- Kate Feiffer

Dear Nicole,

What is it with the knitting? Women take their knitting everywhere on this Island! I guess it’s OK, but it seems kind of rude to be knitting at the movies, at town meeting, in a restaurant, at a lecture. Am I overreacting?

Confidentially yours,

Knitted Brow

Dear Knitted,

This question seemed so off-Islanderish that I went to check the postmark to see where you really come from. But of course, there was no postmark because it came in as an email, meaning you use an electronic device. If you are under the age of 75, there’s a good chance that you use a portable electronic device (smartphone, tablet, etc). So you might be familiar with the concept of having a portable thingummy to stave off fidgeting in public. Yet you are squawking about people having a portable thingummy to stave off fidgeting in public. News flash: Their thingummy is much less annoying than yours is.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you do not use your portable electronic device at the movies, town meeting, restaurant, or at a lecture. (We have lectures on the Vineyard? In March?!) But you might use one, or see others using one, standing in line to get into that movie or restaurant, or waiting for that meeting or lecture to start. Twenty years ago, such behavior would confound the entire population of Martha’s Vineyard, including all the knitters. The knitters were knitting long before there were smartphones, and will continue to knit long after the Congo has been depleted of the rare earth minerals needed to make smartphones. It is a fluke that you have happened to notice knitting during the brief historical moment when knitting has to compete with smartphones as the default public distraction.

In an era of widespread ADD, knitting is one of the most salubrious habits available to the average person. Like doodling — perhaps the most democratic of mind calmers — it is quiet, noninvasive, self-contained, doesn’t leave a mess, and poses few safety hazards. A skilled knitter requires only the most occasional glance at their work, allowing them to maintain much better eye contact with other humans than can the average smartphone user (or even doodler).

Plus: Socks!

I don’t see a downside.

I realize there is some baggage attached to knitters who knit quietly in public. Madame Defarge, the implacable villainess of “A Tale of Two Cities,” takes her knitting everywhere, too — the wine shop, her VIP seat by the guillotine — and she is (spoiler alert) knitting a registry of those who are doomed to die. So if you’re a rabid Charles Dickens fan, you might be understandably uneasy about all the knitters.

On the other hand, if you’re a rabid Dickens fan, you wouldn’t be emailing me complaints about fiber arts. You’d be penning a protest about the superciliousness of advice columns.

That’s my take.


Bemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse, and is the author of “I, Iago.” Her combined knowledge of both this Island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to