As you do

For the last couple of years most of my plain sock knitting (i.e. ribbed socks, for me, since I like the way they fit and they require just a smidge more attention than plain stockinette) has been at the movie theatre. I often use them for transit knitting as well but actually now much of my transit knitting has shifted towards pieces of other larger items (sweater sleeves, for example, or shawls while working portions with simpler stitch patterns) which means socks have been relegated largely to the movie theatre. Someone asked last post to hear more about that, this whole concept of knitting at the movies – and often when I do mention that in passing someone does want to know how I do it.

I suppose it is one of those things that comes very easily to knitters who are used to knitting while doing other things. Since very early on in my knitting life I’ve worked on projects while in front of the television, and I think a lot of other knitters can chime in there, too. It’s actually gotten to be such a normal habit to me that if I do not have knitting, or am having an off-day to let my hands and arms rest after a period of heavy knitting, then it takes a bit of time to get used to the idea of not knitting while in front of the television. It makes the time both leisurely and productive at the same time, which is pretty great.


It is true, though, that much of that time isn’t dedicated to staring at the screen. Particularly if you’re reading charts or have to examine your work every few rows to check progress or measure things, you may find yourself missing salient details. (Often during season premiere or season finale episodes that are particularly dramatic and tense, I’ll drop the knitting except during commercials. I mean, sometimes a fangirl has to do what a fangirl has to do.)

I know other folks who routinely knit while they do other things, and if you’re not a person who knits while watching television, I’m willing to bet you probably practice knitting as you wait for an appointment, in breaks while preparing dinner, while listening to the radio or podcasts, while attending classes or lectures, perhaps committee meetings or volunteer staff meetings, or other activities that allow you to be stationary. (Admittedly when this starts to blend into group scenarios one often has to take a bit of a read on the social situation – nothing is quite so aggravating as people thinking knitting means you have checked out.) In general I think knitting “as you” do something else is actually a pretty good thing. I know from my own experience that knitting helps siphon off some of that twitchy brain activity that makes your mind wander and helps you pay more attention to whats happening around you.

As a result, I know that if I have a simple knitting in my lap while sitting in a photography class or watching a television show, I can later look at that finished garment and remember what shows I watched while knitting it, or what class I was sitting in. I like that it helps me get knitting done but also help me to use my brain to think about other things that I’m paying attention to. On the surface it might seem like it really shouldn’t work at all, but it does, which is pretty great.

So really, if you can do any of those kind of things while knitting, the only thing standing between you and knitting while sitting in a dark movie theatre, is believing that your hands know what they’re doing. You might not want to bring something that requires continuous consultation or chart-reading, naturally. But plain stockinette or ribbing is something that your hands can figure out on their own, and it is good training for helping you to recognize errors in a tactile way rather than just a visual way. Your fingers can tell pretty quickly if you messed up the ribbing and purled where you should have knitted. I really think that knitting at the movies makes you a better knitter in the long run, and if you can enjoy a movie while still getting part of a sock knitted? Well, that’s basically the dream.

Happy middle of the week! Have you done any “as you” knitting today?

Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Cashluxe Fine




  1. My husband still doesn’t understand how I can knit while watching a TV show or video with him, but as long as I have enough light to be able to glance occasionally at my hands (like during the commercials), I can knit most straightforward things. Since I’ve lost needles on plane flights (and had to wait until the snorer next to me awakens so I can crawl under the seats to retrieve my possessions), I have hesitated to knit at a movie theatre.

    I rarely attend meetings in which the other attendees would be comfortable with someone knitting, so I do it between meetings. I find it serves as a great “palate cleanser” for my brain, allowing me to gather my thoughts about meeting A and then get in the proper mindset for meeting B.

  2. Chrystene · ·

    I thought for the longest time that it was going to be super hard to learn to knit without looking at my hands, because for me, if I purposely try not to look at my hands, I make mistakes. However, one day just sitting and watching a TV show with my husband, I realized that I had been knitting while looking at the screen without even meaning to. If I trust and let my hands go on autopilot everything usually works out fine. It’s when I try to interfere that stitches get messed up. Your hands really do know what they’re doing.

  3. I understand about twitchy brain energy – I used to do counted cross stitch in my college lectures (after proving to professors that I could do it and follow the lecture). I actually taught myself to knit while attending law school. Since I was (generally) prepared for class ahead of time and just needed to follow along and tweak my notes when necessary, it was good to have something to do with my hands. I felt that knitting would be less distracting to others, and the alternative was playing Solitaire on my computer or doodling in the margins of my books (you should see my Riverside Shakespeare from undergrad).

    I find that knitting while not looking is like just about anything else you can do on autopilot. In the same way that writing the same word over and over makes it eventually look wrong because now you’re thinking about it, you can foul yourself up if you think about what you’re doing.

