Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
May 28
Adolescent medicine physician, egalitarian feminist, free thinker, veteran of the infertility wars & geriatric mom to the best (& most photogenic) kidlet ever. I plan to be a photographer, writer and knitting store owner when I grow up, whenever that might be. I've got a little something to say about everything. Mine are the musings of an eclectic mind. Enjoy your visit.


Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 10, 2009 5:53PM

So Much Ado About 2 Sticks & Yarn

Rate: 17 Flag


I've been a knitter for a long time...well since my senior year in college when I taught myself how to knit in order to de-stress during my med school application season. I made an interesting interviewee, all covered in Icelandic wool as I worked on my first sweater.

I guess I don't look much like a knitter since during one of those 2 truths and 1 lie icebreaker games, most of the people believed that I'd sooner stab myself in the head with knitting needles as knit with them. But the truth is that I knit. I knit a lot.

Knitting is fun, productive and, best of all, calming. And, it keeps me from killing people. (It really does.) Let's not forget the joy of creating something wearable from what previously was a whole lot of yarn...that is way cool.

Yet I've noticed over the years that sometimes people get really tweaked if you knit in class or in meetings. I've never understood why it is so bothersome. It's quiet. You don't need to look at your hands. You just sit still and listen. What's the big deal?

When I was in my Master's Program about 10 years ago, (YIKES!) I did a lot of knitting because it helped me focus on the lecture. Without my hands being busy, my ADD would have been out of control. That's one of the reasons I never could sit still in classrooms very easily. And sitting in a classroom at that point in my life was indeed a challenge.

My mentor in the Master's Program, however, was one of the most offended-by-knitting people I've ever met. He taught the questionnaire design class and was truly a boring dude. Most people were playing on their Palms or doodling during his lectures. That never bothered him. Only my knitting did.

"I think it's disrespectful that you knit in my class," he told me during one of our mentor-mentee sessions.

Considering that he and I were the same age and at the same point in our careers (though I was later in going through the Master's Program), you know I wasn't going to trip too hard about what bothered him.

"Uh, how you figure, Bill?" I asked him. "What is disrespectful about knitting?"

"You're not paying attention so of course it's disrespectful," he countered.

"Uh, why would you think I'm not paying attention?"

"You can't knit and pay attention to my lecture!" he said truly affronted by my question.

"Uh, hello, Bill. Maybe you can't, but I can and do both knit and pay attention. In fact I pay better attention when I knit."

He looked dubious.

"I'd rather you didn't knit in my class," he said, finally.

"Then clearly you want me to fall asleep like half of the other people. You don't really want that, do you Bill?" I asked sweetly.

He gritted at me, but I didn't budge. We were two hard-headed docs at an impasse. He had no power over me and we both knew it. I also needed to knit in his class especially to stay awake.  So what happened was that I kept knitting and he kept gritting at me. Whatever.

One day, our class was sitting around tables arranged in a U-formation. I was knitting, as usual. Next thing I know, my ball of yarn has dropped from my lap and rolled out into the middle of the U. Somebody snickered. Bill gritted at me even harder, but I still kept knitting...and I smiled.

When I arrived at CurrentCompany, I had so many all day training sessions that knitting was indeed necessary for my mental alertness. Before the first week was out, my dear boss had received complaints about my knitting. He asked the complainers, "is she not paying attention?"

"No, she's paying attention," they replied quickly.

"Is she not following along?" he asked.

"No, she is looking at what we are doing. She doesn't seem to need to look at her hands while she knits."

"Is she participating in the discussion?"

"Yes, absolutely," they replied.

"Then what's the problem?" he asked, a bit perplexed.

"She's knitting! That's the problem. There's no knitting at CurrentCompany!"

He sighed. Human Resources was called and their time was wasted and it was decided that my knitting was an expression of diversity in the workplace that must be respected. Whatever.

A while ago, I opted to knit at a 2 day meeting with about 15 of our advisors. These meetings are long with a lot of ass-sitting interrupted only by eating breaks. One of the BigChieftessHeadHonchos was also in attendance. BCHH, who was sitting next to my boss, looked over at me aghast.

"She's knitting," she hissed to my boss.

"Yes," he said mildly.

"She can't do that here. It's disrespectful!"

"Why?" he asked, thinking here we go again.

"Our attendees will think it's rude."

"I don't see how it is any more rude than web surfing or playing with your crackberry incessantly like most people do in our meetings."

"But...it's knitting!" she sputtered. "There's no knitting at CurrentCompany!"

He then had to explain that my knitting had been vetted by HR, though he would ask me to stop if it bothered her.

"I'm just worried about what the attendees think?" she said.

"Want me to ask them?" he offered.


"Want me to ask her to stop knitting?"

