I know there are people out there who walk and read. That never interested me because I would inevitably walk into a wall or utility pole or car while immersed in my book. Of course, with my proclivity to fall even when I pay close attention to my surroundings, I could easily envision breaking several bones as well. I never took seriously the challenge of walking while reading.
However, in a recent class given by physical therapist and knitter Carson Demers, I learned about the extensive history of knitters who walked while doing chores, minding children, or working on farms. According to Demers, it was only since the Industrial Revolution that people had the leisure and luxury to sit and just knit. This piqued my interest, since I seldom look down at my handwork unless I am following a difficult pattern or concentrating on a new technique. I can crochet and knit while watching television – in fact, I have a problem sitting and watching a program without something in my hands to occupy me. When I was younger, I often read while I knitted; unfortunately, my eyesight doesn’t allow me to do that anymore. But walking and knitting? Why not?
In researching knitting and walking, I also learned about relay races that involve teams of knitters who walk an established course, often on dirt or grass, use double-pointed needles to knit (harder to do, in my estimation, than using circular needles), and who hand off their knitting to the next team member as they complete their turn. These races are mostly in European countries and that may be why here in America we have not adopted this practice. Maybe there just isn’t enough interest here either. But the whole concept intrigued me.
I began my experiment by carefully reviewing the common-sense tips offered by Demers for knitters who wanted to try knitting and walking. He suggests paying careful attention to the environment (practice in your home first and don’t try crossing streets while knitting), use blunt tipped needles, inexpensive yarn, and an easy pattern, wear comfortable shoes, and waist pack or cross-body bag to carry the yarn.
I took these suggestions to heart and began thinking about how I could try out this new challenge. At first, I thought that an old fanny pack or apron with pockets would work well to put my yarn in. However, I found that a small lightweight keyhole bag with a comfortably wide cotton strap was perfect. I had made three of these when I was in a recent sewing mood but had not used any of them. They were too small to use as purses, but each one can easily hold a ball of cotton yarn and lightweight plastic Denise circular needles. The plastic needles are essential; if I fell with them, they wouldn’t break or puncture my skin.
Next, I had to decide on a pattern. I wanted something easy so I chose a plain garter stitch dishcloth. I usually make these following charted designs or elaborate patterns, but for walking, simple seemed best, so I cast on about 35 stitches, did a few rows while walking around my house to test it out, and then hit the streets in my neighborhood. Wonder of wonders, I found that walking while knitting was a piece of cake. Even wearing my distance glasses, I had no trouble watching the road, only occasionally glancing down at my fingers to check my work. Of course, I chose a time during the middle of the day when traffic was light. My neighborhood does not have sidewalks so I have to use the road, but this is a good thing since there are not uneven pavements or tree roots interfering with cement walkways.
So far, the only really difficult thing about knitting and walking is enduring the strange stares from my neighbors and the delivery persons as they watch me, a somewhat eccentric older woman, who walks around knitting. I’m not yet ready to enter a relay race but maybe after practicing a bit more – who knows?