A few days ago I started taking my crochet WIP on the bus, mostly because I've been commissioned to make a sweater so I'm trying to do it quickly, and it's the Unseamly Sweater, whose sleeves were almost the end of me the first time I made it, so I figured I could do the mindless repetitive sleeve stitching while I commuted and get it over with quicker.
At first I felt like a bit of a geek, actually. I was aware that a lot of eyes were on me and I was self-conscious (for some reason). But, it did make the commute go by waaaay faster, and indeed, the sleeves didn't seem to take such a death-defyingly long time. In fact, the first day we got stuck in traffic for a long time, and I didn't even realize that it took twice as long to get home. Not getting ticked off at my evening commute=a positive and unexpected consequence.
But even more than that, people have started to talk to me. This made me uncomfortable at first, because I like to be left alone for the most part, but then I started to notice what nice conversations we were having. A young guy in a business suit talked about how his girlfriend tried to teach him to knit and he was all thumbs, but he thought it was cool anyway. A lady from the Netherlands reminisced about learning yarn crafts in elementary school, and we talked about Dutch lace-making and the way that crafts maintain a sense of identity. Last night a lady from Colombia sat down next to me and started talking about her mother, and her sister who knits and sews, and she talked about her children and what a treasure children are. She learned new English words ("embroidery" was a new one), and she talked about how important it is to make something by hand, to be able to give loved ones something you've worked hard on, especially since everything else in this world is "buy and destroy", as she said.
Sometimes people don't say anything, but they notice me and I see them smile or see recognition in their eyes. They look knowing, and content; either they crochet themselves, or their grandmothers did, or someone else, but either way they are always good memories that come up.
All of this was unexpected. But it just reinforces my belief that there is a connection to be made with other people, even in brief moments of contact. We don't have a lot of traditions in America that everyone can respond to, but hands working with yarn to make something warm, that resonates with almost everyone. I feel lucky to participate.
Oh, and a word re: knitting vs. crocheting. I realize that among crafty folks this is a huge debate, and obviously they are two very different crafts. And I admit that I often feel a little defensive about crochet (especially as someone who wants to make crochet designs, and therefore needs to fend off bad crochet stereotypes). But I'm learning not to get offended when a "lay person" gets the two confused, and I don't usually correct them any more. People repeatedly say something like "my mom used to do that, but with two needles". To 97% of people in this world, it's not the difference between the two crafts that is important at all; it's the wonderful things the two share that speak to them, and I'm very okay with that.