  4. “It’s actually gotten to be such a normal habit to me that if I do not have knitting … then it takes a bit of time to get used to the idea of not knitting while in front of the television.” That’s so much me! I suppose it takes a certain kind of person or may be it’s just a habit, but I’m so used to doing at least two things simultaneously, that I get anxious when I don’t have enough brain teaser when my hands are full and vice versa 🙂

  5. I loved your post – it was dead on! I agree that I’ve missed some TV plot points if my knitting decides to go hari kari on me! There are some shows that are too intense for knitting (like The Walking Dead). And shows that require me to not only to listen but also to watch the actors’ expressions. However, when it comes to action films (kind of dumbed down theater) even knitting a complicated pattern is a piece of cake!

  6. I totally understand your need to knit. I play scrabble once a week with four friends from work and I always take along my knitting or crocheting. Who says you can’t play scrabble, knit, eat and talk! Every time I’m at work and think about my knitting at home I get a frisson of excitment as I can’t wait to get home and finish another sock. I knit every night while watching TV and have often missed the flow of the story because I’m to busy concentrating on my pattern. Can’t get my head around knitting from a chart….it has to be a written pattern.

  7. I can’t even watch TV without knitting anymore. I get too antsy.
    It’s also a good gauge on determining how bad an illness is. If I can’t knit, I must be quite ill and it might be time for a trip to the doctor.

  8. Don’t you disturb the audience in the movie with the clickering of the needles?

  9. Lorraine haemel · ·

    I love Downton Abbey! its even better while knitting. I only watched the entire superbowl so I could knit for 3+ hours thanks to the blackout. I’ll start practicing knitting in the dark so I have an excuse to go to more movies and knit

  10. jennybookworm · ·

    I knit while sitting in a restaurant yesterday with friends waiting for our lunch. I was the only knitter – they raised their eyebrows at me but I made progress on a sock and didn’t finish my half pint of beer before my lunch arrived at the table! I pretty much always have a sock project with me just in case I have to wait in a line or have a few free minutes to fill with yarn. I almost always knit while watching tv in the evening – and I too feel somewhat ‘naked’ if I’m taking a break or watching something that requires more attention. Now if only I could knit during meetings at work that don’t require me to take notes…

  11. Fabulous post. I knit while readaing, while watching tv, while having a conversation with my husband, while waiting in appointment and while traveling. It’s so wonderful to be productive while doing these things!

  12. Your post made me think of something I came across recently. Here’s a link and an excerpt:
    “There is a story of how knitters in Dent who continued with their knitting during the church service, were rebuked by the parson. In fact, the knitters there were known as the “terrible knitters of Dent” a reputation they acquired not only because of the speed at which they knitted but also because of the curious method they employed of seeming to rock backwards and forwards as they threw the knitted loops off the right side working needle.”
    I knit in church all the time, and any time I’m waiting for any reason. I love knitting while traveling, road trips or flights – you always come home with a new creation.

  13. Deborah N · ·

    ” I know from my own experience that knitting helps siphon off some of that twitchy brain activity that makes your mind wander and helps you pay more attention to whats happening around you.”

    I thought this was just me. Thanks for letting me know I am not crazy, just have an active brain.

  14. I knit in theatres. I knit in cars (as a passenger) I knit in conversational groups (depending on the group – some people REALLY have a problem believing I can be engaged and knitting at the same time). But, I keep it to plain sock knitting during these times so I CAN be engaged. And TV without knitting is ridiculous. My BIL once asked me how I could knit while watching TV. I asked him how he could watch TV without doing something else. He didn’t quite get it. I have to admit, the PVR and pause/rewind/fast forward function I have on the TV does really help if I have to look at my knitting!

  15. So perfectly written, I’ve been trying for *years* to explain this to people! In Highschool and College I knit all through class and I told professors right away that if I didn’t knit, I wouldn’t pay attention, if they still had a problem with it, I switched classes. I knit in theaters, restaurants, meetings, on the train, on planes (which gets it’s own set of “safety” questions), during long (or short, for that matter) car rides, even standing in line if my project is small or light enough to do so. Thanks for finding a clear way to tell it like it is!

  16. Cornelia – actually I find that most movies have loud enough sound projection that any noise my knitting needles make is much, much quieter than, say, people rustling popcorn bags or murmuring to their neighbour. I tend to use metal nickel-plated or plastic-coated needles that are relatively smooth so it’s pretty good unless the movie is very quiet.


  17. I always knit in meetings and am lucky enough to have understanding colleagues that know it helps me stay on track. Always in front of the tv, in the car or during homework help at the table. When I had a headache last week and closed my eyes and layed my head back, my partner asked if I was knitting in my sleep? Now, wouldn’t that be productive!

  18. I always knit while watching TV and during travel excursions (excluding when I am driving — of course). Never have tried to knit in a movie theatre. My husband likes to sit at the back of the theatre in the side rows (fewer people climbing over you). The lighting is very good in that spot before the show starts. I think I’ll give knitting whirl next time we go.
    And yes I have knit today (even though I am at work). I knit every morning with my cup of coffee.

  19. Yesterday in the doctor’s office I knit more than half a sock. Had I not been a knitter, I would have just sat there and steamed at the waste of time just sitting. I knit every night in front of the TV. It’s amazing how much you can get done with 15 minutes here and 5 minutes there and then a few hours in front of the boob tube. Last year I finished all my Christmas list by October! It was awesome!. lol

  20. I never sit, with out my neddles in my hand.

  21. You’re awesome, thank you! 🙂

  22. I agree…I do better when the hands are occupied (with knitting of course!) while I watch tv, ride in the car, etc. Haven’t been brave enough to knit during a church service though, and I have noticed my mind wanders quite a bit! Noticed it is “Downton Abbey” on the tv – my favorite!

