together and ended up being the group that participated the most in the discussions, motions and votes.

        I wish there was a way to explain to non-knitters how, once you have the muscle memory down, it truly is like working an elaborate fidget toy that results in something useful. For me it is is soothing when I am agitated (very useful when discussing policy issues) and actually keeps me from flitting around unfocused.

      20. Supposed Teacher*

        I have a masters in education so the controversial reply to this is that people shouldn’t be listening to you talk so much in class that they need to knit. Which isn’t a condemnation – we all know that teacher led learning where a teacher just stands and talks at you is the worst learning but also the easiest. I studied it, did my thesis, and then found myself droning on because student led teaching is HARD! But at the very least you shouldn’t punish students like me who are crawling out of their skin trying to pay attention for more than 10-15 minutes. It’s a nightmare I’ve lived my whole life and I also just learned to basically create stories in my mind and completely zone out. So consider that the people looking rapt with attention might be completely checked out and the knitters are actually listening to you…

      21. Sun and clouds*

        The things that help people concentrate are so varied. At one job where we were using our headphones and music to help us concentrate. Our boss forbade them because music was a distraction and he wanted us to work faster. We tried to explain that it was the exact opposite – we were using music to help us focus and were doing our best to improve but he just didn’t understand that. He ended up loosing that battle.

      22. Rach*

        As someone who has ADHD, one of my accommodations at university was getting notes from a classmate. I *can’t* pay attention and write notes. Not everyone learns the same! I ended up graduating with honors and am now a successful engineer (who still needs accommodations). The people who view the optics around knitting/doodling/fidgeting as poor are the ones who need to change, not the people who need to fidget.

      23. RNL*

        One of the ways people with neurodivergence struggle is with those types of optics.

        I’m a lawyer with ADHD. I’m a pretty good lawyer. I am the most effective on client calls when playing candy crush (as in, that is when I listen the best, respond the best, and give the best advice). I doodle my way through court hearings. The more I look like I am classically “paying attention” almost certainly the less I am actually paying attention. If I try to listen to a podcast without doing something else at the same time I won’t follow it.

        I also cannot really effectively take notes and pay proper attention at the same time (depending on what I am doing). When I’m doing depositions I cannot take notes of what the witness is saying and also pay proper attention to it in order to process the evidence and properly formulate my next question or line of questioning. Sometimes I can take a few notes of things to follow up on, but recording what is going on absolutely derails my thinking.

        Trying to suppress this need to fidget or doodle – to occupy the distractible part of my mind so that I can actually operate at my best – has been a big struggle in my life. I often forced myself to wildly underperform in terms of my own comprehension or engagement in order to appear like I am paying attention. Trust me, if I look like I’m rapt I’m a million miles away.

      24. ADHDSquirrelWhat*

        I can honestly say my grades went UP when I started crocheting daily in class.

        if I could go back in time, I’d change how I CARRIED the yarn and stuff – but when I just sat still, I’d fall asleep. didn’t matter if I was tired or not. I would just zone out. I tried taking notes, and I’d end up writing a novel about something. the less said about my doodling the better. ;) But I cannot focus on auditory-only stimuli, and that’s mostly what a lecture is. If I want to be ABLE to hear, I have to have my hands busy on something unrelated to what I’m listening to.

    5. giraffecat*

      I’m an avid crocheter and definitely use it to help with attention at times. But, for meetings or trainings, I think detailed note-taking is much better. First, it can be less distracting to others. And second, there is evidence to show that note-taking, especially handwritten, improves retention of information. Now for meetings that don’t really require you to retain the information, knitting or crocheting is fine. But, for training or meetings where you need to retain the information, switching to note-taking has an advantage for many reasons.

      1. My Cabbages!*

        Respectfully, this is very much not the case for many neurodiverse people. I can process words I hear, I can process words I read, or I can process words I write.

        If I try to do more than one of these at a time, I won’t actually understand any of them. Forcing me to take notes will end with me not remembering what was said, and a notepad full of incomprehensible gibberish .

        1. ADHDSquirrelWhat*

          same! taking notes is a waste of time for me. A notepad for a few highlights and otherwise knitting/crocheting/whatnot is far more likely to actually have me remember what happened and be engaged in the meeting.

          I will have my own husband email me when he tells me something important so I actually remember it. auditory-only = gone.

    6. Samwise*

      Knitters may underestimate how distracting their knitting is to people sitting near them.

      The needles are moving and they are clicking, even if fairly softly, the knitter’s hands are moving in their lap…

      I’m not saying, don’t knit. Just be aware that it is distracting even if you don’t intend it to be. I suggest letting the folks sitting near you know that you are knitting because it helps you concentrate. If I know the reason, it will be less distracting to me.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        It does depend on the needles. The noise of metal needles will frequently annoy me, even when I’m the one doing the knitting. I can’t hear most bamboo needles at all.

      2. NeedRain47*

        the thing is, you might stop people knitting but you won’t stop people from fidgeting, moving around, clicking their pen or just picking it up and putting it down…. there’s no reason knitting is more distracting than any of that except that people aren’t used to it.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          It’s really not okay to lecture people about what they supposedly are or aren’t distracted by.

        2. Lilas*

          But that may be fair- pen clicking isn’t distracting because it’s part of the classroom noise environment, when a soft sound of the same decibel level that doesn’t seem to belong, that seems to come from an unrelated activity, can be much harder to tune out.

          1. Dahlia*

            Oh, no, it is absolutely distracting. Ask the teachers who took my clicky pens away back in high school. Think constant clicking.

        3. Bit o' Brit*

          Noises that are just on the edge of my hearing are significantly more distracting and distressing than slightly louder noises, so faintly clicking needles are actually much worse than pen clicking, coughing, creaking chairs etc.

      3. Totally Minnie*

        Oh, for sure. If I’m thinking of knitting in a class or a meeting, I always check with the facilitator and the people sitting around me, and I bring a backup fidget in case someone says that knitting would distract them.

      4. Trillian*

        I would move away from a knitter, for precisely that reason (and I grew up in a family of knitters). Same as I would move away from someone who was watching videos on their computer screen. It distracts me.

        1. Too Many Tabs Open*

          When I bring knitting to a lecture-style class, I try to sit in the back or off to the side away from folks for this reason; that way I can knit and pay better attention to the lecture while not disturbing my classmates.

    7. sundae funday*

      Yes! Copious note-taking saved my life in college. I have ADHD but I really enjoy the aesthetic of a nice, thick notebook full of notes, so I could hyper fixate on notes and pay attention to lectures at the same time. And if I doodled a bit in the margins, no one noticed or cared!

      1. Thistle whistle*

        I once sat next to someone who sat down and took out a pack of coloured pens which they used to take multicoloured mind map style notes. Turns out they were a fidgeter and this was their way of keeping themself on track without being too distracting.

        1. Milksnake*

          This is how I handle it. I have a series of pens and markers for different line thicknesses and use rulers and white out to make sure my notes are mapped out the way I want them.
          I practice my penmanship too so taking copious amounts of notes is just giving me fodder to work on my handwriting styles.

          That being said, penmanship/notetaking may not be something that interests the OP and therefore wouldn’t work as a tool to help them focus.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          I am exactly that person. I will absolutely not pay attention if I am not taking notes (even if the notes are me haring off after an idea triggered by the thing I was originally taking notes on) and the colors help with retention/being able to find information afterward.

    8. g*

      Note taking seems like a good option. Note taking and doodling can easily overlap, since doodling has helped OP in the past.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        For me, the difference is that note taking is words and doodling is not. I can typically only do one word based task at a time. I can be writing or I can be listening, but I generally can’t be doing both at once. If I’m writing words, I’m focusing on the words I’m writing and I’m not necessarily hearing or understanding the words the facilitator is saying at the same moment. I tend to limit my note taking to the important points so I can pay attention to the rest of the instruction. But doodling is not words, so I can doodle while I listen and it doesn’t interfere.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Yeah, language uses a specific part of the brain that doodling likely doesn’t use. I can take notes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a useful alternative for anyone else.

        2. g*

          I get that. I more meant that someone could appear to be taking notes but actually doodling. Or be taking notes part of the time, doodling in the margins for the rest. OP would still just be writing down those important parts, the stuff they mentioned setting down their knitting for, but doodling the rest of the time, maybe in the same notebook but on oposite pages. For optics it might be easier to get away with all the doodling if there are notes there too or if it isn’t so obvious they’re switiching from notes to another thing.

          Maybe not the best solution, but if knitting is truley a no-go it might be a workable option.

    9. Newly minted higher ed*

      I often work on handwork in classes in the past, and in meetings, or my part-time job where I have to listen and watch things several times in a row to make commentary. Not ADHD, but I will fall asleep if I am sitting there not moving (yay for chronic fatigue). In class one time, I was sitting in the very back of a lecture hall of 300 students, listening and taking notes, while the young man in front of me almost fell out of his chair trying to copy my notes and the two young women next to me for an hour a day, five days a week, had conversations about what diet regimen they were on now (when fen-phen was still on the shelves). And all the fidgeting and sickness noises were very distracting to me and I had a hard time hearing the lecture over the conversations. The TA said I wasn’t allowed to do handwork becuase it was distracting. I pointed out the problems I was having of conversations and such that weren’t being addressed, that I was at least quiet, showed him my notes, and said he had a choice — stitching/knitting or sleeping. He still didn’t bother to tell the women to stop having long conversations but kept an eagle eye on me. Now, I often stand during meetings to stay awake, which drives my colleagues bonkers for some reason. I mean, I guess I could just sleep instead, it is medical…

      I can see where the unexpected movement and clicking could be distracting, but I’d rather my students now be knitting than playing on their phones or sleeping tbh. I don’t see how it’s any more distracting than someone with bad congestion or shuffling papers constantly to stay awake.

    10. Excessive Notetaker*

      I always doodled as a kid in school (and later as an adult in meetings), but I started doing the excessive notes thing when covid hit (because I felt I needed to be staring at the Zoom screen and you can’t really doodle when typing in a word document). I write down word for word everything everyone says……. And then turn it into reasonable notes later.

      Technically it works, but Zoom has been rough for me to say the least.

    11. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Note taking can help, but your attention is still split — you have to be writing/typing while listening and deciding what else to take down — so I don’t know that it’s as simple as “just do this instead”. I actually take better notes when I’m *not* constantly writing because then the only things I’m writing are the things that are important.

    12. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here

      Yeah, I take lots of notes, often gloriously embellished with doodles when I can’t knit. I’m more mentally fatigued after a day of that than a day of knitting, but I went to a strict elementary school that highly valued appearances and definitely learned some coping strategies, as well as internalizing some incorrect ideas about what made me “good.” :S

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Many letter writers who join us in the comments will call themselves a name that ends with “OP” or “LW”, such as “She’sKnittingAgain OP” for ease of searching. An invisible asterisk is added to the end, which makes searching for “OP*” a reasonable way of finding comments by the letter writer.

    13. fhqwhgads*

      For me, I wouldn’t think you weren’t paying attention. But the clacking would grate. Unless you knit silently, which I haven’t really encountered.
      Not defending what happened in the letter, just saying “assuming you’re not focused” isn’t the only possible negative interpretation of the events.

    14. Tau*

      Although oddly enough, I (with a recent ADHD diagnosis under my belt) actually also focus really well if I’m knitting a more complex pattern, typically better than if I fidget or doodle, and significantly better than if I try to do nothing at all. This might be dependent on how intense the material is – I’ve never knitted in class, I’m thinking about all-hands Zoom meetings right now – but it feels a little like I just have too much attention and if I don’t find something to occupy the excess it will go find something on its own and pull the rest of it along. Knitting that’s not entirely automatic, that includes a minor undercurrent of “OK, now knit three contrast, one main, purl in contrast, knit two main, two contrast, purl in main…” works really well to keep me from ending up daydreaming or doing something else when we’re being told about quarterly outcomes etc in a way that fidget toys do not.

      1. SbuxAddict*

        This is exactly how I feel. Knitting or handwork distracts the part of my brain that is otherwise yelling “Look at the red coat. I wonder if she washes it with those color guard things. There’s a lot of dust on the ceiling. Do they ever dust that? Why is that guy still clearing his throat. Does he have covid? Hmm. My fingernails are terrible. Why are my cuticles so ragged? What was I talking about? Did they notice I lost focus?”

        I think my brain just has too many thoughts at once and giving it a project lets the rest of it work better. Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t realize people lived without all these thoughts in their head.

        1. Helen of What*

          Re:”I think my brain just has too many thoughts at once and giving it a project lets the rest of it work better. Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t realize people lived without all these thoughts in their head.”
          Hard same! When I finally figured it out a couple years ago, I described it to my pinball loving husband as living with “multi-ball” active all the time. I am pretty good at keeping two going but the third and fourth and fifth pinballs can get lost, then suddenly come back into view.

      2. ADHDSquirrelWhat*

        This is why I really think it should be called attention DIFFERENCE not attention DEFICIT. It’s not that we have a deficit of attention. It’s that our “ignore the unimportant stuff” filter is missing, and we have to manually create one. It’s the same amount of mental processing of what to ignore, but we have to do it in the foreground, not the background.

        Something like a semi-complicated knitting project (like you say!) uses up enough brain-cycles that I can corral the rest onto specific-thing-X. It gives me a mental filter so I can ignore the detritus of life around me. Without that? ….. yeahhhhh, what’s going on again?

    15. Tiger Snake*

      Heck, I knit and I’ll have to take your word for it. I can knit while watching TV, but not while I’m meant to actually think about the information I’ve been given like in a training session or meeting. Its definately one of those ‘no one can really walk in someone else’s shoes’ situations.

      Although the problem with knitting is that I’d find it distracting to have someone else knitting next to me too. The knitting click-clack doesn’t tune out like typing does, and you get really distracted by watching the rows come together and see the piece grow.
      Its why I consider a core requirement to be classified as a fidget toy is for it to be unobstrusive (rather than a toy that you can coincindetally also fidget with). The concern is to be mindful of everyone; not not just not looking like you’re ignoring the speaking, but making sure you’re not interferring with other people’s ability to do the same. Between playing something within your pocket or under the table, vs something that’s visible to everyone else and so distracting to them, the second definately comes off as more disrespectful in general for that reason.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I guess it depends on what I’m knitting, but, I can barely watch TV and knit without screwing up the pattern or counting wrong. I would definitely not be able to do it discretely and retain both the content and any semblance of a usable knitted piece.

        Both my kids have ADHD, and we’ve bought both every fidget device there is under the sun. As long as it does not make noise and can be manipulated under the desk, they’ve been find to go to school. One kid prefers the fake bubble wrap soft fidgets, the other prefers a small cube with tactile mechanisms.

    16. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Seriously, I could knit the diamond in a diamond pattern and *read a book* if the pages would stay open by themselves (this was before tablets). Listening to a class and stopping to take notes? No problem.

    17. Kiwi Leslie Knope*

      I find that when I do that, the information transfers through me onto the page. it doesn’t stick and reading the notes later don’t resonate. I need to do something relatively mindless. Colouring in has definitely helped me in the past.

  2. Corrigan*

    Ugh, I’m similarly a much better listener when my hands are busy and I’d be pissed if someone told me to stop like this. I think Alison’s advice is spot on.

    1. Alanna*

      I actually attended a prestigious professional training earlier this year where one of the participants was knitting. Part of the idea of the training was creating a warm, supportive, engaged environment — no laptops — and we were all fine with it! She was clearly participating during the participatory sections, and we were all doing our best to stay focused during the lecture portions.

      That said, I also agree with Allison’s advice that a class and a meeting might have different norms. My company is pretty loosey-goosey and I personally would not crochet during a meeting where anyone could see me.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Though acceptable meeting activity is size-dependent. I used to go to meetings that had 8,000+ attendees, and the #1 activity was making snarky comments about the meeting content on an anonymous local chat. Which I guess showed engagement?

  3. LiberryPie*

    I’m glad this person wrote in, as I really would like more awareness around this! I really have a hard time concentrating when I’m just passively listening, and knitting helps so much. If my hands aren’t occupied with knitting, I’ll end up picking up my phone, which is much more distracting! (I know I could/should just put the phone far from me, but then I’d probably click around on the computer or just find something else to do.)

    1. Mianaai*

      The phone/knitting double standard bothers me so much. I’m also someone who pays attention best when I have something to do with my hands; often this is taking notes but in a lot of situations I pull out my knitting. I’ve been occasionally scolded for not paying attention – because I’m knitting while keeping my head up, asking questions, etc – but the people to either side lost in the depths of their phones and completely disengaged get no comment. Argh. (Also, somehow, have been scolded for taking notes once, but that person was a loon)

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I just commented above at how delightful my knitter in class was just earlier today and I have the same issue. 20% of my class are on their phones at any given time. There is no way I’d call out a knitter more than those on their phones because I KNOW the knitter is listening and I can be fairly sure that the person texting very much is not.

        (I’ve given up restricting phones during lecture. Basically, those who are on them constantly suffer their own consequences by generally not doing as well as others in my class.)

        1. NeedRain47*

          I sometimes make notes on my phone. I’m aware that doesn’t look any different to an observer than if I was playing on tiktok (I do not have a tiktok).

        2. learnedthehardway*

          Definitely agree. I can do something kinetic or look at pictures while listening to or reading words, but I cannot (and I think that most people cannot) read AND listen to words at the same time.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Alison touched on different etiquette for classes as opposed to meetings and you make the same point here: it’s to do with whose time you appear to be “wasting”.

        4. an academic*

          If people are on their phones (and not looking at the slides or something), I make a point to go chat with them during the “partner discussion” times in my class. I generally find that they’re either they’re on top of things and give a good, well-reasoned answer, or they’re entirely lost, in which case I force them to pay attention to the question we’re discussing in the class.

    2. ariel*

      I think knitting is so common in library and university environments, both familiar to me – I guess it never occurred to me that outside those places, people would look down on the practice! Verrrry curious about how one is labeled a disruptive knitter, never seen it, though I suppose people could be distracted by the act of knitting? I find actual fidget toys much more distracting, to the point that I wonder if *I* have ADHD.

      1. sundae funday*

        Do the needles make a clicking noise? I used to knit but it’s been so long I legitimately don’t remember! But even if they do “click,” it isn’t any louder than computer key typing, imo.

        I’d probably watch someone knit, but I wouldn’t say it would “distract” me since I can watch someone knit and listen at the same time! If anything, it might help me more–although keeping my hands occupied is still the best way to get me to listen!

        1. Mianaai*

          Depends on the needles! Metal needles are pretty likely to click; I choose bamboo or carbon fiber needles when knitting in a meeting or lecture, which cuts down on the noise substantially. I think this is something a lot of knitters think about when choosing projects to work on in such settings (along with a pattern that’s small in size and able to be completed on autopilot)

          1. Cordelia*

            ah ok, that makes sense, and is probably another example of erroneous beliefs non-knitters have about knitters! Because I am remembering my mother knitting as a child, and although the click-click-click was somehow reassuring and relaxing then, I would find it very distracting in a class now. But I didn’t know there were other types of needles, so I can imagine making the assumption that the knitter was distracting other people.
            Also, I remember my mother teaching me to knit, and finding it quite hard to learn, so again would assume that a knitter in a class I was teaching wasn’t concentrating. Probably not possible for you, OP, given that the ban came from so high up, but in other situations it might be worth a person wanting to knit in class to reassure the teacher and those around them that the knitting was silent and took up practically no brainpower for them, contrary to what non-knitters might believe

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Knitting is kind of like walking: takes full concentration when you first learn it, but once you’re a few hundred thousand steps/stitches in it’s muscle memory and can be done on the side.

            2. Mianaai*

              Yeah – if I choose my project with care, the noise of my needles is about on par with, say, the sound of someone writing with a kinda scratchy fountain pen, and is substantially quieter than someone typing on a laptop (no shade on people taking notes with a laptop! But it’s not silent!)

        2. JSPA*

          I have a hard time concentrating without falling asleep. Clicking (metal) needles can stress out people with misophonia, distract the easily-distractable, and they send me right to sleep. But if nobody is being bothered in this particular class, It seems unfortunate to have a blanket “no knitting” rule.

          Are they ok with other fidget tools?

