Saturday, September 29, 2012

On Stitching in Public

Yesterday, I took my Mom to the hematologist's office and spent two hours in the waiting room: one conversing with Mom while she waited to be seen and another while waiting for her to come out again.  I stitched during the second hour.    Now, I have gotten accustomed, over the decades and decades that I have been stitching, to the furtive glances cast at me by folks trying to figure out exactly what I am doing.  I have no problem discussing stitching if I sense a genuine interest or even innocent curiosity.  But I wonder why people feel entitled to comment condescendingly on one's work when one stitches in public.  If you are reading in a waiting room, no one ever feels entitled to take your book from your hands turn it over to check title and author and then comment on your taste in literature.  They don't make inane comments about how their grandmothers, great-aunts [substitute any really old female relative] used to read the same quaint authors.  But when stitching is the topic, people tend to trot out the stories of all their ancient female relations  who are dead now of course  [after all, what living, i.e. modern, individual would stitch?] and the speaker's heart broke when they had to throw away all that useless [to them] equipment.  I always suggest that, should such circumstances occur again, they donate the useless supplies to a woman's prison or shelter or group home.  That generally stops the conversation while the folks ponder the relative meaning of the word, useless.  Sometimes people offer a compliment referencing the intricacy of the work or the skill involved, but most people make some sort of vaguely dismissive I statement indicating the irrelevance of stitching in   today's world.  "I could never find the time for it!"  To which the appropriate but likely unwise reply would be, "Oh, then you enjoy drinking endless cups of coffee while staring vacuously at a TV playing mindless drivel as you wait for the doctor?"  Another common comment, "How do you find the patience?", might elicit my aging hippie/general crank lecture on how people have lost the capacity for stillness and silence and self-containment were I less still, silent and self-contained myself.  And since I usually choose waiting room projects that don't require constant references to a chart, another frequent question is "How do you know where to put your stitches?"  or the variant, "Where are the lines?"  When I am feeling polite, I reply to these questions saying that I am at a stage where there is repeating pattern or that I am working on a "fill" area.  When I am feeling less polite, I reply to the first question that I know what I am doing and to the second that I am working on linen and not on a child's coloring book.  Sometimes the simple truth is that I am making things up as I go along and that really blows the mind of the questioner.    But my oddest reaction came recently from a hospital volunteer, the kind that staff surgical waiting rooms to offer hospitality and relay messages from the OR to the relatives. Since I was alone in the waiting room, I asked if she could turn off the TV which was so very annoying.  She harrumphed that she'd never seen someone bring their mending to the hospital before and that most people enjoyed the TV.   The implication was that I might find a visit to the psychiatric clinic a more appropriate use of my time.

Tell me, gentle reader, have you had strange moments when stitching in public?   Good or bad?  Serious or comic?

11 comments:

Monica said...

I know exactly what you mean. Now I just tell people it is cheaper and fewer side effects than Prozac. I did have a very nice encounter in an airport. The woman showed me how to start a thread the loop method. It has served me well many years.

Vickie said...

I have had similar reactions also Riona. Some ladies "did that many years ago". But I have had many more positive compliments. In one doctor's waiting room, a young lady who was mentally handicapped was just enchanted to watch me. I just couldn't stop smiling. I was so glad to offer her enjoyment. =)

Cathy Pavlovich said...

So well said. I never could understand why some people find it perfectly fine to criticize cross stitch. I don't stitch much in public, but have had comments made about the framed cross stitch in my house. One comment was, "Oh, that's so TEDIOUS!" as she looked closely at my trio of garden scenes. Or when I told a co-worker that I stitch, she informed me that she didn't have time to do that, and that she once stitched, but felt guilty because there were more important things she could be doing. Talk about belittling someone else's interest. I'm sorry to go on about this, but I know exactly what you mean. I wrote about this in my blog a while back also!

Erica said...

I have had the same thing happen to me! So tiresome! They always seem to put you on the defensive!
What is worse for me, is that I get the same thing from my own sister, who never tires of telling me what a waste of time it is!

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Mending OMG!!!! I'd have stabbed her with my needle, shame they're blunt ones LOL.
We've been discussing this on FB this afternoon (those of us that are still alive and stitching).
I used to stitch on the train and got alot of "is that knitting?" or crochet or lace-making (what?)
One of the rudest comments I've ever had came from a fellow cross-stitcher on a cs forum, she didn't like fantasy subjects and was always barbed in her comments about mine "very nice if you like that sort of thing". We were playing a word association game online and I typed "fantasy" she responded with "rubbish" so I asked if she fantasised about the bin men LOL.

Natasha said...

I will addmit that I avoid stitching in public, unless with a group of stitching friends, for this very reason. One year my Husband and I were travling to South Carolina and while we were stuck in Atlanta waiting for our connecting flight he asked me why didnt I bring out my stitching to keep me busy and make the time pass.
I told him my reason why I did not want to stitch in public he just laughed and said that's silly Granny.. He use to laugh when I started stitching thinking it was a "older persons" hobby but he soon realized the beauty of it when I made a pillow for his mother.
I still can not bring myself to stitch in public and dearly wished I could get over that.
Hope you have a great Weekend!

Susieq said...

I have experienced many of the same comments, but I guess I've never thought about it that way. Thinking on this makes me wonder if I have ever insulted anyone by making some kind of comment on gardening. I do not like yardwork, and I hope that my comments haven't hurt their feelings.

rosey175 said...

Wow, that was quite rude of the volunteer. My goodness, Heaven forbid someone want to do something than stare mindlessly at a bunch of commercials!

I've never stitched in public. I'm afraid to try after this (haha); I don't think I'd be able to handle the veiled criticism and snide comments quite so well. ;) I've been teased by family members and friends before but I think I'm lucky that those people realize I'm doing something that makes me happy. Too bad the rest of the world can't see it that way.

Donna said...

Last year I sat in the waiting room while the brakes were being replaced. I was there with one younger man. We both agreed we didn't need the tv. Couldn't find the remote so he reached up and turned it off. Then he sat there laughing hysterically at his smartphone while I stitched. Finally after about an hour, he looked over at me and said, "You know. I should be doing something useful like you are. Instead of watching Family Guy on my phone." I agreed.

Carleen Fink said...

I have never had a negative reaction to stitching in public. I have had a lot of curious onlookers, and use this as an opportunity to share my passion with others. I've met sweet little old ladies in the doctor's office who wish they could still see to do this sort of thing, curious little children who have never seen a needle up close(!) and one 10 year old boy who was fascinated by my cross stitch chart! I will admit that it gets a little tiring to smock in public and having people tell me their mothers and grandmothers did it, but they think it is too hard, but I usually offer to teach them and they either get excited or leave me alone at that point. I do cross stitch, smocking and temari in public all the time.

Anna van Schurman said...

Just the other day the dude commented on how he just wanted the TV turned off so he could read. People suck.