  23. I’m a recent convert to movie theatre knitting. I, too, knit while watching tv/movies at home. However this blog inspired me to try knitting at a movie theatre. There’s more light in the movie theatre than you think there is. I am working on Glenna’s pattern of the striped scarf knit in the round. I figured stockinette stitch in the round would be pretty easy. There was one time I thought I dropped a stitch but I was able to save it. I wouldn’t say my knitting is as good as when I am not knitting in the dark but it’s not bad. I hope it gets better as I practice more. I also don’t go to the movies when it’s busy and I don’t sit near people so I won’t be bothering them. Besides it can’t be any more bothersome than people on their cell phones. Or talking!

  24. I “as you” knit on a daily basis. I’m a much better listener when I have something to do with my hands.

  25. TV helps me sit still enough to knit! Great when I have to be productive. And the Kindle has been great for knitting while reading; it’s easy to turn pages and it lies flat. Perfect for multi-tasking my knitting!

  26. tokeberry · ·

    On the bus! Apparently this is second only to Bible toting as a way of avoiding seatmates. Who knew.

  27. Meredith MC · ·

    When I was in college I saw a classmate knitting while crocheting. I decided to teach myself to knit while reading. It has to be stockinette though, preferably in the round. I think a kindle might change this, as currently keeping the book flat and turning pages are complications. I also knit socks while walking, especially long walks. When I was a kid I would read while walking but knitting is far safer since I can actually see where I’m going!
    I also knit just about everywhere else. People always comment that I must be so patient to knit. I’m not shy about telling them that the knitting makes me sane, patient and friendly. I actually don’t mind waiting anymore!
    Thanks for reminding me of the many ways my life is better because I knit.

  28. Meredith MC · ·

    @Jamie (Ist commenter) To not lose your needles try circular needles! When you get to the end of your row the needle is still attached to the knitting so if you drop it, it stays put. (Credit to the Yarn Harlot for pointing this out).

    Also in the above post, the first sentence should read “Reading while crocheting.” Whoops!

  29. I read and knit. I also knit at volunteer meetings (It helps that these meetings are also about… what do you know? more reading 😉 ). I knit on the bus and at family functions. I’ve been told it’s rude but it keeps me focused so I don’t worry about the nay sayers.

  30. I knit while watching television…in fact, if I’m not knitting, I frequently fall asleep in the middle of a movie. (Except for Downton…can’t knit during Downton….)

  31. I always have the t.v. on while knitting. Like you, if I try to watch t.v. without knitting in hand, I find it awkward and weird, like I don’t know what to do with my hands. I fidget, I drink a ton more coffee than I normally would, which eventually leads to being even more fidgety as the caffeine shakes kick in:-) Perhaps it’s second nature to me because I’ve ALWAYS watched t.v. (well, listened to) while knittinng. Maybe I’d find it more difficult to transition to watching if I hadn’t started by doing that?

  32. I see Downton Abbey!! I just finished watching the first season on Netflix (just 7 long episodes). I had to see what all the talk was about.While I’m thinking about it, this blog has gotten me to go back and watch all of Buffy, Supernatural, Dr Who, Torchwood, and recently Downton Abbey (already watched Fire Fly & Serenity <3) …well all that's available on Netflix anyways, but that's a lot of TV! What have you done to me Glenna?!?! I stumbled upon your blog a year or 2 or 3 ago, taught myself how to knit, am now bff with Ravelry and am addicted to knitting while watching TV, commuting, etc… basically all the time. Thank you for bringing knitting and nerdy shows to my life!

  33. What’s funny is I am watching Downton Abbey as we speak

  34. Debbie VanDerMolen · ·

    I was knitting as I read your blog post.

  35. I was reading the archives and I see you’ve covered this topic a few times. Lol. I just turned the heel on my first ever sock and I’m beginning to think I might be able to knit the easy part in a movie theatre!!

  36. I knit while waiting on the car drop-off line at my twelve-year-old son’s school. The students aren’t allowed to get out of the cars until the teachers have come out of the building, and we are often there a few minutes early. My son is mortified and thinks that knitting is something for old ladies. I teach high school, myself, and have taught lots of students to knit. I often gaze at them enviously as they knit through my presentations.

  37. 50,000 stitches · ·

    I’m a grad student and I often knit during department seminars. I was worried about it at first, but I know that it helps me focus more. I always make sure to look directly at the speaker and his/her slides as much as possible, and now enough of my colleagues have seen me doing this while obviously paying attention to the talk that they’re all used to it.

  38. I love how many people have this same idea. I can’t even fathom sitting down to watch something without a project in my hands. My mom always did this and I picked up the habit. I used to drive my boyfriends crazy scrambling for a project before we could watch something, but I can’t sit down to enjoy it unless I’ve got something else to do!

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