          I find that making and unmaking a chain of slipknots in string works. I doubt there is a “do not fidget with string” rule.

    3. A person*

      I also knit to keep focused although never at work. It would likely be frowned upon where I work but my other fidget habits are tolerated where I work so it’s fine. I tend towards leg shaking or rocking when. I can’t fidget properly with my hands which is usually more distracting than letting me knit or play with something. I really struggle to sit still (it is also acceptable where I work, to stand in meetings if you need to for focus or fidgets). My coworkers know my issues and are pretty good about them and I’m otherwise a skilled employee so I’ve figured out how to be ok there. I would struggle in a classroom or more formal office though.

  4. Lavender*

    I had a teacher in middle school who let me knit in class to help focus. Her attitude was that as long as it wasn’t negatively effecting my work or anyone else’s, there was no reason not to allow it. Another teacher at that same school kept a few pieces of “quiet” exercise equipment (think elliptical machines, stair-steppers, or exercise bikes) in the back of her classroom–so if any kids needed to burn off some energy while she was giving a lesson, they could do so while still paying attention and without disrupting anyone else. It worked really well!

    I know OP is obviously not in middle school, but I feel like a lot of the methods that work for keeping kids focused can also work for adults. I hope their employer comes around on this.

    1. curly sue*

      I’ve got a handful of students in my university courses every term who knit or do hand-sewing or embroidery in order to stay focused. It surprised me the first time, but honestly they usually turn out to be some of my most engaged students.

      1. Lavender*

        It seems sort of backwards at first, but it really does seem to occupy that space in my brain that would otherwise be thinking distracting thoughts.

      2. She'sKnittingAgain*

        Hi, OP here.

        That’s awesome, I love that my knee jerk reaction was “hand-sewing! who could focus while they did THAT?” before I realized that’s exactly what people think about my knitting!

        1. Lavender*

          I have a huge pile of clothes I need to mend–maybe I should put them aside for situations like this!

        2. curly sue*

          A lot of my students are in the costume design program, so hand-rolled hems and such are pretty much second nature by the time I get them. I’m often able to tell which classes they’re taking by which samples (or Edwardian blouses, etc) they’re in the middle of. It’s pretty neat, actually! One of my students has been working on a sweater for her father since early January and I’ve been watching the back panel grow during lecture. It’s satisfying!

      3. BigTenProfessor*

        I explicitly allow it, and I prefer it to students having their laptops out and obviously doing other things.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Wow, I am a knitter but I also love the idea of having exercise equipment in class for the kids who need to be moving in order to focus!

      1. Lavender*

        It was really great, especially since middle schoolers can have SO much energy. Her rule was that as long as you could use the equipment quietly and for its intended purpose (i.e. not as a toy or climbing gym), you didn’t even have to ask to use it. Just get up quietly, use the equipment until you get tired or bored, and then quietly return to your seat. I don’t think I used it very often, but a lot of my classmates found it to be really helpful.

        1. Yoyoyo*

          I love this idea so much and can only hope it catches on with other educators around the world, because I have a sneaking suspicion my child will need something like this in school. I remember in elementary school the teachers were always “correcting” my brother to sit down in his chair because he was always standing up, especially if he was actively working on something. One year my mom went into his parent teacher conference expecting to hear about his standing up “problem” yet again and it didn’t come up, so she asked about it. The teacher said, “oh, I just moved his desk so he wouldn’t be blocking anyone else’s view of the board.” Finally, someone got it!

          1. Lavender*

            I taught middle school for a year, but it was during the covid school closures so I didn’t have a classroom. Providing exercise equipment obviously wasn’t an option, but I did tell my students that they should feel free to get up and move around whenever they needed to. So many kids really benefit from it, especially around that age.

      2. Dahlia*

        There are under-desk pedal things you can get specifically geared at students who need some physical stimulation to learn!

    3. Lavender*

      *Affecting, not effecting. I’m only correcting this because I know the teachers I mentioned in my comment would be disappointed to see me confusing the two!

    4. OyHiOh*

      In the Waldorf pedagogy, children are taught “handwork” (usually knitting) in Kindergarten and actively encouraged to get out their handwork when the teacher is going to be talking/reading out loud, and this is a way of teaching that’s been around since the 1890’s (there are massive social and structural racism issues with pure Waldorf pedagogy, but some elements are wonderfully simple, beautiful, and relevant). So if an old white German dude figured that giving children something to do with their hands would help them listen and recall the teacher’s lessons better, some of today’s adults can probably benefit from the same.

      1. Lavender*

        Interesting! This wasn’t a Waldorf school but I think they borrowed some elements from the Waldorf curriculum.

    5. Lizzianna*

      My son is younger than middle school, but his teacher got him a wobbly chair, and his attention in class (and hence his grades) have increased immensely. He was spending so much energy and focus just trying to keep from wiggling that once he was able to move just a tiny bit, it freed up that part of his brain to actually focus on what the teacher was saying.

      I really love that we’re starting to understand that not everyone learns the same way and the model of “sit still and listen while we throw facts at you to remember” really only works for a small subset of a school or professional community. I’d love to see things like knitting or other fidgets more normalized in some of these settings.

      1. Lavender*

        I’ve seen teachers keep exercise balls in their classroom for kids to sit on if they get fidgety or if the hard plastic chairs get uncomfortable. They also make these big rubber band things (I forgot what they’re called) to loop around the legs of a chair so that kids can bounce their feet on it while sitting. It’s cool to see what people come up with!

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          I think they call them Kick Bands. My niece has one for most of her chairs, and it does help when she has to remain seated for a long period of time. (Though we did have to tell her brother when he tried it out that making a loud ‘sproing’ noise by stretching out the band as far as he could and then letting it go was not how they were supposed to be used!)

  5. Annony*

    I have known some very loud knitters so I can see how it has the potential to be distracting to others. I far prefer to sit next to someone doing crochet. But it would make more sense to judge on an individual basis rather than have a blanket ban.

    1. I edit everything*

      Maybe learning to crochet is OP’s solution. It’s quiet, a similar type of finger occupation, and hasn’t been prohibited.

      1. Cyndi*

        I agree it’s quieter and less disruptive but I worry that “well, you said I can’t knit but you never said I can’t crochet!” might come across as petty rules-lawyering, especially to people who aren’t into fiber crafts and think of knit and crochet as basically the same thing.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah – to be honest, after being asked directly not to knit, I’d suggested OP find a different way to maintain focus rather than either going back to the boss pressing for knit permission or switching to another similar handicraft. It can be a bit distracting, and at least one of my professors found it insulting, like her lecture wasn’t engaging enough on its own.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Literally no human has an engaging enough lecture to stifle my need to fidget, It will come upon me at some point within the hour. Best to let me deal with it and not take offense.

            1. nm*

              As an instructor I gotta second this, people are just not built to sit still and absorb information for a straight hour. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that if someone *thinks* they’re paying perfect attention for a whole hour they are probably not very self aware.

            2. Lizzianna*

              This attitude is so frustrating to me, a fidgeter.

              Do you want me to look like I’m paying attention, or do you want me to actually absorb and understand what you’re telling me? Because if I’m sitting still, I promise, 99.99% of my energy is going towards maintaining the appearance that I’m sitting still.

        2. RagingADHD*

          It definitely would come off as petty rules-lawyering, because it is exactly the definition of petty rules-lawyering.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Right, because a great-grandboss who’s blanket-banned knitting in meetings or training sessions is totally going to distinguish between knitting and crochet. (In my experience, people who don’t do one or both usually can’t tell the difference anyway. :P )

        1. Lavender*

          I could see the argument if they specifically had an issue with the clicking sound from the needles. I think in that case OP could try saying, “Would crochet be okay, since there’s no clicking?” But otherwise yeah, it’s not likely to go over well.

      3. Mid*

        As someone who does both, I do think crochet takes a little more attention, because you have to pick up your stitches while knitting is all on your needles, though it’s a minor amount more. But I have to look at my crocheting, and never have to look at knitting.

        1. turquoisecow*

          I think it depends on what you learn first. I’m much faster and more confident at crochet but would absolutely be distracted by having to think about knitting.

          Also, my husband cannot tell the difference between the two no matter how many times I explain that crocheting involves one hook and knitting uses two needles. So I doubt the big boss would be able to tell, and even if he did, I’m sure he would view crochet as similar enough to knitting that it would piss him off more.

          1. ShysterB*

            Agreed re what you learn first. I’ve been crocheting for 40 years. If I’m making something (or am at a stage in making something) that doesn’t require frequent review of a pattern, I can do it in the dark, watching a movie, without having to look at the yarn.

            I started knitting last October. (My mother tried to teach me crochet, knitting, and sewing when I was in middle school — only one stuck, which is why I am now taking knitting AND sewing classes [we shall not talk about how crooked my quilting lines are].) I absolutely have to look even in stockinette in the round. That said, I can still LISTEN and UNDERSTAND and RETAIN information while looking at my knitting. And every opportunity I have in these remote days to keep my camera off so I can work on that stranded colorwork during meetings, I do that.

          2. Jam on Toast*

            I had a boyfriend once upon a time who referred to all of my crafting efforts, be it sewing, embroidery, knitting, smocking or cross stitch, as ‘macrame’. Didn’t matter how many times I detailed the differences, it was all macrame. The irony being of course that I never have done macrame or decorative knotting at all in my entire life. It was just so disrespectful. But his lack of interest in my hobbies probably goes a long way to explaining why we broke up….we were just ‘knot’ suited :)

        2. Mianaai*

          Yeah, I think it’s much harder for even an experienced crocheter to work completely by touch than it is for an experienced knitter to do so.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I do have to look down to make sure I’m sticking the hook in the right hole, but it’s pretty brief.

    2. Meow*

      I only dabbled in crochet for a while so maybe more experienced people can do it on auto-pilot, but I think it requires more concentration than knitting. You have to be pretty precise with your counts and loop sizes, while knitting tends to have more rows with the same count every time, and the size is more uniform.

      1. Dinwar*

        I maintain loop size by tension–as long as that’s constant, and I go far enough onto the hook (which is all a matter of muscle memory at this point), the loops are consistent. If I switch from yarn to embroidery floss or something like that I have to pay more attention, but if I’m doing something simple like a blanket with “X stitch into each Y stitch” patterns, I can do them without looking half the time.

        It also, as I alluded to above, depends on the pattern. I’m currently working on a blanket where it’s “single crochet in space, chain stitch, repeat until end” (the ends get tricky, but that’s 99% of it), and while I need to look each set of stitches it doesn’t take much concentration. I’ve also got a partially-completed blanket in a pseudo-Irish crochet pattern, where I’m doing multiple types of stitches and attaching things with slip stitches at specific points and all kinds of stuff. I need to put a LOT more concentration into that one! And true Irish crochet, where you’re making motifs and then connecting them with lacework, would really require concentration because there’s often not a pattern, or you’re adjusting it based on the specific motifs you choose (the free-form style is part of the appeal).

        So I guess my answer is, it all depends!

      2. Spicy Tuna*

        Weighing in as a crocheter who’s dabbled in knitting – I get more distracted by knitting because I have to be aware to not drop stitches and count the stitches at the end of every row. Crocheting is just one the hook and mistakes can be easily undone/redone without additional brain power. It’s not the end of the world if the stitches slip off the hook.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I’ve been crocheting since the 70s, and picked up knitting in 2015. 1. Can confirm, crocheting *to me* is much less stressful when I’m dividing my attention than knitting, because there’s only one live stitch.

          Honestly, I have to stare at my hands no matter what I’m doing so even though I may be very engaged in a conversation or in listening to someone–it sure as heck looks I’m not. Before Covid and the constant on-camera demands by work, I used to happily knit through meetings on calls (I’ve been remote for a long time). Now with CAMERA ON ALWAYS culture, I just look at the screen but am definitely less engaged. I am possibly* looking longingly at a WIP that is on the shelf above my computer.

          *Definitely. I am definitely looking at that project with longing.

        2. Lavender*

          I’ve been doing both for quite a long time now (knitting for nearly 20 years and crochet for about 15). I don’t think one is necessarily harder than the other, they’re just different. I find that I make fewer mistakes when I’m knitting but mistakes can be tricky to fix when they do happen, whereas I tend to make more mistakes when I crochet but they’re no big deal to fix.

    3. Thistle whistle*

      Yup. I grew up with knitting in the household so while it isn’t as distracting to me but I can totally understand how it could be distracting to others, especially when turning rows. And the clicking of the needles could also be annoying to some (knitters don’t tend to notice it but non-knitters do).

      It also depends on your style of knitting. Some people knit quietly and can pay full attention to someone else but I can think of a couple who tend to get caught up in the knitting and zone out of the conversation. They also tend to be unintentionally distracting (tutting, deep sighs at dropped stitches, big movements at row changes etc).

      Its like any tactic to keep yourself occupied, you have to check you’re not distracting others when you keep yourself in line.

    4. Managing to get by*

      Yes, when my mom knitted when I was a kid I recall a consistent clicking sound I think the needles would touch and make a noise. Personally, that would make it more difficult for me to concentrate in a class or meeting. It’s not right for one person’s focus method to cause others to have difficulty focusing.

      If it’s silent then I’d have no trouble with it.

    5. CJ*

      That’d be my concern and suggestion. I had a peer who had documentation to knit, and boy howdy, I wish I had had a diagnosis at the time to get documentation to make. the. clicking. stop. Wooden needles were okay-ish, metal needles were not, and there was this one set of plastic needles for a scarf that were the perfect pitch to reach right into my brain and pull.

      (Of course, I was reading a novel under the desk so I could focus on hearing, so I’m not complaining too much.)

      Competing needs for the same diagnosis are so much fun!

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Well, presumably asking for quieter needles could have been an accommodation. Wooden needles are pretty cheap at craft stores.

        I like the idea of having light up needles, but I know I’d get ripped new holes in me if I actually used some in the dark with other humans around, and there’s no need to knit in the dark if you’re alone.

    6. Chutney Jitney*

      If that were the case, OP could just buy different needles. I used the “magic loop” method, so I didn’t even use traditional needles, basically just a point with a plastic cable – but even when I used metal tipped cables, they weren’t loud.

    7. HoHumDrum*

      It was really common in my college classes for people to do hand crafts to help focus. The vast majority of them were low-key non-distracting people, but I did take one class with a woman who always made a big production out of how weird! and quirky! it was that she knit and would draw focus to her projects very regularly. *That* was incredibly annoying, I wonder if maybe the “distracting knitters” the company dealt with before had a similar personality.

  6. Problem!*

    This is what I love about WFH. During long meetings or training sessions I can pick up a knitting project and work on it so my brain cells keep firing on the correct cylinders and don’t wander off. And no one was any wiser since we don’t use video where I work.

    1. MissMaple*

      Same, the blanket I was working on during WFH came to screeching halt when I had to go back to the office last fall.

    2. VaguelySpecific*

      During part of the pandemic I had a weekly meeting that lasted an hour where I was not necessarily an active participant but it was valuable for me to hear the discussion going on and occasionally make notes. I got so much knitting done during those meetings ;).

  7. Lady CFO*

    I can understand the need to “fidget” to focus and am glad that awareness has grown over recent years.

    However, as a C level manager, I would be horrified to learn that my employee is knitting in meetings and/or in a prestigious training program.

    For me, something like knitting is extremely distracting. If this person were near me or within view, I would have a very difficult time focusing on the instruction.

    Can OP find something that helps but doesn’t cause issues for others? Twiddling fingers, a low profile fidget toy, etc.?

    1. Lacey*

      I would find the other options you mentioned WAY more distracting than knitting, so this isn’t really a situation where everyone will be happy.

      But it doesn’t make sense to send someone to a training and then deny them the accommodation they need to fully take advantage of it.

      1. Lily*

        “it doesn’t make sense to send someone to a training and then deny them the accommodation they need to fully take advantage of it.”

        1. Dust Bunny*

          However, it also needs to be recognized that one person’s accommodation can run into someone else’s neurodivergence.

          I’m on the spectrum and in particular have problems tuning out background noises. If someone were knitting using, say, metal needles that clicked, the repetitive sound would drive me nuts. Yes, it’s not a particularly loud or intrusive sound, normally, but that’s kind of the point when you’re neurodivergent–stuff that’s easy for other people isn’t always easy for you. Stuff like tuning out noises or sitting still.

          1. sundae funday*

            I can see this as well as someone with ADHD. I asked elsewhere if the needles “clicked” since it’s been ages since I’ve knitted and I truly don’t remember. I also said that it shouldn’t be any louder than typing keys, but I might be wrong there.

            1. S*

              Depends on the material of the needles (wood is quieter than metal, for example) and the knitter’s style. If I know I’m going to be knitting in close quarters, I generally use wood needles and knit more slowly than usual so as to minimize the noise. But it’s one of those things where it probably can’t be fully eliminated and the sound/visual distraction element is going to depend on who’s around and what else is going on.

              1. TinySoprano*

                Yeah the style is important. I like to use stupidly fine yarn, and because the movements are so small and I do some weird thing with my left hand, it’s almost completely silent if I’m using straight or circular needles, even if they’re metal. On the other hand, if I’m using double-points, or knitting with larger yarn, it’s very clicky even if I use wooden needles. Every knitter is different though, so someone else might find the opposite.

            2. Lavender*

              Some people find the noise annoying, but it’s not nearly as loud as typing on a keyboard. (I tested it by knitting a row using metal needles and then typing a sentence on my laptop. Keyboard was WAY louder.)

          2. NeedRain47*

            I think TV shows etc. have really exaggerated the amount of noise that knitting needles make…. they tend to be based on stereotypes of steel needles that are heavy and were louder but aren’t very common anymore. I’m not saying they’re 100% silent but they’re not louder than other incidental room noise.

          3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            I’m on the spectrum and honestly the knitting is brutal on me. Repetitive patterns (either physical or auditory) are what I have dubbed “fixation hazards” and in the best case scenario they would just prevent me from concentrating or forming coherent sentences. Worst case, my BP shoots up, it feels like little needles stabbing me all over, and once my chest tightened so bad I almost ended up in the ER (thanks fire alarm that wouldn’t stop going over for 8 minutes!).

    2. Lavender*

      I think if there’s anyone else in the meeting or training session who finds the knitting distracting, it would be reasonable for them to ask OP to find a different way of keeping their hands occupied. Not everyone is distracted by that kind of thing, though, so it really depends on who else is in the room. I don’t think the act of knitting in a meeting is “horrifying” in itself.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      Why horrified? I would be far less distracted by someone knitting than someone spinning a fidget toy. I also would accept this as my own personal issue and try to sit in the front of the class away from the person using something I find distracting.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Right? I was wondering why Lady CFO couldn’t just move away from someone who was doing something harmless that she found distracting. Then both she and the knitter would be able to focus. Isn’t win-win better than win-lose?

        1. Samwise*

          Because I’m assigned a seat in a cramped little classroom and I can’t move away from the knitter.

          As I noted above, knitting can be more distracting to others than knitters may realize. (As can crocheting, playing with a fidgeter, clicking a pen…) Let the others know you are doing it because it helps with your concentration, and ask them to let you know if it’s too distracting.

          And if someone tells you it’s too distracting, then stop or work out some compromise.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            IF the someone who says it’s distracting is actually someone in the class, then yes. But just a boss passing by, or sitting in for a few minutes? Nope.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              But in this case it was a pretty high up boss who specifically said not to do it, so LW needs to take that to account. There might be similar ways to accomplish what she wants other than knitting.

              Is that right or fair? Maybe not, but only LW can know whether it’s useful to push back

          2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            That’s true for you, but I’ll bet it’s not true for Lady CFO. On account of the C in her job title, right?

            And can you really not change seats at all? I’ve done technical training in the past, and I am having a bad feeling about whoever is running that classroom. Treating adults like adults is important.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Right? I see all these people telling the knitter to be open about their needs, why can’t Samwise do the same?

      2. Unkempt Flatware*

        Yeah I’d be horrified if a boss were horrified by this, honestly. Let people work how they need to work. Back off.

    4. I edit everything*

      “Horrified” seems like a very strong reaction. What about someone else knitting (assuming they’re quiet) would be so distracting for you?