"NO! Don't let her know I questioned her knitting." (She seemed to be fearful of angering the dangerous black woman knitter...)

"OK, so what do you want me to do?"

"Nothing, never mind," said BCHH, huffily.

So much ado about two sticks and some yarn. What's up with that?


A few of my FOs (finished objects, for you non-knitters!):

CSC_0080Knitting 014 clapoti 1  DSC00962 DSC00931DSC00799 kids hearts

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you are a superb knitter, i would pay money for all of this, my favorite is the socks.
So....how hard is it to learn to knit, exactly?

(Asks the lifelong mild trichotillomaniac who's tried just about everything else to keep from picking off mascara/eyelashes)
I love the hats. Kitty seems to also.
Ariana: Thanks! I get on kicks. Socks for a while. Then hats. Now I'm doing toddler sweaters.

Verbal: I actually taught knitting to my patients, parents and co-workers in the class/group I had back at my old job. I also started a class/group at CurrentCompany. My line: I can have anyone knitting in 15 minutes. I teach the Zen method. I don't care what it looks like. Just relax and get comfortable with the process. That is the secret.

Honestly, I taught myself from a book and just ran into the local yarn store when I got stuck. Now there are online videos to demonstrate. Try it my way!
I rated this because I am afraid of the dangerous black woman knitter. All that tension and two weapons in hand!
Mrs. Michaels: Thanks! Though I think dear Willow is just being her tolerant self. (smile)
Overworked: You just never know about us angry sista knitters....

One of my best friends and one of my sisters are knitters. I welcome them knitting. I know they will get way too ansy if they can't knit. I think it says a lot of good things about the person that knits. Beautiful pictures of your work.
You may very well be the coolest Doc ever! Way to stand your ground. Some very find projects I might add. Your daughter is adorable, but the cat doesn't seem to appreciate your knitting prowess as much.
Your items are GORGEOUS, and I loved this story! Keep those needles movin' along!
wow. It never occurred to me that someone knitting in class or meetings would be disrespectful. Chewing gum, sleeping, texting, reading, talking - all sorts of other things - but what could possibly be disrespectful about knitting?

Not a knitter, but have worked for BCHH at BACC - I could see people looking at you oddly, maybe, but taking offense? - jeez! get a life people!
Thanks, everyone!

Mary: if I don't have the needles, I start grabbing the crackberry or the iPhone for a game of Trism. If that happens, I am definitely not paying attention! Better for me to knit.

Michael: At least I've never knit Willow any kitty clothes! There are entire books on knitting for your dog. That always made me a little nervous.

SwillingAway: Thank you! I can't believe that the gray Icelandic sweater was the first sweater I ever knit! I always liked a challenge. And believe me, no one pushes me around. I will knit!

lpsrocks: It was a surprise to me as well, until dear Bill told me that he knew I wasn't paying attention. I was like, maybe you couldn't knit and pay attention, but I, OTOH... And as for CurrentCompany, the place is so filled with people who don't draw outside the lines, much less think outside the box, that this knitting physician sista with locs who frequently used words like "pee pee" and "cha cha" to indicate male and female genitalia just threw many of the Wonder Bread Folks or the Borg Collective as I also call them, for a loop. Yet as I see it, my job in life is to shift paradigms...

Thanks for your comments!
Hmmmm, you gave me an idea. I'm no knitter but my i-phone! That's something else...and now a new application...
first of all - look at your clapotis! mine been's a third done for ages - and is that an EPS sweater - verrr nice indeed (and who are you on ravelry?) teendoc, i think you'll appreciate this - my lys dealer called me twice this week when the shipments came in - i got 20 of noro silk and ten of malabrigo - in VAA! nobody has vaa and i've been looking for ages. (of course, now i am also verrrrr poor). i think it's time to stop calling it a stash and name it for what it really is - a hoard.

(and good on you for knitting in meetings - i have always wanted to, but just play with the moto!)
I think I'll just stick with playing bejeweled II on my smart phone. Loved the pics.
Mary: Look at Trism, Marple and QuadrumC. (I don't knit all the time!)

BahHMMBlog: Zizi's sweater is Roo Designs. I was addled several times in following the chart for the butterfly. I'm like, pay attention! And I'm (wait for it) Teendoc on Ravelry too! (Where my stitches be at?) And your stash, no hoard, sounds wonderous. I'm the other way around. I hoard patterns but not yarn for fear that I will not have bought enough for whatever the pattern is that I end up making. My OCD is showing...

