Knitting in public has never been a problem for me. Maye this is because my mother knit at faculty meetings and in airports and so I thought it was normal. I don't think anyone knitting in public was particularly brave or bold unless they were generally shy. Even then knitting is great for shy people (I am very shy) because it keeps you from having to interact too much.
There are times and places that I don't think it is appropriate to knit in public. I don't knit during meetings or church services or musical performances because I think these are things that need my whole attention and I am not such a good knitter that I can not think about my knitting. I think knitting and reading are perfect for when I'm waiting for a performance to begin (my kids have to be at the venue an hour before the music starts and I sit and wait), during swim practice when I can't swim, and while I wait for appointments.
A number of bloggers and writing knitters say that knitting in public gets people to talk with you about knitting but I have had very little interactions with unknown bystanders. Maybe my fierce concentration throws them into silence. At our community pool I sometimes knit during swim practice or during breaks in my swimming (sometimes I read) and I have had two strange interactions.
The first was while I was knitting my first pair of socks. I was knitting and a woman approached me and mentioned that she was interested to see that I was knitting during swim team practice these days and not reading. She said, "It must be so much more satisfying to finish and have something because when you finish reading a book you have nothing." She is wrong. When I finish a book I have ideas and thoughts and stories. I have debates even though most of them remain internal. I have pictures in my mind of myself integrated into the situations from the book: Would I respond like the main character or how would my personality and experience affect my storyline? What does this article mean to me? What do I think it means to other people? How does the viewpoint put forth mesh with or change my vision of the world? I am changed in ways grand and small by the things I read; the things I knit are not quite as life changing for me. She was also incorrect about my knitting/reading ratio. It is only that I've been working on my knitting during swim practice because I'm making my first pair of socks and it takes concentration and chunks of time.
The second experience was with a different woman at the pool. I was knitting while I waited for my family to finish practice and come join me for a picnic dinner and a woman walked by and commented "Sew, sew, sew! Every time I see you you are sewing at something. I even saw your daughter sewing at the swim meet last week; she was all (woman puts her hands up before her face and hunches over). That sewing! My Grandma used to always be sewing stuff too." Then she walked away. Where could I have started? That I was knitting, that it is a fun thing to do, or that it helps my daughter filter out the stress of competition? Typically, I did nothing.
Tonight I was very brave and I went to a local stitch and chat session. I took my daughter with me for a knitting buddy and moral support. The group was very noisy and happy looking with a nice variety of ages of men and women. Nobody specifically greeted us but plenty of people made eye contact and smiled in a welcoming way. We sat and started knitting and after a few forays for drinks and yarn we settled in for some good knitting. I did what I usually do in social situations, I sat quietly and listened while smiling and reacting to stories that were being told. I told my daughter that I felt sort of isolated but that it might be ME not THEM. Then, I am so brave, I started inserting myself into the conversation. We ended up spending the whole 2 hours knitting and talking and I learned a few names and had a lot of fun. When we left someone said they'd see us next week. Woohoo! I don't have to take my daughter with me every time though she liked going; it is past her bedtime by the time we got home. There were several other children knitting and one even seemed to be about her age but my daughter was unsure of approaching them. She did deal with all the vendors and asked someone for help calculating yardage. LOL! We joked that she didn't interact with her own peer group but that my peer group was sufficient.