Today during my lunch break I decided to pry myself away from my desk and head into the break room to eat and knit. Although this break room is open for use by anyone in the company I work for, it’s across the hall from the two primary office spaces, so it’s seldom used by the larger departments. This afternoon, however, there was a young man that I hadn’t seen before eating lunch. He seemed engrossed in his phone, and I had my headphones and my knitting, so I hunkered down without introduction.
Pulling out my yarn and needles got his attention. He introduced himself, then asked what I was working on, if it might be a hat. It was a good guess given his vantage point, but I lifted the work off the table to show that it’s actually a bandanna-style cowl (the free Purl Soho Bandana Cowl, for those interested). He asked how long it would take to finish. I counted out the days that I’d worked on it already, added the one or two evenings left to finish up, and estimated that it will have taken a total of four or five days. Before he could become too impressed by my speed, I pointed out that the yarn and the needles are both quite large, which makes it easy to whip up something quickly.
Now, I know some people would find this kind of interaction bothersome—it’s their lunch break; they have precious little time to themselves, let alone to knit; and they don’t like to be peppered with questions. I’ve heard stories ranging from the anecdotes of mildly irritating folks who insist that crochet is knitting or that they don’t have the time to learn a craft themselves, to the horror tales of rude ne’er-do-wells who will snatch the work from the hands of its owner, threatening to send stitches leaping from the needles whilst demanding to know what the stitcher is making or frostily informing them that they’re “doing it wrong.” Even the well-meaning out there tend to interrupt us when we’re counting or give praise that makes us want to cringe a little. It’s enough to make many a crafter keep their knitting safely at home, venturing out only to the sanctuary of a local yarn store, if at all.
Despite being loath to engage in small talk, I am not one to shy away from knitting in public, and the unexpectedly happy ending to this story has reinforced to me why it’s so wonderful to be seen doing something I love.
See, after I showed off my cowl, my coworker surprised me by saying that he’d only ever stitched up one project, a wallet. I asked whether he had sewn it on a machine or by hand; in answer, he pulled it out of his back pocket. It was very worn, making it hard to tell if it was leather, vinyl, or cloth. Around the edge was an uneven blanket stitch worked in faded and slightly dingy orange thread.
“It’s not very good,” he admitted, but I said, “No, it’s great.”
“It’s almost falling apart. I need to make another one, but I guess I should work on getting better first,” he said sheepishly.
“It’s well-loved,” I countered. He grinned, and it was clear that even though it wasn’t the tidiest piece of work, and it was definitely on its last legs, he’d enjoyed the making and using of it.
It’s not often that I spot handmade goodness in the wild, so it was really heartening to not only see something someone made, but to know that my own handiwork is what encouraged them to pull it out in the first place. I consider myself lucky to have gotten that little peek into someone else’s creative life. I hope it’s not the last time, either.
Do you craft in public? What do you do when others ask about what you’re working on? I’d love to hear other uplifting stories, but if you’ve got a campfire tale of mayhem and madness, bring it on!