      1. MicroManagered*

        Literally watching someone next to me knit a sweater (or whatever) in a business setting would be very distracting to me.

        And unfortunately, it’s an optics thing. It does LOOK like you are just doing a different activity instead of focusing on the class to others who may not realize it’s an ADHD thing. Even if you know it’s an ADHD for some — do you know that person has ADHD? Or are they just using the class time to work on their hobby?

        1. Doodad*

          Just because it’s an optics thing doesn’t mean it matters. There’s a fortunate side of minding your own business. Do what makes you successful and stop worrying about everyone else’s opinions.

          I knit in meetings I’m attending. I’ve knit in meetings in running. I don’t care if my colleagues or reports think I’m not concentrating or paying attention or whatever else it looks like. I’ve proven my value and I don’t care.

            1. RJ*

              The thing is they said even if it’s *not* disruptive they’re prioritizing optics over a coping skill the person is using to focus. If it’s genuinely causing an issue then it’s competing access needs that should be addressed.

            2. Irish Teacher*

              Because so far, it doesn’t sound like anybody at the training has said it is disruptive for them, so there’s nothing to disregard. The only person who appears to have had a problem with it wasn’t even there.

              As RJ says, if somebody is finding it difficult to concentrate because of it, then yeah, that should be considered, though the OP’s needs are still of equal importance with that person’s and it’s not like it’s solely the OP’s job to both ensure they and the other person can concentrate. The ideal solution would be something like the other person sitting somewhere where the OP’s knitting is less likely to disturb them.

              If this is not possible, like if it’s the noise of the knitting that is bothering them and it can be heard anywhere in the room, then yeah, it may be appropriate to expect the OP to make accommodation, but so far there is no reason to even assume that anybody is distracted by it and I don’t think it’s fair to expect the OP to put the hypothetical possibility that somebody else may find it hard to concentrate when they are knitting above the reality that they find it hard to concentrate when they are not.

              1. MicroManagered*

                People IN the training may not feel like they have the standing, or may not want to “out” themselves, by saying hey I didn’t pay attention in the meeting at all because I couldn’t stop watching Sally knit a sweater.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  Disability accommodation is based on actual needs, not the hypothetical needs you’re bringing up.

                2. DCompliance*

                  If everyone in the entire training class is too afraid to say to the instructor, “is there anything you can do about the person knitting; it’s distracting” then that is a sign of a toxic work environment and that is bigger problem than someone knitting.

                  You can’t start banning things because people mighty secretly afraid to complain.

                3. Lavender*

                  If it’s an accommodation, though, I don’t think it would be reasonable to deny it based on the idea that it *might* bother somebody. Conflicting accommodations are a thing, but there’s no evidence that there is one in this case.

          1. Kes*

            I mean, while I agree with this to some extent, it was OP’s great-grandboss who commented on it and if there is a risk that OP’s knitting makes their team/area/company look bad to others because it looks like someone they sent to this prestigious training isn’t bothering to pay attention, that is in fact their business.

          2. MicroManagered*

            Yikes! I hope you don’t talk to your coworkers like this–it doesn’t add anything to your reputation.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Reputation? Doodad is not a Victorian girl. Why would you assume they talk to everyone the same way?!

          3. Aggretsuko*

            Agreed. Feel free to ask me or quiz me ANY TIME if you think I wasn’t paying attention. I have proven myself over and over again when asked. And yet nobody checks to see if I’m mentally there if I’m staring at the corner of the wall for a half hour, because I look “engaged?!”

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          do you know that person has ADHD? Or are they just using the class time to work on their hobby?
          Does that even matter? I have not been formally diagnosed with ADHD (despite being tested) but since knitting helps me concentrate, then it shouldn’t matter if I have a diagnosis or not. And if someone doesn’t need knitting to help them concentrate but can concentrate on the training just fine while knitting, who cares if they are doing it?

          1. MicroManagered*

            Yes, it matters because as I said, it would be distracting to me (and I’m clearly not alone).

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Right, so if that is the case then you have a competing attention issue (or ADA accommodation) and that needs to be addressed. There are various ways to solve this problem, like you sitting somewhere where you couldn’t see or hear the knitter, or asking them to stop. Whether or not they have accommodations themselves should not matter unless the other solutions don’t work for you and your distraction issue and you need to discuss with HR (or whoever) that the two of you have competing ADA accommodations.

                1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                  Being distracted is a common (perhaps one of the defining) symptom(s) of ADHD and that *does* require an ADA accommodation. So if you are a professor with a student who needs to knit because of ADHD and you do not have any kind of accommodation for yourself, then you would need to allow the student to knit in class even if it distracts you.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              It’s honestly not that difficult to manage if the trainer is allowed to manage it. I teach classrooms with multiple ADHDers in and sometimes the helpful fidget for one ADHD student is very distracting for the other one. So far, so mundane. We just find other solutions or rejig the seating plan. Of course they are equally important and no one need is more important than the other. I can often predict that Allie should not sit next to Ellen because inattentive Allie needs stimuli, whereas that’s distracting for Ellen. The only thing that prevents an experienced person from getting the job done in this way is an outsider shutting down an option with no real conversation and telling someone that an agreed accommodation is “frowned upon” for no particular, current reason. That usually means all accommodations aside from note taking will be “frowned upon”.

        3. Mid*

          I find people bouncing their legs and clicking pens to be horrifically distracting, but I deal with it because that’s a me-issue not a them-issue. My distraction isn’t their problem to deal with. People playing games on phones or watching videos or reading interesting articles instead of paying attention is probably far worse for both their focus and those around them, since games and videos are designed to catch people’s attention. But people learn how to ignore that as well.

          Why is it anyone’s business if someone is knitting for a hobby or ADHD? I truly can’t imagine seeing someone knitting in a meeting and assuming “oh they clearly don’t care, how dare they use this time for a hobby,” instead of “that seems nice” and moving on.

          It’s none of your business if this is someone’s medical accommodation or just for fun (or for an undiagnosed condition!) and if they’re participating and paying attention, that’s all that should matter. It’s not our place to judge people like this, and I really don’t get why this would change your perception of someone. If they do good work, they do good work, period.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I was once clicking my pen in a sort-of-work meeting (we were a social committee), and after a bit someone turned to me exasperated and said, will you PLEASE stop that. My work best friend rolled her eyes and said, “Bam, get your knitting out.” So I did and then everyone was happy. :D

        4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Presumably you can sit where you can’t see the knitting. And I don’t know why the opinion of other people in the class matters that much. Either they work with her, so they know whether she’s attentive, etc., or they don’t work with her, in which case their opinion doesn’t matter much, and certainly not as much as her actual learning. Also, if people think she’s inattentive because she’s knitting AND she’s actively participating in class, that’s just pure bias at that point. The only optics I would care about is the teacher, and she spoke to her about it.

        5. Clisby*

          Is it necessary to *watch* them? I regularly audit classes at a college in my city, and have never noticed anyone knitting. However, it would be unusual for me to notice, because I’m not watching my fellow students. I’m focusing on the professor. I could see it being distracting if someone made a lot of noise by knitting, but short of that?

          1. sundae funday*

            tbh I would watch them the entire time because I have ADHD and, well, watching someone knitting would just continuously draw my eyes. That said, I would still be able to focus on whoever is talking, I’d just be watching the knitter. I also realize that not everyone with ADHD is like me, though.

            1. Riot Grrrl*

              I don’t think you’d have to have ADHD for knitting to continuously draw your eye. I recently noticed someone repeatedly checking a cellphone during a classical music concert. That’s a much less distracting series of movements than knitting. But it was impossible not to consciously register it out of my peripheral vision every time she checked. The amount of focus that it took to forcibly ignore it was itself enough to get in the way of fully enjoying the concert.

              1. sundae funday*

                Yeah I’m never sure what is ADHD related and what is just… human, lol. I wasn’t diagnosed until age 27, so I thought my distractibility was just a personal failing. Now I have no idea what to attribute to ADHD and what’s just a “me thing.”

            2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              I feel you. I am on the spectrum and knitting also causes me to fixate. Both the repeated hand motions and the repetitive clicking of the needles (super sensitive hearing also seems to accompany my disorder). I would likely just drop the class…or asked to be excused from the classroom element of it.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            I mean…quite often, yes, it is necessary. I remember once being at a lecture in college where there was this kid sitting right in the front, next to an aisle, with his legs crossed, and he was swinging the top leg in these wide circles. Constantly. I was sitting a few rows up and back, on the same side of the room, so I was looking past this guy toward the front of the room. If I wanted to look at the professor, the guy was right in my field of vision. (It actually surprised me how distracted I was by the constant motion — hence why I found this event memorable).

            I’m not a neuroscientist, but I think it’s safe to say that motion catches the eye. So even if you’re not trying to look at something, it can be visually distracting.

        6. jj*

          A lot of things are “optics” until the culture shifts. Women not wearing certain constraining outfits has been considered bad optics. Black people wearing natural hair has been considered bad optics. When it comes to disability, optics cannot be allowed to trump access.

            1. Lavender*

              Optics can also mean different things to different people. If someone from outside the company walked into a meeting to find people knitting/crocheting/doodling/using fidget toys, they might think “Yikes, that’s unprofessional” or “I’d hate to be in a meeting with so many distractions” or “Wow, this company seems like it’s full of creative people with cool hobbies!” or “It’s so great that this company is open to letting their employees do whatever they need in order to focus” or even just “Huh, I’ve never seen that before!” It’s really subjective.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I think optics do matter when it’s a general issue that could affect anyone. When it’s a marginalized group issue, then ignorance is no excuse. People should not be this ignorant of ADHD in this day and age, and of the human brain in general.

          2. Lizzianna*

            In addition to some of the reaction boiling down to people not understanding neurodivergence, I have to wonder how much of the “horrified” response to the “optics” has to do with the fact that knitting and other fiber arts are coded as “feminine” hobbies. I just really have a hard time understanding how me knitting a small sock is more distracting than a fidget spinner, a clicking pen, or an elaborate doodle.

        7. Lavender*

          I don’t have an ADHD diagnosis, although I meet enough of the diagnostic criteria that I’ve wondered about it. A lot of the methods that help people with ADHD stay focused also work for me. If an accommodation works for an individual, and if it’s not negatively impacting their work, then I don’t see why they’d also need to prove they have ADHD to keep using the accommodation.

          How do we know that someone isn’t just using class time work on a hobby? Well, is the activity negatively impacting the quality of their work? Do they perform better when they’re not allowed to knit compared to when they are? Do they frequently miss important information because they were focused on their knitting? If the answer to all of those questions is no, then I don’t see a problem with it. Even if knitting is their hobby outside of work, that doesn’t mean it can’t also serve as an accommodation.

        8. C Baker*

          Or are they just using the class time to work on their hobby?

          What difference does it make?

          Even some NT people benefit from having their hands occupied when learning. And if they are learning and participating, why are you so focused on how they look?

          The person next to them might be focusing on their hobby of daydreaming about meeting a celebrity and saving the world, but you’re not going to chew them out for how it looks, even though it does seem less likely they can do their hobby and learn at the same time.

    5. Green great dragon*

      Horrified seems a rather extreme response. If it’s distracting for you then there is of course an issue if your classmate knits, but maybe there’s a solution like you sitting in front of them so they don’t distract you. But to go from ‘it distracts me’ to ‘horrified just to hear about it’ is a pretty big jump, can you explain why you would be so horrified?

      1. Annonn*

        I’m guessing it is the optics of it. A manager selects an employee for a prestigious training seminar or sends them to an important meeting and they are knitting. The manager might know it is how the employee focuses and is fine with it in their day to day team meetings, but much like it is described in the letter and Alison’s advice, not everyone knows that and it could come off as rude because it seems like the employee is not giving their 100% to something big. For someone who isn’t familiar with this typing of focusing, it could leave a bad taste in their mouth about either the team or the company at large. It is likely a “know the correct time and place” issue.

        As for this situation, I think it is fine as long as the instructor clears it, LW gets permission with that clearance, and it is not disturbing other employees who are taking the seminars

        1. Knitting Engineer*

          Usually, at least at my company, “important meetings” with people who you usually don’t work with start with a round of introductions. I always take that round of intros as an opportunity to say, “By the way, I’ll knit during this meeting, and it’s because it helps me listen and participate better. You can think of it as a fidget spinner that produces a scarf as a side effect.” And I’ve never had a problem, even in huge summits or at professional conferences.

          1. Kyrielle*

            “You can think of it as a fidget spinner that produces a scarf as a side effect.”

            That is GLORIOUS. Alas, actual fidget spinners are not so cool.

          2. SJ (they/them)*

            I know we don’t have upvotes here but I would like to upvote everything about this comment at LEAST twice. A++

        2. Tau*

          So, speaking as someone with ADHD – the frustrating thing is that for me, knitting is giving 100%. Because I have a very hard time focusing on audio-based pure input, and knitting is the #1 best way for me to fix that, way better than spinners or doodling. If I really want to make sure I get as much as I possibly can out of a lecture, that’s the time to pull out the needles.

          And I know the optics are bad. I typically only knit when remote and am currently veeery cautiously exploring the potential of doing so in the office. But can you see how the fact that in order to seem like I am paying 100% attention and getting the most out of the big special event, I must do things that mean I cannot pay 100% attention and will not get everything I could out of the big special event, is really frustrating to deal with?

          (This gets about ten times as frustrating if “looking like I am giving 100% to something” also entails not fidgeting or doodling. At that point I might as well not bother showing up, the effective information retained will be about the same.)

    6. Mid*

      But as a manager, would it not be better to ask the person first, instead of just sending an edict down the line?

      Because the C level person didn’t know that OP was an active participant who specifically cleared their knitting with the instructor. They could have learned if they simply asked instead of assuming it was a problem and making a rule based on those assumptions. Instead, they used incorrect information to do something that is building ill will with employees, or at least this one employee. They are sending a message that accommodations don’t matter because appearances matter more. And while it’s a one-off example, it’s still not a message that I would want to be sending if I was a C level person.

      1. DCompliance*

        Agreed. A C level manager should not be in the weeds like this. If no other participants in the class or instructor had a problem with it, no need to get involved. This is the dread of all employees: some high up walks by, decides something is a problem that is not a problems, and there goes morale.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      There isn’t any indication that it did cause issues for others though. The only person who seemed to have a problem with it wasn’t even in the training. Now of course, it’s possible somebody in the training was distracted and didn’t want to say, but there is no reason to believe that.

      In fact the OP’s manager seems to think this is about somebody in the past distracting people while knitting and that the OP’s knitting did not distract anybody but they just wanted to make a blanket ban rather than try and evaluate each situation independently.

    8. DCompliance*

      Horrified? That is strong. Is because you have deemed knitting in a prestigious training unprofessional? It isn’t. It helps someone focus. So it is professional. How is it different from a toy? Ask yourself: is it distracting because I find unprofessional?

    9. Ace in the Hole*

      I’ve struggled with this my whole life because of ADHD. In my experience, just about anything you can do with your hands will be very distracting for someone. I’ve been told by sincere, well-meaning people that the following things are very distracting to “lots of people” and should not be done in a classroom:

      Knitting, sketching, fiddling my fingers, using quiet fidget toys, twirling a pen around in my hand, eating, bouncing my leg silently, swivelling back and forth in my swivel chair, sewing, playing with silly putty, asking too many questions (which happens when I can’t do anything with my hands to help me focus)…. etc.

      There’s no solution that makes everyone happy. And while I think people honestly believe that “lots of people” are bothered by X, it’s rarely true. We just naturally assume that if X bothers us it must be inherently distracting/irritating/whatever to most people. The problem is that every time someone tells me X is a problem, they suggest I switch to a different thing on the list that they don’t personally find distracting. So I’ll start doing Y instead. But someone else will often be more bothered by Y, and will ask me to go back to X!

      I believe knitting really is distracting for you. I can certainly sympathize. But knitting is not typically considered disruptive, and in my experience is much less likely to bother people than many of the alternatives (including fidget toys and twiddling fingers). I hope you would approach this as a personal quirk of yours to be worked out case-by-case, and not issue blanket bans on knitting even in classes you’re not attending.

      1. young worker*

        I’ll be honest, a lot of things you mentioned would be distracting to me. But we can’t guarantee perfect conditions in life catered to how we like it, so unless it was wildly distracting, I would keep my mouth shut and let you be.

      2. sundae funday*

        Yeah I have ADHD as well, which means I’m distracted by other people’s fidgeting and noises… but I also fidget myself and probably make annoying noises! It’s definitely a balance of trying to keep myself as least distracting as possible… while also not being distracted by others! It can get tiring.

        I remember back in college, a classmate expressed displeasure that I was playing Tetris on my computer. But I was doing it because I was so tired that I was afraid I’d fall asleep and I just couldn’t focus at all. Playing Tetris was mindless but kept me awake and kept me listening.

        I never did it again, but I wish I’d been able to advocate for myself back then. I didn’t yet realize I had ADHD so I just thought my struggle to pay attention was a personal failing.

      3. TinySoprano*

        I try and get ahead of it by sitting at the back where whatever I’m doing will be minimally distracting to others, but yeah. If I don’t have anything to do with my hands my brain will switch off so hard that I will just fall asleep. Which will definitely be distracting and is way worse optics than knitting or doodling.

    10. sundae funday*

      Honestly, you might want to look into whether you might have some ADHD? I feel like if you’re that distracted by the sight of someone quietly knitting, you might have something else going on.

      I say this as someone with ADHD myself. I would also probably watch the person knitting because of my ADHD, but I’d still be able to listen and watch someone knit at the same time. If watching knitting is so distracting you can’t listen to someone else talking, definitely look into executive dysfunction or neurodivergence of some kind.

    11. Mill Miker*

      I don’t knit, but I’m trying to think of all the ways to fidget I know, and I’m pretty sure doodling and knitting are just about the two least disruptive fidgets there are.

      Your hands stay in roughly one place, and don’t move, and the complexity of the movement takes a lot of the mental energy.

      Finger twiddling barely helps, unless I’m moving my fingers as fast as possible, and even then I have to get my wrists and arms involved. Unless I can drum my fingers, but that’s usually a no, right up there with clicking a pen.

      Bouncing a leg can be disruptive on all but the sturdiest of floors, and definitely not in a setting where people are seated next to each other.

      With lower profile fidget toys, it’s only a matter of time before I subconsciously resort to just tossing it from hand-to-hand, which can be noisy depending on the toy, and is definitely disruptive when I miss and have to go chase it.

      Any effective fidgeting is going to require either really fast, complicated, or precise movement (or maybe some kind of satisfying noise). If the goal is fidgeting that no one else can notice, you might as well just ban fidgeting.

    12. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      I was sitting in the back, probably in line of sight to one, maybe two people. You’re right, I should have checked with them about whether I was being distracting. The one person who would have seen it regularly only made polite conversation about it, but I know not everyone would speak up if they were bothered.

      I don’t know if the productivity matters to me, but I can’t twiddle my fingers for 6-8 hours a day 5 days a week and I dislike fidget toys, but that might work for other people.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Speaking as someone for whom this would be distracting, I think my immediate response in the moment would to be polite and say it’s fine, and then be distracted through the whole meeting. So this was an opportunity for me to think in advance about a better response, which would be to say thanks for checking, and I’ll just move up there (or whatever).

    13. EngineeringFun*

      Female engineer of 20 years: a decade ago a woman scientist showed up to an all hands meeting and proceeded to knit. With maybe 10 females in the room of 100, I was horrified. We already face so much discrimination, why would she add that visual???!!! I never thought of the ADHD implications until now but some times you just have to sit there and be bored beyond recognition. That’s day dream time or make a grocery list. I probably would have reacted in the same way if I was in leadership.

      1. Mill Miker*

        The idea with fidgeting isn’t to stave off boredom, it’s to occupy the restless part of the brain in order to actually focus on the meeting.

        Daydreaming or working on a grocery list means not paying attention to the meeting. Why even go to a meeting if you’re going to miss it all?

      2. Omskivar*

        The problem isn’t being bored, it’s being able to focus. I have tried “just paying attention” and wound up focusing so hard on the act of paying attention that I wasn’t actually taking in anything being said. And at that point, what’s the difference between trying to force myself to pay attention and daydreaming? But if you give me something to do with my hands, the part of my brain that needs to be occupied is quiet, and I can actually listen and participate.

