Saturday, 13 April 2013

Knitting on the Run

So apparently knitting while walking is a thing. For that matter, it's actually never not been a thing; it's fairly common in the more rural parts of Africa, Asia, and South America. It's rare in Western countries these days, though it used to be a practice in the nineteenth century. The Shetland women in the photo above are knitting and carrying a load of peat on their backs. If you think you should at least be able to do half what they do, offers tips on learning to knit while you're walking and there's even a product called a Go Knit pouch that will aid you in your efforts (and it's also supposed to be a very handy and effective tote for knitting while travelling).

I don't think I'll be trying it myself. While researching this post I read half a dozen blog entries written by knitters who had taken to knitting while walking. All of them reported that they both walked and knitted more slowly when they combined the tasks. It took them something like 25-33% more walking time to go the same distance, and probably a similar extra increment of time to finish their knitting projects. So I don't see it as much of a time saver. And these walker/knitters also joked about bumping into telephone posts and "holding up traffic", which makes me concerned for their safety, and even more for the safety of others around them. Knitting while walking probably works better in a rural setting where there isn't much traffic of any kind — I mean, the Shetland knitters above aren't exactly in danger of getting into the way of the donkey behind them. Preoccupied people walking about in an urban environment can so easily step into the path of a car or cause some other mishap. I get so frustrated as it is by people who go about wired to their iPods and who are consequently clued out to the fact that they're blocking an entryway, that someone is trying to speak to them, or that someone around them might need help, and I should think knitting would be equally self-absorbing. Even pedestrians have a responsibility to be mindful of their surroundings, and pedestrians who are holding two pointed pieces of metal are surely under even greater obligation to be careful. If you decide to knit and walk, please avoid knitting while walking in heavily trafficked areas, or when the ground is icy. Your safety, and the safety of others, is far more important than the production of another pair of cabled socks.

If you're really raring to knit while on the move, you might look to Susie Hewer, "the Extreme Knitting Redhead", for inspiration. Hewer, who will be 56 this June, knits while running marathons to raise money for Alzheimer's research, and has racked up a couple of Guinness World Records in the process. Now that's multi-tasking. Hewer has raised nearly £25,000 during the past seven years, and in 2008 she set a record for knitting the longest scarf while running a marathon (3', if you care to know), and in 2010 she gained the Guinness World Record for stitching the longest crochet chain.

Marathon routes tend to be cordoned off, so that must leave Hewer freer to safely concentrate on her work and her running. And I'm so impressed by her accomplishments that I think I might have to go take a nap.


  1. Fascinating. There are pictures of people knitting while walking, at the time when people knitted to make a living. And shepherds would knit while looking after the sheep. I don't envy Susie Hewer. Let's hope she doesn't have to remember an intricate pattern as well!

  2. Hi there Orange Swan!

    Thanks for the mention and I quite agree that knitting whilst walking and indeed running is counter-productive to both activities.

    People often ask me questions such as do I knit on my training runs? Do I knit to pass the time whilst running? Do I do it because I can't bear not to be knitting at every available opportunity?

    No, no and no! It is simply something that I have done several times at the London marathon, not during all my 29 marathons, and it is just a fun thing to do to attract publicity for my charity. The crowds and my fellow runners all love it and think it's quite mad, which of course it is.

    It all started with a throwaway remark from a friend when I turned 50 and was planning to run 5 marathons in the year. I wanted to do something special at the London marathon and wondered about fancy dress. When I told my friend she said "oh for goodness sake, why don't you act your age and just stay at home and do your knitting" and so the idea floated around in my mind for a while until I decided to take my knitting with me.

    Hope you enjoyed your nap - I've got a marathon to run tomorrow (not knitting) and then the London marathon next weekend where I'll be knitting a scarf - unless I trip over my balls of yarn.............LOL!

    Kindest regards, Susie

  3. Susie, it's so great to have your feedback on the article! And I think you really showed your friend just how one should act one's age. Best of luck with your marathon tomorrow and next weekend!

  4. I have tried knitting and walking. It works great if you are in line for a ride as Disneyland...but I probably wouldn't do it going down a regular street.