Beki Grinter

Knitting in Meetings

In crafts and craftiness on March 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I was just re-reading a great paper on how sites like Ravelry transform knitting in a variety of ways. One thing that comes up in the paper is a discussion of knitting in public. Knitting is typically not a public act, the paper suggests, and sites like Ravelry through their focus on advertising local events provide opportunities for people to get together and knit outside of the domestic circle.

I’ve been knitting in public for a while now. It’s an interesting experience. I’ve written about it before. I also knit at work. I’ve said less about that. At first I felt the need to explain to colleagues that when I was knitting my concentration was better than it would be without yarn. I tried to explain that for the things I knit in meetings, I don’t have to know the patterns because they are encoded in my finger and hand movements. Its a physical knowledge, not one that requires mental attention. If it does, I have to stop and either deal with the knitting or wait until we have a break to do something like, say, count the number of remaining stitches.

Explaining the presence of the knitting is different from justifying the laptop or phone. The laptop is easy to explain, as a machine with a keyboard it seems obvious that one could be taking notes. Although that’s not the only things that laptops are capable of doing during meetings. The phone/tablet is more curious. I don’t see my colleagues justifying using these devices in meetings, even though its pretty clear to me that they are not note taking devices. Knitting ought to be in the same category as the phone, and yet, I’ve not gotten there with it. I think it’s because I believe it to be unfamiliar to many of my colleagues. Unlike phones—where we all share a global understanding of their pros and cons in meetings and what work they might do, or not—knitting is not something I expect my colleagues to know about. I thought that they might wonder whether I was so focused on the knitting that I was essentially not present.

Also, I still have a list of work related meetings I won’t knit in. Obviously, I can’t knit and teach. I could knit during class presentations, but again I feel that the students might not understand that I was concentrating. Their unfamiliarity with knitting (presumed by me of course) along with their unfamiliarity in giving presentations makes me leave the sticks behind. There are also meetings in which I think even the presence of laptops/phones is frowned upon. Meetings about really important topics. I don’t take my knitting there either.

Over time, I suppose I’ve started to think about my workscape in a new way, places to knit, places not to knit. Who are the stakeholders in each setting? What do I owe them? What can I assume about their knowledge? (Interestingly I get far fewer questions about knitting from my colleagues even when I do it in front of them than I do when knitting out in public in Atlanta). Asking, can I knit here has been an interesting way to reexplore the place I work.

  1. One small comment… Tablets can totally be note-taking devices. Some of us have been using them for years for that purpose and they are less disruptive than laptops for that task (this was one of the original selling points of Tablet computers circa 1990).

  2. Good point, there are definitely ways to take notes on a tablet…

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