      3. She'sKnittingAgain*

        Hi, OP here.

        You and I seem to fall on different sides of the “looking attentive while zoned out vs looking less attentive while fully engaging” debate, and I’m fine with agreeing to disagree.

        I wanted to respond to the gendered element, I’m in education and only one person in this whole scenario identified as a man (one of the two instructors, both of whom were fine with the knitting). I hope I wasn’t holding the gender back by looking like a woman knitting, if it helps I have since come out to myself as nonbinary and no longer identify as a woman. I still knit.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        “some times you just have to sit there and be bored beyond recognition.” Are you my high school teacher by any chance?

      5. Willow Pillow*

        Some people can’t just sit there. It’s disappointing that someone in engineering doesn’t seem to consider accessibility!

      6. Heather*

        Yeah I kind of agree, unfortunately. I’m in the same situation and if a women (or anyone else) here started knitting in a meeting… I’d honestly be pretty shocked. I knit myself, and I knit during (camera off) meetings when I work from home, but I’d never do it at work. I know it doesn’t distract me but I also know that it comes across as not paying attention, the same way it would if someone walked into a meeting and pulled out scrapbooking supplies or started doing a puzzle or whatever.

      7. C Baker*

        We already face so much discrimination, why would she add that visual?

        You think that she’s making discrimination worse for you because she knits?

        Yeah, no. That’s not how it works.

    14. Aggretsuko*

      It sounds like this might be solved by just moving the knitter behind you/out of your close vicinity (and as mentioned above, not using metal needles) so you don’t see them.

    15. Malarkey01*

      I know the column commenters do skew a lot into specific industries and jobs and I feel personally like they aren’t representative of the jobs and areas I have worked. I wouldn’t say I’d be horrified, but knitting would be so far outside what was considered an acceptable norm that it would be a little shocking at every place I’ve worked.

      I’m glad things are changing and welcome that we’re discussing things that make for more inclusion, it just seems like the usual majority of the comments here aren’t reflective of the reality of my offices. I think you really need to know your office, and when a leader specifically tells you not to do something there is a cost to burning that capital.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is my experience, too. I’ve nearly always worked in fairly buttoned-up industries that charge for people’s time, so optics matter to clients – when they are paying hundreds of dollars per hour for your time, they expect you to present as fully engaged, and they have other options if you don’t. I’m sure this is not universal, but it’s not the norm in my field and would not be looked upon favorably. I’d cringe as a manager simply because I know it would waste a lot of my time doing a round of meetings on it.

        Everyone in my house except me has ADHD, so I’m really familiar with the benefits of fidgets and working through the paperwork for accommodations and know way too much about the noises each specific fidget device makes… but I’m not in a position at my office to tell stakeholders or their clients that their perceptions are wrong or use “educating” them on why Bob should be allowed knit in meetings. I’ve also worked with a number of very successful professionals who have disclosed that they have ADHD, and they do not knit or do other sorts of handiwork in client meetings. It would definitely be side-eyed in my field. Maybe in the future, it will be more normalized, but not now.

  8. Lacey*


    I’m a doodler, not a knitter, so I think people care less but I’d be in trouble if someone really wanted me to cut it out.

    1. mim*

      I am a knitter who doesn’t knit much in meetings, but does for larger meetings where it’s more like a lecture and less like an active participation/collab. scenario. (It’s accepted with open arms at my workplace, though we are likely outside the norm in a lot of stuff like that.) But I just doodle in those smaller meetings because I am self conscious about knitting in a smaller setting, and am likely to be taking notes for myself from time to time, so it feels simpler and easier to just shift that fidgeting to doodles.

      And yes, it would totally be a problem if I had to just sit still and not move a muscle. I don’t think I could. I have always doodled, and if I can’t do that I’m sitting there unconsciously tearing up paper into tiny bits or something else that is potentially disruptive to others. Give me a relatively acceptable and non-intrusive way to fidget, or my fingers will find their way to a more disruptive fidget without me even knowing.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I am reading this page while I highlight and unhighlight whatever portion of comments I am reading at the time. I don’t need the changed colors to read it or not, I just like moving the mouse and clicking. Fortunately, I am also not in a shared space where I might be distracting others with it.

    2. Dahlia*

      I once managed to doodle loudly in English class and got gently told off.

      Gently, because all that was going on was reading the book we were reading for class out loud, my teacher knew I had not only read the book several years years ago but had fully finished rereading it, was ahead on class material, and was pulling the highest grade in the class.

      Pro-tip if you’re gonna drown little villagers in lava, use a pencil that doesn’t scratch.

      1. TinySoprano*

        Haha that takes me back to Ancient History in high school, where I used to draw pictures of the teacher getting eaten by various megafauna in class. He hated the doodling but seeing I was topping the class and already sitting at the back, I got away with it.

        I was a horrible little turd in high school, but honestly I regret nothing.

    3. Puzzlehead2219*

      Doodling is a great tool! I’ll never forget my 5th grade teacher coming over in a fit of rage and grabbing my paper, crumpling it into a ball, and throwing it in the trash can. And that was the late 90s. In high school, I started knitting and my teachers were cool with it, but I went to a pretty open minded prep school. There’s a difference between being distracted and augmenting your focus.

    4. Middle of HR*

      Once I was typing minutes in a board meeting, and afterward I overheard a staff member who was presenting complain that one of the board members was doodling during the presentation. The board member was engaged and asked questions, etc but apparently the doodling was seen as disrespectful.
      This was the first time in my life I’d heard someone imply that doodlers aren’t actually listening, which blew my mind as someone who doodles to focus! I was upset on the board members’ behalf but especially for myself, as I know I do this in meetings all the time (if I’m not typing minutes).
      I wish I’d spoken to at the time, but I didn’t want to rock the boat as a junior employee. Thankfully, I never stopped doodling and did decide I’d stand up for myself if anyone confronted me. But for all I know that coworker disliked me for it. Oh well.
      (Now as a senior HR pro I have standing to respond to this kind of complaint at least!)

  9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Am neurospicy knitter who would LOVE to knit through meetings and trainings to help keep focus, but does not because it’s distracting to other folks and it makes me look uninterested in the material, even if I am actively participating.

    You know how studies show that when women speak up 30% of the time in a group of 50% women, the men think the women are dominating the conversation even though the converse is objectively demonstrated? It’s like that — no matter how much a knitter participates in things, the other folks in the room will assume that they’re paying zero attention and any words that are coming out of their mouth are “knit one, purl two” or similar.

    1. Knitting Engineer*

      I’d definitely encourage you to ask your direct team what they think about it. I was totally shocked when I asked my team of entirely cishet dudes about it and they all said, “oh, that’s a great idea, you should definitely do it!”

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        In fact, the reason I said that it’s distracting to other folks is because that’s the feedback I got when I asked about it.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I’m a BETTER conversationalist when I’m knitting, because I tend to talk a lot when I’m not, and have to watch myself so that I’m not taking up more than my fair share of the conversation. I’ll also flit from topic to topic, break off when I think about something I need to do, etc. etc.

      (Yes, I do have AHDH – at least, my doctor agrees with me that I do.)

      My family used to get really annoyed that I would knit all the time during family time. So I switched to playing on my smart phone. They begged me to go back to knitting, once they realized the difference between “hands occupied but otherwise attentive” and “totally disengaged”.

  10. Mid*

    The ADHD, doesn’t like rules “just because”, and disability rights advocate sides of me really want to say “eff it, keep knitting, the instructor is okay with it.”

    But, unfortunately Politics and Appearances and Powers That Be need to be accounted for in the workplace, even in a classroom. Even though it *shouldn’t* matter.

    There are some other cool fidget toys that might work. I actually use a “grip strength trainer” a lot in the office—one that is all elastic and foam so it’s silent, though you have to put your fingers into loops. But I’m also known for being “outdoorsy” so it’s a fidget that doesn’t get read as a toy but rather as “outdoorsy person doing something” in a city that’s fully of outdoorsy people.

    I’ll post a link to the grip trainer I use in a reply comment.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      My particular version of ADHD would be super distracted by the *visual* aspect of the knitting – I’d get lost in the repetitive motion of the needles moving back and forth, and lose focus on the class entirely. Everyone’s brain is unique and special I guess…

      For fidget toys (and ADHD help in general), you might want to check out Black Girl Lost Keys. She has a great variety of toys for all different kinds of fidgeters. Good luck!

      1. mim*

        I’m a knitter, and same. I knit in a larger regular meeting where it is accepted, and it’s more lecture style. (And honestly fine if you zone out…) I don’t in smaller meetings in part because I think it’s likelier to be a distraction there. And I definitely felt out those larger meetings where I do knit for a bit before I felt comfortable doing so.

        I don’t know that watching someone’s pen as they doodle around a page (or literally just take notes) is any less repetitive, but it’s also something totally normal and expected, and that we see all the time. We’re habituated to it. It would be awesome if so many folks knit and crocheted in meetings that it became as boring and normal as writing/doodling, and our brains could just let go of the “ooh shiny”.

      2. CheeryO*

        Yes, thank you! Not sure why everyone seems to think that their needs trump everyone else’s. I am also neurodivergent (and a knitter!), and seeing knitting out of the corner of my eye would be an absolute death sentence to my focus.

        1. Mid*

          Well, no one said that at all, so I’m not sure why you think that.

          If knitting is distracting someone, then knitter can be in the back row and distracted person can be in front of them, out of view. Compromise is always an option.

          There also is the fact that many things seem distracting in theory but most people are very easily able to adapt to them. So while knitting might be interesting and distracting to some people for a while, it would likely become a non-issue with some time. And that even applies to people who have ADHD. I learned to knit because I saw someone in my class knitting, but aside from the first few minutes of them knitting (where I was trying to see how it worked and learn by watching them), it wasn’t distracting. It might sound distracting, but in practice, knitting is pretty boring to watch. People on their phones playing cool games are far more distracting, I’d say.

          And again, no one is saying that one person’s needs supersede anyone else’s. (Unless it’s a fatal allergy. Then someone’s “need” for peanut butter is superseded by someone else’s need to not die.) And, nowhere was it said that OP’s knitting was distracting or disruptive.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      I have seen fidget rings on Amazon that might work in a corporate office setting, not sure how well they work.

      I do specifically take notes on paper in classes because it helps me pay closer attention/stay awake when bored. You can also do things like doodle your “bullet points”.

      1. Mid*

        Yes! There is actually a whole market for fidget jewelry and things that are more subtle and “office appropriate” instead of things like spinners or pop toys or other things that make noise.


        I also like “water tubes” but they’re on the larger side, so better for Zoom meetings. https://www.curiousmindsbusybags.com/products/jumbo-water-trick-snake-filled-with-water-beads-stress-toy-tricky-wiggly-tube-squishy-wiggler-sensory-fidget-ball

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Fidget rings are pretty good but I get easily distracted from those. I’ve got an old graphics card plug (the type with screws on) that I fiddle with.

        While I’d love to sew – and have several projects I can do on autopilot – it does look pretty much to others like you’re treating the whole session as a casual break.

        There’s what is right from a neuroatypital standpoint and what will negatively impact upon your reputation at work. It’s a game of politics.

      3. Avery*

        I was going to mention spinner rings if nobody else did! I have a couple of them, they’re low-profile and reasonably professional-looking, and it’s a small motion that doesn’t make much noise.

  11. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Not to derail, but I think the “disruptive knitter” thing IS all situation dependent.
    I met focus knitters in grad school as well. I didn’t notice until I was daydreaming/looking around during a lecture. She was two desk columns over and in my row. Holy crap, she is knitting…she is knitting a sock. And I got back to class. Where I decided, that I’d take the person knitting a sock over the people taking notes on their laptops any day.
    The clicking of out of sync typing, on different keyboards in a room with no carpet or drapes and closed doors was so freaking annoying.
    It was like water torture. I know. I’m ridiculous. Eat away, crack those knuckles, write with pencil on paper, I do not care. I hated the sound of keyboards.
    But in the end
    Can I make people use paper?
    Can I tell people to do what I did and buy an at the time $2,500 laptop with stylus so they can write on the screen?
    I hate laptop keyboards!
    Long live knitters.

  12. Ex-prof*

    Argh! This is so frustrating.

    I have ADHD and doodled in order to listen from grade 5 on up to doctoral classes. Got scolded for it a few times but didn’t stop.

    One advantage of doodling is it’s slightly easier not to get caught. Do address this as an accommodation, OP.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      In high school I got “caught” doodling during a FILM STRIP. Got an earful from the teacher. Had she bothered to ask in the moment, or wanted to ask 40+ years later, I could tell her exactly what the content of that film strip was because that’s what the doodles were about. I still can visualize parts of that piece of paper even now, and I think I’ve even kept it in some box out of spite.

      1. bamcheeks*

        The best ever note-taking format I found was mindmaps with fancy squiggly writing and little cartoons for specific points. It pleased every part of my brain!

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Sometimes my doodles served as a memory device. On an exam, I was trying to think of the answer and knew it was near the doodle of the flower on the same page as the doodle as the soccer ball at the top. That page dealt with X and further down… Oh I remember!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      My senior year of high school, I had US Government class immediately after lunch. This was, unlike most of my classes, filled with the general student population, and so was pretty dumbed down. I found it stultifying, until I started bringing the newspaper in to read. I lived across the street from the school and went home for lunch, by which time my parents had read the paper and I was free to take it. I didn’t flaunt that I was reading it in class, but you can be only so discreet with a full sized newspaper. The teacher would ask me a question, I would look up from the paper, answer the question correctly, then return to my reading. This disturbed him, because he encouraged us to keep up on the news as a matter of principle, and it clearly was not harming my classwork, yet it just seemed wrong. He took the coward’s way out and come parent-teacher night he asked my parents to tell me to stop. So I switched to more physically compact reading material which could be read discreetly enough to satisfy him.

      The moral is the same as with managers worrying that WFH employees aren’t getting anything done: If the employee is getting their work done, you don’t have a problem. If you have no way of knowing if they are getting their work done, you do have a problem, but WFH is not it.

    3. two snakes*

      I got told off for doodling in a therapy class, which was not helpful. I have to be doing something (visual only is best like doodling or playing a simple phone game, tactile like a fidget cube is also okay, definitely nothing else with words) or I can’t listen properly. I can’t take notes during meetings or class either (two word streams at the same time – not workable) so I HAVE to be able to be doing something else or I get nothing out of any of it. If I can find the right stimulus I can remember things very well but if I’m cut off from it I might as well not be there.

      It’s the same in my leisure time too – I have to rely on my memory during D&D games and I’m always doing a simple activity between turns (which also keeps me from disrupting other people’s time) and I can’t listen to a podcast or watch TV without a secondary activity. Most of my actual work tasks and video games are the only things that engage me on enough levels that I don’t need another source of stimulation to reach the attention threshold.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        two word streams at the same time – not workable

        Oh, maybe that’s my problem too! Taking notes is actually pretty distracting for me, because then I end up reading my notes right after I’ve taken them to be sure they make sense or that I can read them (I have terrible handwriting so I end up rewriting a lot of letters or words).

  13. BellyButton*

    The clicking of knitting needles in that environment would drive me insane. Just something to thing about when you are picking a fidget device or whatever your activity of focus is.

    1. ItIsWhatItIs*

      I hadn’t even thought of this but as someone with ADHD and suspected autism the noise would also drive me absolutely batty

      1. Annonn*

        Yes, I have ADHD and noise sensitivities, this would distract me from the class and the sound would irk me.

    2. Lavender*

      I’ve found that wooden or plastic knitting needles don’t click as much as the metal ones. Crocheting is also a potential option, since it only uses one hook instead of two needles.

      1. Clisby*

        Same. It’s been years since I knitted, but metal needles were the only ones that made a noticeable clicking noise. And if the idea is to ban clicking noises, for heaven’s sake ban laptops from training sessions. Far more clicky than even metal knitting needles would be.

        1. Lavender*

          That’s true, I didn’t even think of laptops! I just knit a row on my current project to test how loud the clicking was–there was definitely some, but it was much quieter and less noticeable than typing on a laptop. It might be distracting if everyone in the meeting was taking notes on paper, but I don’t think it would even be audible over the sound of typing.

        2. TinySoprano*

          And clicky pens. I made the grave error of taking a clicky pen to a meeting yesterday, and couldn’t doodle in the second half for reasons. I had to swap pens because I couldn’t stop clicking it. It was horrible (for everyone else as well!)

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Anyone who needs a silent classroom to not be distracted is going to have a heck of a time in ANY environment that is in-person.

          1. Lavender*

            Agreed. Knitting needles make noise, but so do keyboards, pens on paper, zippers on bags or pencil cases, foot tapping, coughing…the list goes on. Knitting isn’t substantially louder than any of those things, and is actually quieter than some (e.g. keyboards).

            1. torocita*

              The type and rhythm of noise made by knitting needles (or consistent foot tapping) is different than the random rhythm of coughing or keyboard typing. The thing that makes it so distracting is the consistency. And the fact that they’re “barely audible” makes it even worse — you end up straining to hear it, which makes it even more distracting. And don’t get me started on classroom clocks that you can hear tick!

              1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

                If I could upvote this I would!

                Look, the reality is, brains all work so differently. The real issue here is that there is still a stigma to discussing all this in these settings. How is someone with ADHD, who is trying to not be distracting so they are knitting with bamboo needles out of sight, going to know what they are doing is actually causing severe anxiety for someone on the spectrum? And how is that person on the spectrum supposed to know that the stealth knitter is also neurodivergent, that they are not just using this time to get a few more rows in, and that they would probably be open to trying other solutions if they knew it was causing so many issues for the person with the spectrum disorder? We would all do much better with more open discourse.

                1. Lavender*

                  That’s a fair point. It can get complicated when accommodations conflict with one another, but I do think compromise is often possible (especially in situations like this where OP could try a different type of fidget). You’re right that open communication around these issues would benefit all parties involved.

              2. Willow Pillow*

                This is really an individual thing – my autistic brain can handle a constant, consistent noise that I can identify. I can still hear everything but I have more trouble blocking out talking over mechanical sounds.

                1. Lavender*

                  It also depends on the specific knitting project. Projects with long rows and a regular pattern will sound more “even” than projects with shorter rows and/or a more irregular pattern.

              3. Mianaai*

                Even this is a “people are different” thing – I’ve got some misophonia/sound sensitivity and can usually tune out regular/rhythmic noises, but chaotic/irregular noise where there’s no underlying pattern will get me every time (improv jazz is basically a one-step way to make me irrationally angry)

        2. Marna Nightingale*

          Honestly, I have some polished birch ones and, having just tested this, they actually are. At least, the only thing making noise in this room is my fairly quiet fan and I can hear anything over that. That said, size and technique may make a difference

    3. Sister Michael*

      This is definitely fair, and I think most people who want to knit as an aid to concentration will either keep it in mind to begin with, or be kind about adjusting their materials so they don’t make noise. The clicking is more about the type of needles you’re using, in my experience (and I prefer wood or bamboo, which don’t click).

      In fact, this was my take in a college class where I would knit, with the professor’s permission, for the purpose of keeping my hands busy so I could pay attention! I also kept my hands under my desk, so it wasn’t so visible and out in the open. However, I did have a classmate who just couldn’t stand knowing that I had my hands moving, even though I sat behind her- she also believed that I was responsible for a repetitive noise coming from the air conditioning or something. I tried to tell her it wasn’t me, but she was certain and so I just put my knitting away. I confess to some schadenfreude-type satisfaction; the noise continued (because it was never me making it!) and she whipped around to snarl at me, only to find that both hands were clearly visible and I was taking notes.

      The upshot of all that, other than this anecdote about how I went to college with someone who could be kind of unpleasant, is that I didn’t object to making adjustments so that everyone could do their best. I’d have been happy to sit in the back row where nobody could see my hands, and if I had been making the air conditioner noise, I’d have absolutely revisited my choice of materials!

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      Small gauge needles (like for socks) made of wood or bamboo are effectively silent, so this can be mitigated with the right choice of tools/projects.