Stewie: we've got to move past Bejeweled II! How about Zuma at the very least? ;-)
I've tried to learn knitting for a long, long time. I can crochet, but knitting defeats me. Something to do with hand-eye coordination is my best guess. I'd much rather listen to the sound of someone knitting than people checking their crackberries. At least knitting is productive.
I love the FO's, hard to pick a favorite. I think part of the allure
is the utter simplicity, just your hands, eyes, two needles and yarn.
No electronic whatevers, and a wonderful finished product. (Hope-
fully not something for an octopus :-) )
See, now, the problem as I see it is that most of your projects are in the round. So you have not merely two pointy sticks, you have either 5 sticks with two points each - 10 sharp bits! - or a circular - a garrote! No wonder they're afraid of you!


I wish I'd discovered knitting back when I was in college. Like you, it totally helps me focus - I probably would have done much better in classes! I am such a kinetic person, and desperately need to occupy that part of my brain in order to keep it from distracting the rest of my brain. If I don't have something controlled to keep my hands busy, I'll occupy myself finding *anything* else - pulling out a few hairs so I can braid them, folding paper airplanes from a gum wrapper I find on the floor.

Currently I knit during church, and I'm on the board of directors. One of our members brought in a Dear Abby column about knitting during classes and church services and the like and posted it on the bulletin board in my honor.
I'm a knitter too...and wish I had the nerve to bring it to meetings. I understand that pediatrician and author Perri Klass knits through meetings too! Knitting calms me and gives me an accomplished feeling. At home, I often listen to books on CD while I knit: couldn't do that if I weren't paying attention. Thank you for your commentary. I may get up the nerve to bring my knitting to work yet....
Darn it! I can only give this post one thumbs-up! Sheesh!!!!

Anyway, your clapotis is beautiful. I haven't knitted one, yet, but my daughter has. (She's a superb knitter, and actually gets paid to teach people how to knit... and that's not even her real job.)

I saw Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka, the Yarn Harlot) at a book-signing last spring (I hope they have her back!) and at least half of the audience, if not more (myself included) was knitting. We were also paying rapt attention, and laughing uproariously at nearly everything she said.

She makes a very good case for knitting as an activity that actually engages your brain more fully, allowing you to make connections that you might not otherwise.

It's also relaxing. I took some sticks and yarn to the dentist last summer when I was preparing to have a lot of major work done. Knitting with trembling hands.... ;~) but it didn't matter.

Thanks for this post, teendoc!

(p.s. Are you on ravelry.com, too?)
Diversity, that's a good one. I'll have to try it out next time I don't conform. I have an oddball ethnic name, so there's some hope, although in general I'm almost as WASP as they come.
Emma: I think learning to knit is all about the teacher and having your "a-ha" moment. I'm willing to bet that I could move you up to the long sticks. :-)

DakiniDancer: Thank you! Knitting is fun creating for those with OCD. It just works in a way that other crafts like sewing would end up driving me crazy.

Tara: I'm glad your fellow church board members get it. (Or was it a negative Dear Abby column?)

C.Allen: Be subversive. Bring your knitting. Who cares what people think as long as you are paying attention.

KTM: Now that's a great idea: knitting at the dentist's office. I'm a total dental-phobe, so that would be a big help. And yep, I'm on Ravelry. (Who isn't?) ;-)

Malusinka: They had to find some word to use in order to excuse my deviant behavior, didn't they? :)
You're an amazing knitter!!!

I'm officially envious. And admiring.

I really do want to learn to knit, but I fear that I will suck at it and end up throwing the needles across the room.
I love your clapotis! I'm guessing you're at Ravelry.com...my username is the same there.
Hi Teendoc, I am a knitter too, and have had similar problems with folks who don't understand. Your finished objects are lovely, shapely, professional looking. Love the hat on the cat. Do you have many UFO's? Rated for humor and beautiful garments.
Odette: Forget about what it looks like and focus on feeling good and comfortable with the needles in your hands. Too many get all tight and tense as they try to do it right when just relaxing and going with it with serve them better in the long run.

Zenfoodist: I'll look for you there!

Serendipity: Thanks! Only a few UFOs. I've got an entrelac bag that isn't finished or felted because I got bored doing the second i-cord for the strap. I'm also not much of a stasher, for some reason.

Are you on Ravelry too?
I wish I was black, then I could be a dangerous black woman with pointed sticks, as it is, I have to settle for being a dangerous Puerto Rican with sticks. Sigh...sometimes life just isn't fair.....If only I too could instill fear in the heart of corporate executives with my knitting!
I got peer pressured into not knitting during class before I even made it out of the CNA program. I agree 100% with you, it's a help not a hindrance to paying attention. Now I literally type everything (which also annoys teachers) or if caught with only pen and paper- doodle. People just don't get it. I get lots of frustrated snarky comments if I doodle during a group meeting. I want to say to them- what- you want me to stare unblinkingly at you and tap my feet the whole time? that honestly be better for you? because that's what will happen
but alas- I never say that. I just say ok, I won't do that again, and try desperately to be more 'normal'
it sucks.