      1. JustAnotherKate*

        Circular needles tend to be quieter as well. They’re still not totally silent, but round needles with bamboo or wood tips are pretty quiet, and slower knitting should produce less noise. (Either the tiny bit of noise or the repetitive motion could still distract someone, but it should produce way less noise than knitting on two straight metal needles.) Might I suggest a hat?

        1. Lavender*

          Yeah, there are definitely a lot of variables. I like to knit socks, and I prefer to use a set of four double-pointed knitting needles rather than circulars. I wouldn’t bring those into a meeting, because the needles make the project sort of fiddly and I could see how it might distract others.

    5. June Bee*

      Same! I’m all for people finding tools to help themselves focus, but not if it causes others to be distracted. That tapping/clicking would likely be pretty distracting to most of the other people sitting near the knitter, no matter what the needles are made of.

    6. Forgot my name again*

      Came here to say this. I don’t yet have formal diagnoses for autism or ADHD but have tendencies of both, and the sound of needles – yes, even wooden ones – has been so distracting for me that I’ve had to ask knitters (politely!) to stop. It’s not silent or still, so please be mindful of others who are also trying to focus! (I’m an inveterate doodler, for my sins.)

    7. Dust Bunny*

      This. And I’m even a knitter (but not in classes/at work). It’s the same kind of “drive me insane” that the LW describes when s/he has to sit still.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m on the autism spectrum. I’ve gotten a lot better at ignoring background noises over the years but I’m getting to the point now, in middle age, where I feel like I’ve maxed out my ability to compensate. Which is enormously frustrating, but I haven’t figured out a hack yet that will borrow me a little more breathing room.

    8. Nina Bee*

      Came here to say this! I have ADHD and fidget/move a lot so have sympathy for the need to do it, but people who tap feet, click pens, whistle, type loudly etc drive me crazy because of noise sensitivity and perceived unconsideration. The needle clicks would probably fall into this group unfortunately. Even constant movement in the corner of your eyes when you’re trying to concentrate would be distracting. Finding a noiseless fidget toy or craft would probably be the best way to go.

  14. ItIsWhatItIs*

    I think a fidget toy is probably the best option for OP to look at right now. The letter comes across as if they don’t have a ton of capital to spend and trying a silent fidget toy first might come across better because then they can also argue they tried an alternative to their boss if it doesn’t work.

    1. Carlie*

      That was going to be my comment – for better or worse, sticking to the knitting is going to use up political capital, possibly a lot of it, and it might not be a good idea to use it for knitting in a class. There are so many fidgets available! Some are very small, some are normal-looking jewelry, many are entirely silent, many require very little hand/finger movement. It’s not all giant spinners and clicky pens. Check kids’ toy companies, office doodad supply companies, accessibility and occupational therapy product companies, Etsy shops, there are a ton out there in all kinds of places.

    2. Magenta*

      A fidget toy wouldn’t work for me because it might keep my hands busy but not my brain, I need something a little distracting to help me focus, simple knitting, or easy mindless games like candy crush help, but purely physical things do not.

  15. grumpy old lady*

    I’m retired now but I spent plenty of time in big lab meetings watching people play on their phones. By comparison I would think knitting is so much better!

    It sounds like there is a big disconnect in communication and the big boss just has a mindset of sit up, look forward and don’t do anything except breathe.

    1. Cacofonix*

      As a meeting facilitator, I always politely call phone behaviour out particularly after having already set expectations at the start. I’ve even done that to C-suite grand bosses and always assumed that would be career limiting, but it’s never been a problem.

  16. Potato*

    I once asked to knit at work for similar reasons, and my boss skeptically okayed it … but it was clear that it was distracting to my team mates and that other folks were seeing it as me being inattentive, so I had to stop. I still wish I could, but alas …

  17. Michelle Smith*

    I’d talk to a doctor and see if you can get a letter to support your need for accommodation. I strongly disagree with some of the suggestions here that it matters literally at all how others in the class you’re in perceive your level of attentiveness based on the fact that you knit. If you are not able to concentrate on the material, you’re not getting what you need to learn out of the class. If the trade off is that some people think you’re not paying attention, that’s a worthy trade off in my opinion. I think the only people it needs to be addressed with are the people you mentioned who have a position of power over you in the workplace, and an accommodation is the cleanest and simplest way to do that. If you can get a psychiatrist or other professional to sign off on a letter that says LW needs to be allowed to do quiet fidgety tasks during classes because it enhances her ability to absorb the material, your grandboss may not like it but they may be persuaded to back off.

    1. ItIsWhatItIs*

      As Allison pointed out, they can absolutely tell LW that knitting isn’t ok but a fidget cube or doodling is instead.

      I’m firmly of the opinion one person’s accommodation shouldn’t negatively impact others experiences and I (as someone with ADHD and suspected autism) would absolutely not be able to focus if someone was actively knitting in a class/meeting whatever.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I agree with you on that, but there’s no indication anyone else in the class did have a problem focusing with the knitting. I don’t think it’s reasonable to deny the most effective accommodation purely on the basis that someone at some point in the future might find it distracting.

        1. Lalo*

          “…there’s no indication anyone else in the class did have a problem focusing with the knitting.”

          That LW knows of, anyway.

      2. Lavender*

        I don’t think I completely agree with the idea that one person’s accommodation shouldn’t negatively impact others, at least not as a general statement. I think it makes sense in this case, since OP could try other types of fidgets if needed. Sometimes, though, accommodations are what they are and there isn’t really room for compromise.

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      This was what I immediately thought of as well. Nobody accused HER of not paying attention! Or of anything for that matter because she would have you killed.

    2. o_gal*

      Depends. When she had yarn, she was taking notes. When she didn’t, she just clicked her needles and complained that they had to talk like Maurice Chevalier:-)

  18. Hedwig*

    I’m also someone who can focus much better while knitting (and with an official ADD diagnosis to boot). I knitted my way through three years of patent law training (always checking with the instructors first), and I’m not sure I would have managed without it! My boss at the time had some hesitations (mainly cautioning me that it would lead to me having “a certain image”), but later confessed that he had been called out for playing a game on his phone during a meeting (one he was leading, actually), for similar reasons, and that the incident made him understand me better.

    I did learn that it’s best to have a specific “class” project with mainly straightforward garter or stockinette stick – usually if I did something more complicated I could still pay attention, but there was a high chance of having to spend a lot of time tinking later… I also recommend using bamboo or other non-metal needles to minimize distracting noise.

    One final tip: I always made sure to ask at least one question in the first half-hour or so of class, just to show that I was, indeed, paying attention. More generally, I think that the more competent you prove yourself to be, the easier it is to get away with “eccentricities” like knitting.

    1. Mid*

      I think your last sentence is key.

      I have bright hair, lots of visible tattoos and piercings, have pretty obvious ADHD, and work in law. I know the bar is a little higher for me to prove my competency, because people make assumptions about me due to my looks and fidgeting and inability to wear shoes all day and other “quirks.” But, because I show myself to be a consistently competent (if not excellent) employee, the quirks are tolerated.

      It’s like a less problematic version of the “hot-cr@zy scale.” The more competent you are, the quirkier you’re allowed to be. (I’d love to write a small dissertation in the comments about how quirks are often neurodivergence and how it’s unfair that being different means you have to be extra excellent at work, etc but that’s probably too far off course.)

  19. Emmy Noether*

    disruptive… knitters?! Enough of them to issue a general prohibition against knitting? More disruptive than people eating and drinking?

    I bet someone here is just biased against knitting. There’s a long tradition of people (predominantly women) knitting while listening (google the tricoteuses for an interesting bit of history).

    1. ecnaseener*

      If they’re click-clacking a lot with loud needles, yes, that could be disruptive – not more than someone crunching loudly on potato chips or carrot sticks, but yes more than someone eating a quieter snack.

      1. DataSci*

        Why do you jump from “knitting” to “click clacking with loud needles”? I know a lot of people who knit in meetings, and all of them use non-clicky bamboo or wood needles.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          . . . because that is a thing that a lot of knitters do. (I’m a knitter.) Metal needles don’t seem that loud when you’re in front of the TV at home but when they’re in the hands of the person next to you while you’re trying to follow a lecture, it’s a different story.

          And they’re “louder” to some of us who are particularly sensitive to noises.

        2. ecnaseener*

          It’s not a jump, it’s a guess at what the boss might have meant by “disruptive knitters.” The boss is the one who jumped to assuming all knitters do that, why are you blaming me?

      2. Marna Nightingale*

        I suspect a lot of non-knitters don’t know that there’s knitting and then there’s KNITTING.

        If I saw someone doing an elaborate lace pattern during a meeting I’d either assume their attention was mostly on that or consider the possibility that I should be terrified of that person as they were secretly an alien or a supercomputer.

        But most knitting has long stretches of incredibly simple stitches, and many projects are actively designed to be almost entirely simple stitches to make them portable fiddle-toys.

        I have hockey-tv-and-car knitting, which I do not have to look down at. Very simple stitches, done by feel. Currently I’m making a double knit scarf in the round, all stocking stitch, largely produced at the arena. (I know there are people who can do ribbing and seed and moss that way and I aspire.)

        It is completely undistracting, especially as I’m willing to risk having to go back and fix slipped and dropped stitches later.

        I did a two-hour interview yesterday with someone for a study and I was knitting away on autopilot the whole time. Since we were on video, other than me telling her I was going t grab my knitting, I don’t think it would have been visible to her.

    2. Essess*

      I am a knitter. However, I do find it disruptive to see repetitive motion in my peripheral vision so having someone knitting in class would constantly pull my attention away because of the instinctive reaction to look at movement.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I feel this. When I used to crochet in high school, I did it under my desk so that nobody would get distracted.

      2. Lulu*

        Yep, I’m this way too. I knit, so I’m not one of those “non-knitters” that keep getting mentioned who don’t “understand” knitting. I also struggle to focus so knitting is great when I’m at home watching tv, lectures, virtual meetings, etc. But I find it extremely distracting in class when others do it. I’ve been in enough meetings and classes with wonderfully proficient knitters to know that they’re doing nothing wrong, but it really distracts me to be around. They’re doing their thing quietly and clearly engaged in the material, and there I am several seats away unable to keep my eyes where they need to be because they keep getting pulled by the small repetitive motions and sounds a few seats away.

        My guess is that these “disruptive knitters” weren’t especially disruptive themselves, but that others were in fact distracted and didn’t enjoy being around knitting in that setting. There’s always the possibility they really were disruptive (big movements? loud needles? muttering under their breath to remember where they are in the pattern?), but it’s probably just that some people really were disrupted by knitting in class. I’ve personally never felt comfortable telling someone that their knitting was disrupting me because it’s objectively a fine thing to do. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’d really rather they didn’t.

    3. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      Yeah, that kind of floored me. The most info I got was that maybe they were performatively not paying attention? Like sitting in the back of the meeting ostentatiously not participating? No idea, but honestly, kind of funny. Seriously, I think the kind of work environment that cares about appearance over performance and makes blanket proclamations forbidding things without asking questions is opening themselves to that kind of civil-ish quasi-disobedience, and what I really learned from this situation is that I’m happier somewhere else (I asked this question quite a while ago).

      1. Lavender*

        Maybe they were working on a complicated project that actually *was* keeping them from paying attention? I’ve knitted lace shawls and cable-knit sweaters that I absolutely wouldn’t have been able to work on while still giving my full attention to a meeting. Or maybe their coworkers were fascinated by the knitting and kept derailing the meetings to ask about it? In any case, it’s odd!

    4. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I have seen some absolutely fabulous NSFW knitting and crochet projects and, while I am sure this is not the case here, I am enjoying the idea of people subversively knitting “naughty” things.

    5. RagingADHD*

      People can do just about anything in a disruptive way if they are oblivious / ostentatious enough.

  20. Richard Hershberger*

    Snarky response: Take up crocheting, which most definitely is not knitting.

    My pastor routinely knits during meetings, of which churches have an abundance. It has never been an issue. I do OK in in-person meetings, so long as they aren’t interminable, but find it very difficult to maintain focus in Zoom meetings if I don’t have some side activity going on.

    The issue as I understand it is that many activities, even very important ones, don’t require 100 percent of your brain. If it only needs 80%, then the remaining 20% is idling, which only works so long. This is why we listen to podcasts while driving. A good side activity is one that you can abandon instantly, when the meeting or the trip come to a tricky intersection that requires your full attention. Knitting would be perfect for driving, were it not for that pesky need to steer.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I tried yarning once (can’t recall if it was knit or crochet but suspect it was crochet) while in an incredibly slow traffic jam. Still didn’t work! :/

  21. Knitting Engineer*

    Man, this pisses me off. I knit in meetings! I advocate LOUDLY for it. I’ve been doing so for at least five years, so not just a wfh pandemic thing. It got to the point where I wrote a quick explainer page at my Tech Giant to link to people who are concerned/curious, and for my fellow knitters to link as well (because I also spend a lot of time with other knitters/fiber crafters at work). It’s got a few sources on knitting as a focus aid, I’ll share them in a reply comment, but IMHO you should try again with this boss and bring backup documentation, because knitting during meetings is a massive focus win for the people who do it.

      1. Lalo*

        Except that other people are bothered by it. Having a condition or a need to focus isn’t an excuse to steamroll everyone else.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          That assumes everyone is bothered, and that they are bothered *more* by it than by other distractions around them.

          (I do like the comments below that advocated for crochet as quieter).

        2. ACM*

          The LW was told that her knitting wasn’t a problem, it was a legacy policy being applied without nuance, not ‘steamrolling everyone else’. Even then, if it’s one or two other people? No, that’s not everyone else and frankly, unless they were proven to be willing sacrifice their own productivity/effectiveness for the sake of mine, they can deal.

          That’s what they’re asking LW to do, and that’s what you’re blithely suggesting LW does without any indication of reciprocation or benefit from it. Who are you to ask someone hamper themselves so a hypothetical other person is more comfortable?

          I’ve had a few run-ins with people asking me to stop bouncing my foot or reading before class (the book went away when class started) and point-blank asked someone what management skill they suggest I take up instead, I’m usually able to go “Nope, tried that, tried that, tried that, makes noise, [loud ugly laugh]” when they do the usual blather about ‘concentrate on your notes’ or ‘do deep breathing exercises’ or ‘quiet stretches’ or ‘fidget spinner’ or “Just pay attention” and then I suggest they mind their own goddamn business. Or, to use a more tactful phrase apt for the situation, tend to their own knitting.

        3. Mill Miker*

          The thing is, the people who are bothered by it also fall into “having a condition or need to focus”, so they also don’t have an excuse to steamroll everyone else.

          These are two conflicting needs, and the way to get past that isn’t to blanket declare one valid and the other not. It Especially doesn’t make sense to say that someone with need A – who is present and raising an issue – can’t be accommodated, because hypothetically someone could be present who has conflicting need B.

          And even if there’s actually proof that people with both needs are present, then a discussion and compromise needs to happen. You still don’t declare one need as acceptable and the other not based on… I guess which seems more “normal” to you?

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. I suspect that many people are distracted by the mere thought of someone knitting in a meeting because they’ve never been in a meeting where someone else was knitting. I suspect most of those would get used to it if they actually worked with someone who knits in meetings. I’m not discounting misophonia, but requiring knitters to use bamboo needles sounds like a reasonable compromise to me.

  22. digitalnative-ish*

    I have a couple fidget toys from Fidget Land. I like them became they’re a little more “grown up” looking and relatively quiet, and more substantial and satisfying than rings (but that’s me). The Stephie model with silicone bands is the quietest, but even my Rizzle with metal center rings mostly sounds like quiet key jangling.

  23. B*tch in the Corner of the Poster*

    I’m completely on your side, OP. But as an “in the meantime”, have you thought about clay, or small wax balls? When I was in the Peace Corps, we had long trainings and sometimes they would give us little balls of clay or playdough. It really helped me to keep my hands busy when focusing.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I have given people Lego in training sessions for this. Lego can be used as part of the training session, but in this case it was just to give the fiddlers something to fiddle with.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        My previous job would actually set out trays of (quiet) fidget toys on each table at trainings and told attendees that they could use them. Since the attendees worked with children who might need to use fidget toys to focus in class, it was a good way to introduce and model that concept.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      True confession: I use the wax that some cheese (typically gouda, in my case) come in. Also, I like cheese.

    3. Be Gneiss*

      Just set down my thinking putty to respond to this!

      Although I would find the clicking of 100 pairs of knitting needles less distracting than one person eating or clicking a pen or using a “relatively quiet” fidget toy.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      More putty than clay (or, more accurately, choose a substance that doesn’t require you to wash your hands after use, which most putties are these days and most clays are… not.)

  24. Quaint Irene*

    As a confirmed doodler, I absolutely get why knitting is helpful but I find it ENORMOUSLY distracting. Like to the point that I find myself exclusively focusing on the knitting instead of what I’m supposed to be paying attention to. I can tune out doodling from others, but I just get too caught up in anything crafty. Once I watched someone try to eke out the last bit from a ball of yarn and the suspense nearly killed me!

    1. shrinking violet*

      “Once I watched someone try to eke out the last bit from a ball of yarn and the suspense nearly killed me!”
      I can see myself completely focused on that, and internally cheering for the knitter, while totally losing track of the meeting!

      1. Lavender*

        Yeah, that’s fair. I can see how that would be distracting! (Probably distracting for the person knitting, as well. I’d suggest putting it away at that point.)

        1. Quaint Irene*

          I tried not to be a weirdo about it, but it was kind of like that episode of The Office when they were all watching the DVD logo bounce around the TV screen and it finally slotted into the corner.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      Done that sometimes – but I’ve also been distracted by the guy playing solitaire on his laptop in class, the person texting on their phone, the birds outside… I think the person whose fidget is helping them focus gets a weirdly extra bad rap over other fidgets, including the ones which mean the person doing them is definitely NOT focused.

  25. Harriet Vane*

    I am an advanced knitter, so I understand how it feels automatic and helps focus. However, I have been in class with knitters and I do have some sympathy with the instructor/boss on this. I myself find that knitting can help me concentrate and am perfectly fine with knitting in a lecture setting where you are all just supposed to be passively listening. However, in a seminar setting when everyone is around a small table and supposed to be engaged with each other, I find that knitting be noticeable and I definitely have felt distracted watching others knit in class. It also assumes that your hands will almost never be otherwise occupied, which is weird in a situation where taking notes is usually a sign of interest.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I have sympathy for people who find the act of someone knitting to be distracting, but I have no sympathy for instructors/bosses who are unhappy that the attendees are not producing their desired simulacra of attentiveness.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. When I crocheted through boring classes in high school, I made sure to do it under my desk so that nobody could see it and get distracted. And crochet has a single hook rather than two needles, so there was no real noise.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I am downright angry with people who want the “desired simulacra” rather than actual attention.

  26. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I have developed a quilting practice that involves big thread and straight(ish) lines and lap-sized pieces that I use in circumstances exactly like this. I can even pre-load needles onto the spool for easy transitions. Completely quiet, can be done almost without looking, and I always make a point of doing eye contact and questions to signal my focus.

    I get that it doesn’t look professional, but omg, the phone play that other people are doing is so much worse.

  27. bamcheeks*

    *raises hands* another knits-for-concentration here! I don’t do it at in-person meetings or training specifically because I worry it’ll come across as distracting or disrespectful to others— I wish it didn’t, but I do worry about it— but I always make sure I have knitting near my desk at home. It massively increases my ability to concentrate on virtual meetings and training. If my hands aren’t busy, I will find something to read (often AAM!), and as soon as I’m reading I literally cannot hear what is being said, sometimes even including my name.

    Had an infuriating one where my manager scheduled an in-person meeting on a day when I was otherwise in a four-hour virtual training, and then cancelled the meeting on the day— I genuinely would have got so much more out of that training if I’d been able to work from home that day and knit through it!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I have the exact same problem. If I don’t have something to do with my hands, I get very tempted to start reading something. Could be e-mails and stuff, but it also could be AAM or Twitter. Either way, I don’t pay enough attention to the meeting. But doing simple tasks that take a little focus helps SO MUCH. If I don’t have to be on video, I’ve been known to empty and fill the dishwasher or fold laundry if I don’t have to take many notes. Otherwise, I may do stuff like simple hand sewing, seam ripping, etc., which I can drop immediately if I need to write anything down or contribute.

    2. allathian*

      I play mindless puzzle games that don’t have a timer on my cellphone with the sound muted. The lack of timer is crucial, because it means that I can instantly put the phone away if I need to take notes or check something, etc.

      As much as I enjoy WFH, I find it much easier to focus in person without fidgeting. If the meeting’s really boring, though, I doodle on a notepad and pretend to take notes. If it’s a training seminar or something engaging, I’ll take actual notes by hand. I’m a fast and reasonably accurate typist, so if I type, I’m just taking dictation without taking in much of what I hear. Writing by hand forces me to process what I hear as I take notes of the key points and it helps me retain the information much better than typing would. I’m no longer used to writing by hand, though, so a few hours of that and I have a sore hand and arm.

  28. DrSalty*

    I keep a stress ball at my desk for this reason. Not as engaging as knitting I’m sure but it gives me something to do with my hands during meetings. Taking overly detailed notes – maybe with pen and paper – is another great suggestion.

    1. Carlie*

      Notes taken with a quiet laptop is good for overly detailed notes too. My fidget activity is sometimes to take straight dictation of whatever the speaker is saying. It keeps my fingers incredibly busy and helps me practice my typing speed while doing it, and if my fingers get tired then I can switch to “just” taking notes.

    2. Dahlia*

      I had one of those amazing stress balls where it’s like a balloon full of slime in a net. Loved it.

      Then it exploded.

      Am too stressed, apparently.

  29. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    If the LW’s workplace has a DEI initiative or a disability committee, it might be worth touching base with them about education about neurodivergent people.

  30. ferrina*

    Are you me?

    I used to knit throughout college/grad school. I’d let teachers know on the first day of class what I was doing and that it helped me stay focused, and I’d always engage in class (several of them later said they didn’t know if I was focusing until I talked, and then it was clear that I had been absorbing the information). Some teachers weren’t okay with it, and I wouldn’t knit. I’d also have more trouble in the class.

    I switched to doodling when I started working. I always brought multiple pen colors to meetings and would switch back and forth between note-taking and intricate doodles. I never considered knitting in work meetings- I assumed it would be distracting (between the novelty and the click of the needles). I’m also constantly shifting in my chair or bouncing my leg- I’ve tried various techniques to help that not be distracting.

    I am ADHD. I self-diagnosed as an adult, and I’m pretty textbook. I normally don’t disclose at work, because the one time I did, any missed deadline turned into an ADHD issue (and I missed less deadlines than most other coworkers!). ADHD automatically put a limit on what people thought I could achieve.

    LW, if you have ADHD, it’s pretty normal that movement activities will help you focus. I think knitting could be a reasonable accommodation, but you’d need to disclose your condition at work (and likely get a formal diagnosis). The disclosure can have blow back. You know your workplace and your working style best, so figure out the risk of blowback vs the burden of finding a new coping technique.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      (I’m NOT the LW). Thanks for the story. I think it always helps to hear from people with lived experience about what they tried and how it all worked out.

      Wanted to echo your point about possibly needing a formal diagnosis to access accommodations, which can get extremely expensive. A friend of mine was going to take the LSAT back in the mid-2000s and wanted accommodation for ADHD to get extra time. The testers would do it, but it required formal diagnosis and documentation from someone with X qualifications, which was going to cost $1000 or more. So he ended up doing the test without the extra time. (He did get into and finish law school, in case anyone was wondering).

  31. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I had a colleague who, when her task in the quarterly meeting was assigned to someone else (she was in charge of clicking the powerpoint to the next slide on cue), got pouty and resentful and started aggressively crocheting in the meeting. We all understand about “keeping hands busy to focus” and several of us doodle, spin our pencils, etc, but this was blatantly about Her Job Was Taken Away. Upper management were present (and presenting!) so this didn’t look good.

    Supervisor goes over to her and quietly says “please stop knitting in this meeting, you look like you’re not paying attention”

    Coworker snaps back, “It’s not knitting! It’s CROCHET”

    Half a decade later, this is still a legendary moment on this team.

  32. Abe Froman*

    I worked in an org that instituted a knitting ban. It started with one or two folks, but after a year or so, at large meetings there would be 15 or 20 knitters. As someone who gets distracted easily, the knitting needles hitting together (when there was a lot of them) was pretty distracting for me. I think allowing people to do things to keep hands occupied to keep attention is important, but understanding how it might affect others around you is important as well.

  33. Moo*

    I do wish more people were accepting of this kind of thing. I crochet during church and before I started I asked the pastor if it was OK. He said he thinks it’s great if it helps me focus, as long as it’s not bothering anyone. We sit in the back row of the church every week and no one really pays attention to what I’m doing, but I do get a lot of folks coming up and asking excitedly what I’m working on and wanting to see it. It helps me absorb the sermons and I obviously put it down during interactive parts.

    We had a guest preacher in a while back who gave a great sermon. I was really enjoying it, paying attention, absorbing everything, and crocheting at the same time. Every time I looked up at him he was almost glaring in my direction. At the end of the service I went up to thank him for the wonderful sermon and how much I appreciated it, but he gave me a funny look and said he didn’t think I was paying that much attention. I laughed uncomfortably and said “Oh, the crocheting helps me focus on what you’re saying. I really liked your XYZ point about yadda!” He didn’t seem to believe me and I was pretty put off. Oh well.

  34. LaFramboise*

    Listen, Madame Defarge, I’m right there with you. And I think that the big boss should know that her ask isn’t great, but not right now. And not from you. If I were you, I would comply, maliciously, by doing those things you don’t like as much, but help you somewhat. And tell the instructor why you are doing what you’re doing. Maybe that person can be your change agent, esp. if she’s running the class. (It really grinds me when big bosses come to something once, lay down arbitrary rules that discommode people, then never return. I’ve had it happen several times in my work life.)

    My feeling is that general rustling around may be a lot more annoying to your classmates than quietly knitting. And really, they are the ones whose feelings should be considered, not your boss. Your instructor may be aware of this as well. So again, perhaps enlisting the instructor’s help is the way to have short term relief before you talk about what to do long term, since you do this several times a year. But i would see about accommodations for your own relief.
    Good luck with this!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I feel you on senior people making rules that end up causing a bunch of problems because they don’t really understand the things they’re making rules about.

  35. NotSoEvilHRLady*

    OP: one of my team members knits sometimes during our weekly meetings (which are scheduled for 1.5 hours and sometimes run longer!) and she is one of the most intelligent and engaged co-workers I have ever been acquainted with. Our manager has never had an issue with the knitting.

    (I also agree with Alison regarding a possible ADA accommodation: it seems like a low-key reasonable way to assist you in fulfilling your essential job duties if you do have a medical/serious health condition. I use that language deliberately because I worked with accommodations at a previous job.)

  36. Rinn*

    As to knitting or similar quiet “auto-pilot” activities, I hope we can get to a place where these can be incorporated into the working environment in a way that feels like a sort of non-issue to most people.

    As to a memory that just popped into my head… and I will say that this is a recollection from childhood so take from it what you will.

    In the early 1970’s my dad worked at a Senate office building in DC and there was some occasion where I went to visit him at work. I noticed there were a bunch of drawings mounted on the exterior of the cubicles along the cube “hallway”. He told me they were allowed to doodle during meetings because it seemed to help people pay better attention. These pictures were some of the more elaborate doodles people had drawn.

    1. Avery*

      Different setting, of course, but my high school history teacher did the same thing–he displayed the intricate, full-page (but not terribly high-quality–my artistic talent is all in writing, not visual art) doodles I did during class proudly within his classroom. That made a big difference on my morale, let me tell you!

  37. Gracie*

    I am a professor and a knitter. Trust me, there are times and places where I am a more active learner when I am knitting. That is usually when I am watching/listening/speaking, need to be focused on the material, but don’t need to be taking notes.

    If I don’t knit, I do things like doodle, shred napkins, pick at my clothing, etc. etc. In other words, I fidget.

  38. Neurodivergent One*

    I have a controversial take on this as someone with severe ADHD and accommodations. Knitting in meetings isn’t acceptable. Knitting on company time, during company paid training also inst acceptable regardless of if the instructor okays it. There are other alternatives that don’t involve knitting but accomplish the same thing, ie increased focus by hand occupying that should have been considered by OP first. It’s unfortunate that we don’t work in a work force that accepts that neurodiversity comes in all shapes and sizes but there will always be some things that will raise eyebrows in the professional world and knitting (unless you do this for a career) is one of them. There is a time and a place for knitting and it’s not at work, especially since there are other less distracting and more “acceptable” alternatives that accomplish the same thing.

    1. What She Said*

      I personally would find a fidget spinner or those pop things more distracting then knitting. So I’m really curious what is less distracting to you.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I’ve been finding this assertion that fidget toys are less distracting odd too. I’ve got a bunch of them and none of them are silent; some of them are definitely louder than the sound of quiet knitting on bamboo/wood/plastic needles. It’s fine if people find knitting distracting in general, but there are so many other kinds of distractions in meetings and it’s weird to single this one out, especially when the alternatives can also be distracting.

      2. Dahlia*

        I have an octopus that spins and has pops. It is the best fidget I own for keeping my hands busy. It satisfies my brain and sensory things so much and it switching between the two functions helps me not get bored of it.

        IT IS LOUD. I could not use in a work environment.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      So YOUR accommodations are good but other peoples’ accommodations are wrong?

      The knitting isn’t instead of the job, it’s to focus on the job. If the job involves talking and listening and mentally absorbing information, but no hands, the hands can do something else, especially if that means the talking and listening and absorbing happen BETTER.

      I doodle and draw to focus a lot. I’ve even done pixel art for a project that needed it while online in audio discussion but without video or screen sharing. How is that categorically different from knitting?

      “It’s unfortunate that we don’t work in a work force that accepts that neurodiversity comes in all shapes and sizes but” the only way to change that is to get people used to reasonable accommodations.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. The top post comes across as very judgmental to me.

        It’s all about knowing your audience as well, knitting would be unthinkable in many offices, whereas in others people’d barely notice.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I have to ask: are you a knitter? What you have written here sounds like you don’t knit and don’t understand how it can work for people.

      When I’m in most training classes, I’m there to listen and take notes. Knitting is not interfering with either of those. The better classes, that are hands-on, like computer skills classes? Those have lots of hand action built right in so I don’t need a way to fidget.

    4. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      Thanks for your perspective.
      Something I didn’t include in the original post: I’m young (mid 20s) and read as younger (it’s common to be asked what high school I go to). I’m not super into fidget toys, but I think I also avoid them as knitting reads as more respectable to me than playing with a toy. It’s tricky.

  39. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    I’d probably find it odd if someone was sitting in a meeting or class and knitting but I don’t think I’d complain about it, unless it was really noisy. I’d go back to doodling, just for the time being, and then if you find a fidget toy that is non-disruptive (I have no idea how those fidget spinners aren’t incredibly irritating to people around you, but I think a fidget cube would be fine), go with that. I have heard of people doodling pictures of what is being taught or discussed (margin battle scene for a war lesson, maybe anatomical drawings for biology, etc) and that might be helpful- if someone complains about your doodles, you could point out how drawing the topic helps to retain the info.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      It’s so weird to me how many people will complain about stuff that has nothing to do with them. Assuming it’s not actively disruptive, these strategies have nothing to do with anyone else.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        I can imagine the fidget spinners, in particular, being disruptive in a classroom setting (that was the discourse around them when I first heard of them) because I imagine that they’d be in the eye line of other students and they’d distract them via literal spinning objects. Personally, after working in retail, I gained what I call “retail reflexes” and any movement in the corner of my eye will draw my attention. It’d be really hard for me to ignore a spinning object in my eye sight.

        I had a TA once complain because I got out an emery board and took five seconds to file down a nail that was catching on my sweater. She complain about it for A LOT longer than it took me to do. I just assume everyone has their quirks and some people haven’t figured out which hill to die on.

  40. Jane Bingley*

    What so many neurotypical people don’t realize is that if I look (to you) like I’m paying attention, that’s when my focus is most off. It takes SO much mental energy to sit still, keep my back straight, and make eye contact. If I’m doing that, I’m spending so much energy on appearance that I’m not actually absorbing much of what you’re saying at all.

    This is why I find it so helpful to think of neurodivergence as a disability rights issue. Your desire to have me mimic you is not a good enough reason to interfere with my ability to actually learn. Our brains are different. Let it go.

    1. Lavender*

      Agreed. If I’m sitting completely still without fidgeting at all, that takes effort because it’s just…not my natural state of existing. I took a public speaking class in college and once got marked down on an assignment for playing with my sweater during a speech, and I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I did a nine minute speech once back in my high school days (was supposed to be five minutes and I overprepared), and after the fact, many classmates noted the way I was shredding the flap of the cardboard box we were using as a podium as I talked…

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Oooh, I never thought about this before! Makes so much sense to me now (as someone who suspects I have ADHD).

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Absolutely agree with this. I think a lot of people would rather I have no idea what was going on as long as I “look” correct, though.

  41. CU*

    I have pretty severe ADHD and I knit during meetings and trainings… but only when I’m working from home. (We don’t use cameras.) I wish I could knit in the office, but since I had to fight to be able to wear headphones to block out distractions, I haven’t even brought it up. I use a fidget cube or doodle. I’m a violinist, too, and if I don’t have anything I will tap out the fingerings to music on my leg.

    1. bamcheeks*

      We DO use cameras and I just keep my knitting below the level of my desk! Helps that I use circular needles for everything.

  42. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Crocheting under my desk got me through some really boring classes in high school. And I’ve definitely found that having an easy task to do with my hands during video meeting helps me not get distracted. I mostly sew these days rather than knit, so I’ll do stuff like ripping out seams, simple hand-stitching (e.g., hemming pants), or cutting out tissue pattern pieces. These are all simple things that don’t take a lot of focus and which I can drop immediately if I need to take notes or participate. The difference for me is HUGE and I don’t think I have ADHD or PTSD. (I’m just bored and not very motivated these days). So I can only imagine how much it would help for people who have that going on, too.

    1. allathian*

      When I was in college 30 years ago, one of my close friends would always knit in class unless the lecturer kicked up a fuss about it. The lecturers who allowed it would get a scarf or a pair of socks at the end of the course. She always got much better grades in the classes where she was allowed to knit.

      I’ve found that either doodling or playing mindless puzzle games on my cellphone help me focus in meetings these days.

  43. Celestian Seasonings*

    I’m like OP– I have to do something with my hands in order to stay focused (I have diagnosed ADHD). Throughout school that was doodling and/or note-taking, but I was told by my first boss not to doodle in meetings because it makes me look disengaged. Thankfully these days I have enough capital to get away with it (or in some extreme cases, like long phone meetings only attended by people I know well, with doing sudoku or coloring books). However, for meetings where I have to stay totally professional, I have a few techniques. I learned how to spin my pen (though this can backfire if you drop it a lot or accidentally fling it across the room). Rings can also make good fidget toys, especially if you get one that spins or has interesting textures. I do pick at my cuticles as well (not necessarily a habit I’d suggest taking up, but hey.) But the thing that helped most was literally just medication.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I pick at my cuticles a lot too, to the point where I finally got myself a cuticle trimmer because otherwise I’d pick at them until they bled. Now I have them scattered around my house in case of emergency trimming needs. Yeah, my fidgeting is that bad.

  44. So Very Tired*

    I just want to say that I greatly appreciate the link to JAN! I’m currently trying to figure out how to work full-time as someone with severe depression and insomnia, and I’ve been having difficulty figuring out what accommodations to ask for. I’ve only poked around on the site for about five minutes and it’s a gold mine!

  45. What She Said*

    For me it’s listening to music at my desk while working. Yet the bosses frown upon headphones. I’m not in a customer facing role. Can easily take them off to answer the phone or when someone comes to my desk to chat. I get so much more work done if I have music in my ears. And it has to be loud hence the headphones (not loud enough to hear outside of the headphones of course). Background music in an office that is barely above a whisper is far more distracting to me then a loud music in my headphones. If the bosses don’t want me at my best productivity wise then okay. It’s their work I’m doing but whatever. I understand optics but people really need to understand context matters.

    I had a teacher tell a story about a student they had that sat in the back of room with their arms crossed and looked pissed off every class. Turned out the student had a bad back and she was told to cross her arms and it helped take the pressure off her back while sitting in the desk. Seriously people, context matters.

    I would ask for accommodations with the knitting.

  46. Lenora Rose*

    My sister-in-law knits in meetings, never mind classes — and she works for the federal government in Ottawa and has received many kudos, and promotions, for her work product, and for a while was the go-to person for giving presentations on her Subject Matter Expertise (until she trained other people in both the subject matter and doing the presentations). So if they need examples, a fairly high level Civil Servant can do it.

  47. Middle Aged Lady*

    This is a hard one. You need to knit to focus and I absolutely cannot focus if my neighbor is knitting. The sound and seeing someone pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down…it’s like crackling candy wrappers oe tapping your pen or clicking it, or reaching in their bag fir something and then leaning down to put it back, over and over, etc. i need quiet and few visual distractions to learn. I have diagnosed misophonia and some sounds are bothersome and others are not. The person without a tissue who SNIFFS Loudly every 30 seconds? That person can ruin a lecture for me. It is literally painful to me and creates an irrational anger at the one being noisy. Many of us have sensory issues. How to accomdate us and the knitters/fidgetters at the same time?

    1. Eyes Kiwami*

      I think it’s up to both people to speak up and see if both parties actually exist in the room at the same time. Maybe there are no Misophonias in Knitter’s classes, maybe the Knitters in Misophonia’s classes don’t mind switching to something else, maybe the strict professor doesn’t allow knitting and sniffs loudly every 30 seconds so both of them are miserable!

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        Dear old Miss Manners said the person who wanted quiet should almost always get their needs met when there is a mismatch, but I think she was a bit out of date on that.
        It would be lovely if we could all speak up. Some people don’t take it well. It’s hard to say sometimes. In a perfect world, we could sort ourselves out in a classroom.

  48. Adds*

    Maybe the “disruptive knitters” weren’t really so much disruptive themselves as much as other people tend to get curious about others with yarn and needles or hooks. I don’t know if I’d want to die on this hill with Great-grandboss, despite getting approval from the instructor.

    I love to knit and crochet (and am currently knitting at work), and I also find that after about an hour in a meeting, I’m at sensory capacity and start to zone out. In this instance, I think I might look into getting a discreet fidget and using that in this particular training.

  49. Keymaster of Gozer*

    It’s ultimately down to how much effort you want to put into fighting this. In some firms the disapproval of senior management isn’t something that’ll go away even when things are explained to them. In others, they might listen.

    I know at our place (notoriously male dominated) someone knitting or doing any kind of crafts in training or meetings would be seen negatively, simply because those are, well, ‘women’s crafts’. I disagree of course, but that’s the culture here.

    Basically the smaller the thing you fiddle with is, the more likely you’ll get away with it. Knitting needles are big, a ball of thinking putty is not.

  50. The 80s Weren't That Great*

    Any training worth it’s salt should have movement, conversation, activities and interaction. This is especially important when it’s all day for several days in a row. In that environment, knitting would barely be noticed.

    I’ve been a trainer for years and often provide fidget material (pipe cleaners and playdoh). This has been very helpful for those who struggle during lecture/presentation times.

  51. Yes And*

    I’m a musician, and I’ll frequently mime piano scales as a similar fidget-to-keep-focus technique. The finger movements are very small, and I don’t think anyone has ever noticed (or if they have, they’ve never said anything). Is there something OP could do that would have the same effect as her knitting (or a fidget toy), but that doesn’t require props?

  52. Truth Bomb*

    No one else is bringing their hobby to meetings. I’m embarrassed for the people who are knitting at work when they should be listening and taking notes. The sound of the needles and the motion is disruptive, annoying and disrespectful to the rest of the participants. I would have no problem telling one of my direct reports to stop it.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That’s kinda harsh. The letter was about how the LW does better at listening and engaging while having a task to do with their hands. LW is trying to find a way to do their best at work and get maximum benefit from the training! I agree that the LW shouldn’t distract others, but there are ways to do this that minimize disruptions.

    2. NeedRain47*

      Are you gonna tell your direct reports that they’re disruptive, annoying, and disrespectful when they get a disability accomodation? I hope all of them do and insist on knitting specifically.

    3. Lavender*

      People bring their hobbies into work all the time. People who are into hand-lettering or bullet journaling might take elaborate meeting notes or take extra time to lay out their agenda for the week. Someone who’s into fashion might put a lot of effort into building their professional wardrobe. I have an acquaintance who trains service animals as a hobby and often brings them to work so they can learn how to behave in different settings. Maybe it’s unusual for a hobby to also function as an accommodation, but it’s not unusual for people’s hobbies to turn up in their professional lives.

      1. RagingADHD*

        If someone was bringing different outfits and accessories to work to pick out their wardrobe *during a meeting,* that would be as much or more of a problem than knitting. Same thing if a bullet journaller whipped out a ruler and entire sets of colored pens and stickers to lay out an elaborate agenda *during a training session.*

        Nobody was telling the OP they couldn’t wear hand-knitted items to work, or that they couldn’t knit in their own office or cube during downtime or on lunch break. That would be the equivalent of your examples of “hobbies showing up at work.”

        When you ignore context, you create a strawman.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          The context here is that LW’s disability accommodation is being dismissed as a hobby, and the response is that the hobby label doesn’t make the practice inappropriate for the workplace in itself.

          1. RagingADHD*

            It is not a disability accommodation. It is a preference.

            LW does not (or did not at the time of writing) have a disability diagnosis and therefore had not requested an accommodation.

            The LW has a particular habit that they find personally helpful. If/when they had a diagnosis, they could request accommodation, and the employer would still not be required to allow this particular habit in every context in order to grant a reasonable accommodation.

            1. Lavender*

              It may not be a formal accommodation, but it’s still meant to help OP focus (which they said they struggle with), and it seems to be working as intended. We have no evidence that anyone else in the class finds it distracting, and OP appears to be getting the intended benefits from the class. Why not allow an employee to use a method that helps them to focus and retain information, if it isn’t causing issues for anyone else?

              This doesn’t just apply to knitting in meetings–I’m in favor of any accommodation that doesn’t create problems for other employees, regardless of whether it’s officially covered under the ADA.

            2. Willow Pillow*

              It’s not a formal disability accommodation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a disability accommodation – many of us have informal accommodations and do quite well. Dismissing this as a preference is incredibly patronizing, and it damages the community you claim to represent. It’s hard enough being neurodivergent without people like you gatekeeping.

        2. She'sKnittingAgain*

          Howdy, OP here.

          I agree that I shouldn’t be shopping for yarn or planning knitting projects during work, I know those take way too much focus and only bring in very simple projects that are already planned, personally I won’t even switch to a new ball of yarn except during breaks because that’s too much attention switching for me. Basically, if I have to make a plan or decision it uses the “wrong part” of my brain. Repetitive actions with no planning or decision making help me focus, anything more complicated hinders (of course this is just my brain, this discussion is a fascinating look at the different levels of difficulty different people use to get their mind in the right place.)

          The effort I put into knitting is about as much as someone who likes fashion noticing shoes they like and wondering where they were purchased or using a fully prepared bullet journal to flip the page once and start writing. The context you are ignoring is that I am using the hobby to increase my ability to focus on the assigned work, not replace the activity I am paid to be attending to. You seem to be educated on logical fallacies, I feel like false equivalence is something to be wary of here.

          1. Lavender*

            This is really well said. The knitting isn’t meant to serve as entertainment because you’re bored in class, it’s to help you stay focused and attentive. I hope you’re able to come up with a solution.

        3. Lavender*

          Right, and OP wasn’t working on an elaborate project that would impact their concentration, or spread out a bunch of materials that would get in other people’s way. Assuming they were working on a simple project like a hat or sock, their knitting wouldn’t take up much more room than a folder or laptop bag, nor would it require any more concentration than doodling or taking notes by hand.

    4. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      I was listening and taking notes. Etymology is another hobby of mine, and I was actively looking up new vocabulary throughout the training and I would say it, like the knitting, helped me do better in the class. My question was about how I can use my hobbies to learn better, not what you would do.

      You are welcome to feel however you want, but embarrassment is uncomfortable and I would never ask you to feel that for me.

    5. Cake or Death*

      Wow, that’s incredibly narrow-minded. The point is that we’re listening and taking notes WHILE knitting. Our ears don’t stop functioning while our hands are in motion.

  53. Your Computer Guy*

    I too must always fidget, and it’s usually with whatever random objects are in front of me. My new favorite “toy” is a rubber band that I threaded through a washer. Silent, stretchy, satisfying.

  54. Qwerty*

    As a fellow ADHD knitter, you need to take a step back. You’ve been told that it is distracting to other people – there is apparently even a history of this! Digging in your heels and insisting on knitting is not just declaring that your ability to concentrate trumps that of all of your classmates combined, but that you are above even attempting to find a compromise that helps you fidget in a non-distracting way. I’m guessing that’s not what you feel or want to portray!

    Your disappointment is really clouding everything else and sounds like you are taking the directive against knitting as a personal attack. It’s a blow! You found your happy place and it didn’t work out. Your boss didn’t pose the hypothetical “what if someone is distracted”, they gave you a concrete history that people have reported being distracted.

    Knitting is an audio and visual distraction for other people. The person knitting probably won’t notice it, similar to how a parent has a different threshold for how distracting their kid is. You checked that your instructor wouldn’t be distracted, which is good. But you didn’t check with the other classmates, plus there’s the question on whether they’d even feel like they could push back. Or they might think it would be find then find themselves staring at you knitting or getting twitchy at the just barely audible click of the needles.

    1. Lavender*

      My understanding is that the people who were distracted by knitting weren’t in the class with OP. I think it would be reasonable for OP’s boss to ask them not to knit in meetings or training sessions with those people, but I don’t think knitting is universally distracting enough to warrant banning it for the whole company.

    2. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      Can I invite you to re-read my post?

      I was told third-hand that other people used knitting in meetings to be disruptive years before my time, I have no idea how they even managed it. No one in my class reported being distracted and the person who told me to stop wasn’t in the class or that the problem was that I was being distracting. I agree I should have checked in with the 1-2 people who could have seen (it was truly silent, not barely audible), but you are very focused on “distracting” when I used the word “disruptive” as that was what I was told.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        People are judgey as heck on this topic, as you’ve seen today. I would bet money nobody really had a problem in the past either.

        I get tired of being told I’m a problem just out of “I want everyone to be sitting still.”

    3. Ellis Bell*

      The instructor, if they were any good would be taking charge over and above a someone making a quick visit, or a history of someone being bothered and there are many ways of surveying the room and taking note of who is, and who isn’t distracted. The person who is most likely to be distracted by a fidget accommodation is the actual trainer! They have to pay attention to many different people in the room and make sure they are absorbing the topic. I have had to speak to ADHD students and rejig our fidget arrangement if it ended up distracting to me, or another student based on what I’m observing (and I would certainly expect adults to speak up about this as well). Sometimes x fidget is okay but not y; other times y is okay but not x. I would find it incredibly annoying if I was asked to run a room, and then got overruled after allowing something.

      1. RagingADHD*

        The instructor, if they were any good, would not flagrantly ignore a direct instruction from the great-grandboss, who is probably in or close to the C-Suite and signs their paychecks. Particularly when it was reinforced by the OP’s direct manager.

        1. She'sKnittingAgain*

          OP here.

          No way to know this from the letter, the training was conducted by a company that contracted with mine and sent instructors to us, so no, the instructor was not paid by the complainer and if the complainer had taken it up with the instructor’s boss, the instructor probably would have just been sent to do trainings at other companies. (They were very good, highly trained, and with first name basis connections to high level researchers in the field, I put no credence in a scenario where they would have caught serious consequences for saying “sure, knitting in my class is fine with me.”)

          The instructor was completely left out of the loop, possibly deliberately. My great grandboss left the training and reached out to my boss at my main location after that week’s training was over and I was back in my normal building.

          1. RagingADHD*

            If you think outside contractors can flout instructions from higher-ups at their client companies with impunity, then I think perhaps you have never worked as a contractor.

            The reason they have great professional relationships is because they don’t act like that.

            1. Eyes Kiwami*

              The point is that the instructor is more than capable of identifying potential problems and dealing with them. The grandboss who is not even participating in the class does not need to swoop in and instruct OP specifically about knitting based on past scenarios (not what is currently happening).

            2. Ellis Bell*

              “flour with impunity”. You know it is just possible for adults to communicate without any need for all that!

  55. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    I really want to know more about these past disruptive knitters!!! like knitting is pretty low key and quiet. What were they doing.

    1. Veryanon*

      Right? I mean, most yarn arts (knitting, crochet, cross stitch) are pretty quiet. Were they fencing with the knitting needles, or what?

    2. Dinwar*

      Motion can attract attention. I remember working on a wind power plant with a few hundred turbines, driving with a colleague in the car. He said something to the effect of “I don’t know how you drive on this road; all these moving shadows would drive me bananas!!” I’d been doing it so long I’d gotten used to it, but he was new to the site and it was super distracting to him.

      In the same way, knitting and crochet–which involve constant hand motion–can draw eyes and distract people even if they’re quiet.

  56. JustMe*

    Fellow knitter. I don’t have ADHD per se, but I do find that doing something with my hands DOES help me listen. I’m doing a master’s program that is partially online, and I’ve moved to knitting tasks that can be done off-screen and are not noticeable (for example, balling yarn under the laptop desk). It’s been helpful and is largely unnoticeable on camera.

  57. Valancy Snaith*

    In my line of work this would absolutely not be OK, not ever. I think it can be a little echo-chamber-y here at times, but industry and work culture absolutely 100% matter quite a bit. If the boss is that concerned by it, it may signify that yes, optics are that big of a deal.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think this is an excellent point. A lot of people work in industries or for companies where knitting during a meeting or training is acceptable. That’s great. And many people work in industries or for companies where knitting wouldn’t fly, for a variety of reasons. Senior management at the LW’s company might be unreasonable, but there’s a very good chance they’re not. If it’s important enough for the boss to speak to the LW, that has to be given some weight. Is this the hill to die on? Maybe this company isn’t a great culture fit. This is a jumping-off point for some thinking– going straight to indignation will not help in this situation. If you think this is time for formal accommodation, then ok, start looking into that, but focus on action rather than resentment.

    2. Felicity Lemon*

      That’s where I fall on this — if knitting in a training class is something that is seen as OK in your organization/ industry, then go for it. From the big boss’ reaction, though, it sounds like it is not OK (for whatever reasons — and anecdotally, where I’ve worked in corporate America, I think knitting may indeed raise some eyebrows in a way that doodling or fidget gadgets wouldn’t). So then it’s up to the LW to consider what this says about the type of workplace she’s in and the culture there, and then figure out whether they want to spend the capital to push back on big boss’ remarks/ pursue accommodation, or just find a more acceptable alternative to the knitting.

  58. SGPB*

    As someone with ADHD who doesn’t knit, I have to say, someone near me knitting would be EXTREMELY distracting. And no I would not say anything because I have anxiety. I would just sit there and probably fail the test at the end.

  59. Nonny*

    I would recommend silly putty. You can keep it in one hand, out of sight and do all kinds of lovely sensory things with it. Just don’t get it caught in your hair.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Silly putty worked pretty well for me when I worked in an office. I was lucky that my officemate always listened to music on ear buds though, because my favorite thing to do with silly putty is create air bubbles and pop them.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, if I noticed that for some reason she wasn’t listening to her ear buds, I tried not to pop it, but it was hard not to because that’s my go-to silly putty action.

    2. anon for this*

      Someone playing with silly putty would be way more distracting to me as a classmate than someone knitting would be. I don’t think there’s any one perfect solution.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Things like silly putty, blu-tac and rolling up/ folding bits of paper are what I will end up doing when I can’t knit, but I really hate them because they eventually make my fingers feel greasy/sticky/dry/etc.

  60. Dasher Hadwick*

    This is frustratingly relatable. If I don’t so something with my hands I will get to the point I struggle to stay awake while learning things. orz It’s a bad look and so hard to explain.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I got SO MANY COMPLAINTS that I looked like I was going to fall asleep at 8 a.m. “sit still for an hour and stare” meetings. These days on Zoom? Nobody sees my hands and I look wide awake and chipper!

  61. Me*

    I mean, as frustrated as this makes you, it doesn’t seem like you have the political capital to burn on pushing back. So the best thing to do, would be to find a substitute fidget item that reads as more acceptable to your grand boss.

  62. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom*

    This was probably the best question answered on AAM! As a cross-stitcher, I really enjoyed seeing so many other comments. It will keep me going for the rest of the week. Since I do cross-stitch regularly, I talk with the speaker or the person officiating at the meeting, and it is very well-received. When I complete training courses, I find that other attendees are curious of what I am making, and I do respect that. But I am cognizant that it can be distracting for others, not myself. OP, I’m sorry that you were told to stop.

  63. Veryanon*

    I crochet, although not at work, as most of my meetings require me to be the leader. But if I’m not leading the meeting, it’s really hard for me to stay focused – I usually listen to maybe 10% of what’s being presented; I’ve learned to tune back in occasionally just so I know what’s being discussed. I’ve also received a late in life ADHD diagnosis, which has really helped me to understand a lot of what I previously put down as weird personality quirks. For the knitter, absolutely pursue an ADA accommodation.

  64. Hawk*

    I’m so glad that this came up, as an ADHDer and constant fidgeter.

    I had a professor who wouldn’t let my classmate crochet, which helped her focus (classmate said so). That professor ended up being incredibly horrible to all of us that had disabilities (1/4 of the class, which was tiny), so badly that I ended up with anxiety attacks every class and failed it. Then it was discovered that she didn’t honor documented accommodations. She wasn’t invited back.

  65. AMW*

    In school I used to write stories during class and could associate parts of the story with my lessons (a good trick as it looks like note-taking). As an adult one of my favorite at-home activities is playing a video game while listening to a podcast. If I happen to replay that game even years later, I often remember exactly what podcast and topic I was listening to the last time I was in that area of the game. Meanwhile if I’m on a Zoom call where I need to look attentive and engaged, I’m fighting the urge to fall asleep and have a hard time actually listening. I really rely on having something else present to map my thoughts to.

  66. Spicy Tuna*

    I want to know more about the disruptive knitters! I’m picturing a gang of Hell’s Angels brandishing knitting needles!

    In all seriousness though, while I understand the need to do something with the hands in order to focus, I would find someone else near me knitting to be super distracting. At my last job, the conference room had one wall facing exterior windows, and one wall of interior windows facing the floor’s lobby. Lots of people walking by, (some of them waving at people inside the room, even!), and TWO televisions tuned to two different stations, volume off. I always had to have a seat with my back to the interior window to avoid complete distraction.

    If the knitting is quiet and the OP is sitting in the back, maybe it could be workable? Or maybe she needs to try doodling again.

  67. Iris Eyes*

    Ok so only a little related but there is a fascinating video by ShannonMakes about wartime knitting efforts and she recounts an example of someone complaining that in a lecture hall the speaker could barely be heard over the clacking of needles and the response was basically, well the knitted goods had more value than the lecture anyway. “Spies, Socks, and Soldiers” for those who need a knitting and educational diversion.

  68. Nela*

    ADHD doodler here. I’m so sorry you got chastised for knitting! :(

    Nowadays I incorporate doodling into note-taking (look up “sketchnotes”), so anyone who glances at my sketchbook thinks I’m just taking particularly artsy looking notes.
    No one is bothered, but even if they were worried I’m not paying attention, they can pry my pen from my cold dead hands.

    1. Mrs Goldfish*

      I want to upvote this comment!

      If you want to search for it, the search terms can be doodle notes, sketch notes, visual notekeeping, even graphic facilitating. There are many terms to google, even some (free) courses to take.

      I have both been in classes and given them and I know how well it helps me focus but I also know it can look so uninterested if you are just drawing flowers and fishes on the edge of your notebook. Drawing the meeting however, completely different feel. :D

  69. Ellen N.*

    As the original poster was told not to knit because it’s distracting to others, I believe it’s the noise the knitting needles make that is the problem. My mother used to knit; I have misophonia and the clacking of the needles made me want to claw my eardrums out.

    Perhaps crochet or needlepoint would be acceptable to the rest of the class and the original poster’s boss.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Depending on a knitter’s technique, the size & color of the needles & project, and the way the room is arranged, it could also be visually distracting.

    2. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      I’m sorry if I was unclear. I was told not to knit because years ago other knitters had used knitting to be disruptive in other settings. My knitting is truly silent. Total sympathy for people with misophonia and I would have no problem stopping if that were the issue, but it’s not.

  70. Nameyname*

    I use jelly snakes from Amazon. I can pull or twist them around my hands which is enough to keep my brain active. Either that or I go on Google maps and “walk around” a park or museum on street view. (Btw did you know you can walk through some of the major museums in London on street view??) .
    Basically, I’m the same way, so good luck!

  71. ShysterB*

    Really really want all the knitters/crocheters/embroiders/sewers who are commenting on this thread to head over to Twitter or Facebook to leave a photo of their current meeting/Zoom/Teams/conference call projects.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      As an active counted cross stitcher, I’m amazed that some can do it while concentrating on other stuff. But then one of my current projects is going on year 3, and the other is in year 2.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I JUST finished last night an eight-foot (ish) double-knitted scarf, blue and grey, patterned with designs that were randomized through a one-player RPG that I ran for the recipient’s birthday. (And I had about two yards of each color of yarn left at the end to boot.)

  72. RagingADHD*

    Your boss didn’t frame it as a discussion because it isn’t a discussion, and it would have been unrealistic and pointless for her to pretend that it was.

    This decision came down from 3 levels above you. If your great-grand-boss cares enough about this policy to make an issue of it in a training class, then even if you get a diagnosis (which could take months if it happens at all), it is very unlikely that knitting would be accepted as a reasonable accommodation.

    Speaking as an ADHDer myself, I think your best course is to talk to your existing mental health support team about other ways you can keep your hands occupied that would not violate this very specific work policy. ADHDers have a particular tendency toward magical thinking. We believe that there is One Silver Bullet that will fix things, and if we find a thing that helps, we cling to it.

    But magical thinking is a cognitive distortion. Knitting is not the One Silver Bullet. It is just one of many things that you happened to try, that happened to work. You can try other things, and some of them will work just as well.

    This is also a practical long term plan, because another hallmark of ADHD is that our Silver Bullets often *stop* working just as suddenly and arbitrarily as they started working. It is entirely possible that knitting will stop working for you at some point anyway, or stop working for a while.

    You need a repertoire of options that you can cycle through in different situations, or as backup when one becomes ineffective.

    1. She'sKnittingAgain*

      Hi, OP here.

      Hoo boy do I have Silver Bullet thinking! I sent this letter a while ago and find it amusing that I just started working on concepts like that in therapy (my therapist didn’t call it that, but I recognize the pattern.) Your advice is spot-on. Honestly, the best thing for me was to find a more flexible job, and it’s given me space while I do this slow but vital work on how I think.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wait, so you got a different job? As in, the great (x3) grandboss who told you you couldn’t knit lost you as an employee?? Hahahaha, joke’s on him then!

        1. She'sKnittingAgain*

          Thanks for the support :) Yeah, this wasn’t the only issue, but ooooh it was frustrating!

      2. allathian*

        Talk about burying the lede here! Congrats on the new job, and I hope that any training you have there is more pleasant.

  73. Retired-not-Tired Teacher*

    I also find it difficult to listen for long periods of time without moving. I tried knitting at one meeting, but did get odd looks so I gave that up.
    Things that have helped:
    – a massage ring (this is my favourite)
    – fidget jewelry such as spinning rings, or pendants with moving parts(has the advantage of looking like something you might wear anyway)
    – standing up at the back of the room for part of the meeting (you’ll meet the folks with sore backs)
    Good luck!

  74. Kyrielle*

    So, ironically, fidgeting *fingers* can be distracting to people around you also (rubbing, twining, etc.). But if you’re wearing relatively non-flexible closed-toe shoes, you can fidget your toes without it being visible, and it makes no noise….

  75. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I’m just here to relay a knitting story from a very long time ago (my first job out of college, very early 90s) when I was still in my home country, lived in a dorm-like building sharing a room with two other recent grads (not by choice and I didn’t get to choose my roommates either), one of whom worked at the same manufacturing plant I did, but on another engineering team. She was the worst roommate from hell and was all about drama, backstabbing etc. Luckily, after a year of rooming together, she married her college sweetheart and moved away to live with him and I never saw her again. Anyway, there was one time when she scared the heck out of me *and* my teammates, after her supervisor commented on her knitting at work (which, oddly, was allowed and widespread) and she replied to him with “you think I knit too much? My roommate is on her third sweater this year!” clearly trying to get my whole team in trouble for knitting too much, and for our boss letting us knit too much. Meanwhile I was meeting deadlines, moving up at work, getting things done, learned an entire new programming language over a weekend because it was needed for a project I was assigned to etc etc. Most of my knitting was done after work anyway (had to keep my hands occupied so I wouldn’t accidentally strangle this roommate!) I have not knitted in decades, but really appreciate this thread that normalizes workplace knitting – I had no idea it was such a common way of staying focused (and yes I do have ADHD, and have constantly been in trouble for being distracted, doodling in class, etc since elementary school).

  76. Katherine Vigneras*

    As someone with ADHD, I really want to be supportive of people knitting to keep their focus, but as a knitter, knitting draws my focus away! Do I recognize the pattern, the yarn, the technique? What colors and stitches are being used? Would I choose differently? What should I make next? (I also can’t use knitting as my own stim because it’s a fine line between something to do with my hands and something that is off task that I am now focused on – so I’m also jealous!) Total support to the folks who can knit for focus, I do get it… I just hope I can sit somewhere else.

    1. Astfgl*

      Sorry to burst your bubble – it may be normal where this blogger works, but in general the attitudes towards knitting and other forms of figeting are a lot more varied just like the comments here are. It is in no way the norm.

  77. Trey*

    I sketch in my notes during meetings. The speaker, repetitive patterns, whatever.
    It’s either that or the grip master or knuckle walking coins.

  78. Former Young Lady*

    Severe hyperactive type ADHD here (formal diagnosis) and a casual knitter here. I have many thoughts!

    I love Alison’s point about how new the awareness of neurodiversity is. I appreciate the progress, but I think we have to be realistic about the speed of that progress. Much like certain unsympathetic teachers in my youth, there are many people with the outdated perception that “paying attention” looks like sitting still and upright, eyes staring at the speaker — and anything less is “rude.” Even neurotypical folks are unlikely to conform to this expectation when they’re actually engrossed in something!

    Thanks to moderate dysgraphia (painful/terrible handwriting, not uncommon in ADHDers), I’d absolutely prefer to take my notes on a laptop rather than write them by hand. I’m also an Old Millennial who learned to type on electric typewriters, which makes me a “loud typist.” People have criticized this as distracting, particularly elders who grew up in a time where only non-college-bound students ever learned to touch-type, and youngers who learned on proper computers.

    Meanwhile, watching five minutes of “Hunt-and-Peck Colleague is typing a message…” in my DMs is extremely stressful for me, because I know at the end of that five minutes there will be only a short sentence. On the flipside, how do I know my younger colleagues are truly goofing around on their phones during my presentation, and not just taking notes in a way that suits them?

    I might knit or run in place during a cameras-off video call, because it will help me absorb the material better than performatively sitting still. I try to “read the room” before I decide which method of note-taking to use in a face-to-face setting, but it will almost certainly be note-taking rather than knitting or jogging. Not only do I not want to distract others, I don’t want to get publicly shamed by someone who doesn’t understand. (I already have a whole childhood of that experience, TYVM!)

    But I can only control me, and I have to remember to have some grace about how others exist in a shared space. Another person’s noises, stims, odors, or tics may be beyond their control, and my ability to focus in spite is still ultimately my responsibility. Have I had my meds on time? Have I had my coffee? Can I move farther away (or, uh, upwind) without disrupting others?

    No easy answers, I guess. Our rights sit in tension with other people’s rights, but we all have a right to be here.

  79. Nethwen*

    I, too, discovered that I remember more when I don’t take notes but do keep my hands busy. My solution is to write the alphabet and numerals with my non-dominant hand.

    Even as the task has gotten easier over the years, it’s still enough effort to engage the bored part of my mind, but not the kind of effort that requires conscious thought (I’m not consciously thinking “draw a line diagonally down to the left, now start at the top of that line and draw a downward diagonal to the right, finish with a horizontal line connecting the two diagonals in the middle”).

  80. IDIC believer*

    Personally, I would find it extremely distracting to have a knitter (or any handcrafter) seated next to me or within my eye line. And it would be even worse if there were clicking involved. LW mentioned substituting eating & drinking – again holy gripes please not within my sight or hearing.

    That said – most of us have issues whether it’s attention, noises, anxiety, etc. when in a meeting or training. And “asking” your cohorts if your knitting bothers them is a very poor solution due to many people’s unwillingness or inability to speak up.

    Ultimately, I don’t think there’s a solution(s) that can or will accommodate everyone. Personally, I take responsibility to move, leave or endure.

  81. 4 eyed librarian*

    I ended up buying a fidget spinner necklace! It’s a small sunflower that can be twisted in a circle. It’s been a lifesaver. It came with matching earrings that also can be used as a fidget spinner. They’re all very small and it’s not horribly noticeable.

    As someone with ADHD, I think that we do need accommodations to help us concentrate. I would just be afraid with knitting that other people with ADHD would then get distracted by the knitter and then they will start fidgeting, and others would fidget and on and on and on.

    1. Cacofonix*

      I agree. The knitter should be accommodated vs. just being told to stop. But the accommodation doesn’t have to be knitting. Your sunflower seems like a perfect option. I would also find it distracting to hear my neighbour knitting in class or in a meeting such that I’d sit as far as possible from that person and strive not to engage with him/her unless it was so distracting I’d have to mention it to the person or facilitator.

  82. SchuylerSeestra*

    As someone with ADHD I’m sympathetic to the LW, but also would find her knitting completely distracting if I was in her training course. I would probably go into hyper focus mode.

    For the record I also used to knit as a way to focus. However it isn’t a great look in certain situations. I got called out for knitting in a rehearsal I was an assistant stage manager on. Looking back i’m actually mortified I thought that was appropriate. I was supposed to be taking notes as it was.

  83. VultureStalker*

    I also like to knit in class or otherwise keep my hands busy!

    Total tangent, but I’m wondering if anyone else has ever found there’s an added bonus: a memory palace effect where I start associating concepts I learn in class with the specific parts of the knitting project that I’m working on at the time.

    It’s definitely not strong enough that I can look at the knitted object and immediately remember anything, but sometimes physically working on something allows concepts to have a physical “place” in my mind/hands instead of getting all muddled up into a ball.

    But I also have a bit of synesthesia, so this could be about that instead of the knitting per se.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Oh! I get this with audio-books while driving and sometime handcrafting but it is usually that recall of the story means recall of the visual rather than the other way around. Brains are so strange/cool.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Different hobby, but absolutely I can tell you what music I was listening to, or what movie I watched, with many of the works I’ve created!

      1. Lavender*

        I call one of the sweaters I knitted my “Game of Thrones sweater” because I made most of it while binge-watching the series.

  84. Overit*

    I find knitting/crocheting/fidget toys/pen tapping/thumb twiddling exceptionally distracting. To the point where all of my energy is focused on not yelling, “Stop it now!”

    I will get up and move. If asked if I mind, the answer would be a resounding YES.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Ideally there would be a possibility to create a seating arrangement where it’s not distracting to you

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I feel like just rearranging where people sit would solve a lot of this drama.

        I sit in the back anyway!

    2. Lenora Rose*

      That sounds uncomfortable. Do all sounds/movement/fidgets distract you? or is it a specific range? And is that range exactly the range other people use who need to move/fidget to focus, or is it a particular set where you can suggest useful alternatives for them? Because demanding no movement at all could make it difficult to be in a meeting or a class with any other people, but there has to be a range you find feasible.

      Even with that severe a reaction, there should be a way to arrange the room so you can’t look around at people too much? I hope so.

  85. higheredrefugee*

    I’m so sad and frustrated for you. I’ve been knitting in my continuing legal ed programs for more than a decade, even when my bosses, state Supreme Court justices, were presenting. They just asked what I was working on! I am far less distracting than the people reading physical newspapers held up to their faces. Lawyer fiberists still debate the professionalism of doing so (and optical repercussions) but it is becoming more accepted in even our stuffy profession. Here’s to continued progress!
    –Copious notes make me look busy, but I’m putting down so much info that I’m not processing and won’t likely be able to easily find info later.
    –Doodling is distracting as I try to make things symmetrical.
    –Sometimes, it helps keep me warm in cold conference rooms!

  86. Somehow_I_Manage*

    This one is tough. I’ll admit, my knee-jerk reaction is that we all need to endure uncomfortable situations all the time, and that’s just part why they have to pay us to be there. But reading the comments here suggest I have learning to do, to better understand and empathize with this specific situation.

    I do believe that disabilities and different abilities should always be reasonably accommodated, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that matters of preference will always be respected. And who is the arbiter of matters of preference? If I were HR, it would be very hard for me to consider this as a disability rather than a preference given at the moment OP is self-diagnosed.

    Again, tough one, and I’m only commenting it out to work through where I’d be in this situation, and hopefully to continue to educate myself and grow in the right direction from the discussion.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Ideally data would be the arbiter of preference. Is group comprehension higher or lower and are there outliers in either case? In a training situation it seems like it would be easier than the average meeting to just go with whatever actually gets the best return on the company’s investment. They should probably be monitoring that somehow anyway.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      HR here: if I worked somewhere that had really rigid accommodation procedures, I would care that OP was self-diagnosed. Otherwise, I don’t ask for doctor’s notes for this kind of thing.

      In the end I see a big part of my job as making sure everyone has the maximum amount of resources to do their job. If this helps, I think it’s fine – and the fact that the teacher OKed it would make this 1000000% a non-issue. If it’s distracting to someone else I’d treat that like any other dueling accommodation and try to find a solution.

      When I was early in my ADHD and self diagnosed, I asked a friend if my self diagnosis offended her. Her response was that we could have that conversation if we ever lived in a world where there was universal access to high quality, unbiased medical care for all citizens. Until then, I knew my situation better than she did and she trusted me that I wasn’t trying to do anything besides live my life to the best of my ability. I try to carry that empathy forward, especially in my job where I have some power to make these decisions.

      1. History of the World, Part I*

        You are legally prohibited from caring about self-diagnosis. People requesting accommodations only have to disclose that they need an accommodation. They are not required to provided details of their diagnosis or of their disability. Many GPs and mental health practitioners accept self-reporting of things like ADHD, so even a doctor’s supporting note for how an accommodation would help the employee does not preclude self-diagnosis. You can ask, I guess. But you aren’t entitled to an answer.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          You can ask for something from a doctor for an ADA accommodation. I was taking the way the comment was worded (and it has been explicitly stated this way elsewhere in the comments) that a doctor is not involved at this stage of self diagnosis.

    3. SuprisinglyADHD*

      A few things about self-diagnosis, that many people don’t know:

      There are many doctors who refuse to believe that adults can have ADHD, that Inattentive-type ADHD exists, that women or girls can have AHDH, or even that ADHD exists. Even among the doctors who do actually believe that the disorder exists, many will refuse to give the diagnosis because they are convinced that having a doctor say you have it will somehow destroy your life more than having people disbelieve you without a doctors note.

      It is very difficult to get mental health care, at least in the United States. It took me over 2 years to find a useful specialist, and that was in a very populated area with fantastic healthcare and lots of options. Many people don’t have the time or resources to find a helpful doctor.

      The actual process for diagnosing ADHD, consists of the medical professional asking a bunch of questions off a list, which include many symptoms and how they affect your life. Here is one that’s similar to what my specialist used (starts on page 2):

      There is a lot of overlap in symptoms between ADHD and other neurological conditions, but in many cases it doesn’t matter which condition caused the symptom. Noise sensitivity can be helped with earplugs, a white noise machine, or headphones – regardless of whether it comes from ADHD or Autism or some other condition. The exact diagnosis doesn’t matter in the workplace, as long as the accommodation is there.

      TLDR: While a medical diagnosis of ADHD can only come from a medical professional, it can be almost impossible to get one. For many people, the symptoms can be clear enough to say “I almost certainly have ADHD and the things that help people with ADHD help me too”

  87. Jessica Fletcher*

    OP mentioned that her knitting was “out” when the higher up visited. Were supplies spread out on the table, when they could have been tucked under the desk or at least on an empty chair? Was she working on a blanket that was draped over the table? Those read as “I’m concerntrating on this craft, not on the expensive class.” Did OP participate in the class, or did the boss see her knitting while others were asking questions? Has the knitting replaced class participation overall?

    I think she should be allowed to knit if it’s helping her and *not distracting others.* The clicking and the adjusting supplies and whatnot would make me want to pull my hair out.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Knitting is out means ONLY that the needles were in hand and the project visible. Most people I know who do portable knitting and crochet pull out the needles and the top of the project. The ball is usually set up where it can roll out more yarn but not roll away, which is usually best accomplished by clever placement also inside the bag or on a chair or the lap. There are no other “supplies” to spread out.

      Your description is so unlike most knitting projects people do actually bring to work — or out and about in general — (IME with knitters and crotcheters, they save the big quilts on the huge loud needles, and the finicky projects with a lot of changing stitch patterns, for marathoning tv shows at home, and if they’re making pieces of a project that will need to be stitched together, they do those bits at home after doing the boring stretches of matching stitches away from home) that I can only think your experiences of knitters are limited.

    2. Dahlia*

      I’m unsure what supplies you think knitting uses? You have two needles and a ball of yarn, generally.

  88. starsaphire*

    #375th person here to agree that crocheting absolutely kept me sane through all the endless Zoom and Teams meetings and trainings during 2020-2022.

    (Please, executive types, please… don’t write everything on the slide, then read the slide aloud, slowly, in a monotone, without adding anything new… and expect me to stay alert and attentive without literally stabbing myself with a pin.)

  89. t4ci3*

    The Bridge-Burning part of me would suggest taking up an even more disruptive hobby if knitting is forbidden; bring a guitar and start noodling on it, start converting all those old t-shirts into a rag rug. For actual, practical advise: Talk to the instructor or whoever the deciding voice is to see if it’s just knitting that’s off the table or if Everything is Forbidden, if it’s just knitting, you could try Pinch Pots. I was introduced to them in the context of it being something people did the help focus during meetings, and they’re less interesting to other people than knitting.

  90. Alice Watson*

    Years ago at a week long seminar the instructors put craft pipe cleaners on the conference tables each day. They explained that they feel people hear better when they can fidget but those who doodle sometimes focus that too much. It was great, we’d grab a few and twist them, attach them, take them apart again. It really did make a difference. Maybe LW can do something like this, still busy hands but less obvious to others

  91. Cake or Death*

    I was knitting while reading this letter. :D

    I’ve tried turning off my camera to do exercises like squats during meetings, and used a Rubik’s cubes as a fidget, to try to keep my mind focused on meeting content and off my need to fidget, but by far the best solution has been knitting. Repetitive motion, less distracting than a Rubik’s cube, rhythmic unlike a spinner, it’s a great solution to keep my mind on the meeting discussion. And easy to set down to make notes.

  92. zhelud*

    Knit in training, doodle in training, look at your phone, it’s all the same to me. But when the Big Boss drops by, put it all away, sit up straight, take copious notes, and look like a professional for 15 minutes. Why would you want to stand out in front of the CEO as the knitter/fidgeter?

    1. Lenora Rose*

      If a Big Boss walks in the door, you think they won’t notice the knitting and fidgets being tucked away hastily and notebooks being scrambled out? You don’t think that’s even more disruptive than just keeping on?

      You’re assuming they knew the Big Boss was stopping in. You’re also assuming what they did was *wrong* in some way.

  93. Cacofonix*

    I take notes for memory and comprehension more than to stay focused. That’s me, and taking notes has the benefit of being within norms. But I will say that if someone were to start knitting in a class I was leading, I would expect them to get my okay first or I’d ask about it (privately, of course). And I’d need a why. “Would you mind if I knit? It improves my focus.” would be plenty. Or not even ask… “just so you’re aware, I doodle during class so that I can focus, but I assure you that I’m paying attention.”

    Yes, it puts the burden on the person, but adults need to articulate their needs in ways to achieve enough understanding to move through this life without offending people unnecessarily.

    1. SuprisinglyADHD*

      OP did ask for, and receive, permission from the person leading the class. The person with the issue is a member of management who stopped in for an hour, and her great-grand-boss. Two people who aren’t in the room and aren’t affected at all.
      I would say that the people causing unnecessary offense are the two who are interfering in a class they neither lead nor attend.

  94. TheLibraLibrarian*

    I have a load of fidget toys in my office. My manager and staff are very ADHD friendly, so we all have little fidgets we do. However, I’m sometimes required to attend more professional meetings, like a board meeting. My best way to combat the focus issues without an actual toy? One of those coiled hair ties that’s meant to not tangle your hair. I wear it on my wrist and then can take it off and twirl it, twist it, and wrap it around my fingers. It doesn’t make noise, isn’t distracting to others, and blends in seamlessly with the rest of my attire. Hope this helps!

  95. Flying Fish*

    At one of the last live continuing education events I attended before the pandemic, I looked around and found myself to be one of 4 knitters in the room. No one seemed to care. Maybe it’s different in healthcare?

    FWIW, I try to keep with super simple projects and keep the knitting under the table (I mostly knit by feel anyways)

  96. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    I once attended a training seminar where the leader brought Play-Doh so people would have something to do with their hands. It was such a good idea that I ended up using it the next time I was leading a workshop.

  97. The Rat-Catcher*

    Hi, former training professional here. Maybe the instructor would be willing to make your case? I don’t know if that makes sense given your org structure, instructor’s political capital, etc, but this is absolutely something I would have argued for on a trainee’s behalf.

  98. KnightAsh*

    I crochet during meetings and when I’m teaching at work (I’m a teacher at an online-only charter school) – typically all my meetings are on zoom/google meets/etc. My admin are SUPER supportive of it because they’ve noticed how much it helps me with concentrating and staying focused because my fibro gives me swiss cheese brain. Typically they’ll come over during the day to see what I am working on.

    HR doesn’t like it AT ALL but I have a doctor’s note and admin support so they can’t really do anything. I hope that one day OP is able to have something like that because it’s been a lifesaver.

  99. Jo*

    Please try and find a solution that is noiseless. As someone who also has concentration problems, the noise of knitting while I was trying to concentrate would get me to a point I would have to leave the room. And it is not okay for you to be accommodated to the expense of someone else being able to participate. It is also really hard to politely ask someone to stop this without either appearing to be the person not allowing accommodations, or having to disclose my one personal information.

    Have you tried crotchet?

  100. SuprisinglyADHD*

    I’m always shocked by the amount of vitriol there is against knitting. I don’t knit myself but I knew from childhood that it isn’t usually attention-intensive. We once had a major problem in our church when one person started complaining (and then YELLING AT) a woman who made all her children’s clothes, who sat with her baby in the baby room and knitted during the service. I don’t understand people who are so obsessed with policing others. I always want to tell them that if they were paying attention to (the meeting/class/etc) they shouldn’t be noticing someone sitting silently in the back. And if they can’t give all their focus to the front of the room, maybe they should find their own focus tools!

    1. GythaOgden*

      There’s no vitriol against knitting in itself — that’s misrepresentation of some very valid points, and a number of us said we knit, we took it up to get through informal situations, but it’s not appropriate in all situations. If you want people to accept your perspective, you have a responsibility to try to see others’ povs as well.

      1. t4ci3*

        I believe that Surprisingly ADHD was speaking in general terms and perhaps in reference to the events of the letter, not in reference to the comments here.

  101. hobbithaus*

    Back in the day, I would sit in History class and make chainmail to help myself focus. Our teacher thought it was hilarious.

Comments are closed.