usbkeynecklace

Are all female programmers also knitters?

Like many geeks, I’m a big fan of making things or hacking them to suit my needs. A friend recently asked if all female programmers are also knitters, and while I think that’s unlikely (I only learned to knit two weeks ago, and I’ve been a programmer for getting close to two decades), it does make a lot of sense that people who are good at writing code might be drawn to other types of patterns such as the algorithms used to generate knitted and crocheted items. What do you think?

And while I’ve got the maker spirit, here’s two three geeky things I made this week:

16g necklace

This hardly counts as something I made, as all I did was make a little circle of wire to attach this very shiny USB key to a necklace, but the end result is a reasonably cheap and totally functional piece of geeky jewelry. Bonus: the USB key is waterproof, so I don’t have to worry about it getting wet if I get caught in a downpour or sprint all the way to work.

Kindle Fire Case

I’m not usually an early adopter for hardware since it’s so easy to get burned, but I snagged a Kindle Fire before Christmas and haven’t regretted it. What I *do* regret is that cases can be so darned expensive! I learned to knit less than a week before making this, so it’s clearly a project suitable for a beginner. Instructions here for those who like patterns (or just want to know what yarn that is).

Edit: I forgot another geeky thing I made last week on the plane:
Penguin Ball

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve crocheted a lot of Angry Birds as an excuse to play games with strangers and friends alike. The round penguin pattern I made as an extension of that for when I was playing “real life Angry Birds” around open source folk, as a reference to the Linux penguin. This is one of a bunch I made for the Pycon sprints, where I gave them out to my fellow GNU Mailman developers. If you want to make your own, it’s a very quick project: I wrote the pattern up here.


So… while all female programmers probably aren’t also knitters, I know there’s a lot of makers of various stripes within the Geek Feminism community. Please tell us about the cool things you’ve been making in the comments below!

45 thoughts on “Are all female programmers also knitters?

  1. Ashe Dryden

    I actually took up knitting and [spindle] spinning so I could have a hobby that got me /away/ from my computer. I’ve found that very many of the female geeks I know are knitters/spinners/crocheters. :}
    There’s a great community of geeky knitters/spinners/crocheters on Ravelry.

      1. Charlotte

        I’m on Rav too (aeris). I got into knitting so that I had a common activity in which to meet more women since being a geek means there aren’t a lot of them in my normal day. I now have two spinning wheels and went to SOAR this year, so the madness has kind of extended, but has paid off.

        My knitting circle has a regular group of six; three of whom are involved in tech in some way. Of the other three, one’s a biology professor and another a big VIP for a healthcare company, so there does seem to be a real link between math and science oriented people and the fiber arts.

        And they’re all awesome women that don’t judge me for being the weird “IT guy”, so knitting has totally paid off. :)

    1. jaynn

      I got back into crochet for other reasons, but back when I played WoW I tended to get bored during downtime in raids, however, and crochet is something that’s very easy to pick up and put down (I’ve done sewing and knitting as well, but nothing quite matches a small crochet project). Of course, I do it elsewhere as well, but I do find it’s a good space filler when whatever I’m doing on the computer isn’t quite taking up all my attention.

      (As far as cool things I’ve made, I think I got the link from here but it’s worth reposting– Baby Cthulu. I made one for myself, then another for a friend after realising that we’d kinda left him out of the holiday gift giving.)

      1. Terri

        Oh my goodness, crochet is the only way I’ve made it through raids/loading screens/etc some days. I used to try to read, but crochet makes it easier to chat while I wait for things to happen. DS/phone games are also a good option, as long as I don’t need the audio.

        Also, baby Cthulu is totally cute. I’m keeping that bookmarked for next time I need a totally inappropriate baby gift, thanks!

    2. Mackenzie

      My Ravelry is http://www.ravelry.com/people/macoafi – Any of those commenting on #ravelry in IRC? (It’s on IRCnet if you’d like to join)

      I’ve also been doing a lot of knitting and spinning as my anti-burnout. I got a wheel in December.

      If any of you are going to Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival (biggest/oldest in the US) in May, we should have a meetup.

      Python programmers, you may be interested in this Django-based project

      Side-note: holy moly, this site got a real-time comment preview feature. This rocks.

  2. Lindsey Kuper

    I’m not a knitter, so I don’t have a sense of what goes into designing a knitting pattern. But I wonder if there are systems builders in this community who get a bigger thrill out of patternmaking than actually doing the knitting.

    1. Terri

      I know one programmer/knitter like that. He debated trying to find a friend with idle hands to actually build his patterns since he didn’t always have the patience, but I don’t know if he ever found someone!

  3. Cathy B

    I’m not a knitter, although I’m technically a web project manager now, so maybe I don’t count as a programmer any more.

    I definitely have a need need to make patterns though, and I fulfill it by designing home-brew game systems. And periodically reorganizing all the toys in the kids play room. The latter has the added benefit of making all the toys interesting again until the excitement of new locations wear off. Does that count?

  4. Lisa

    I’m not a programmer, but I am a geeky crafter! I crochet (pretty well) and knit (at a very basic level), do needlework, paint, dabble in graphic design, and sew. I craft because I love the feeling of having made something, and I love to make awesome geeky things that are perfect for my nerdy friends and family. I’m currently working on a crochet Death Star blanket ^_^

  5. Crissa

    I don’t knit, and neither does my spouse, who pulls a barely six figure salary as a software engineer, so I think I can say definitively, all female programmers do not knit.

    I actually don’t know any who do, but since the author here does, I know that not all female programmers don’t knit ^-^

  6. slashy

    I am a knitter, crochet-er, gardener, home brewer of alcoholic beverages and a web programmer. It is very evident to me that what gets me excited in my professional and hobby life is a specific flavour of making things that involves patience, repetition, iterative improvement and many small losses and victories on the path to a final product. I am not one for building big things- I’ve tried bike repair, furniture construction and so forth and just can’t get into larger pieces/bigger risks/bigger pay-offs style. Even when I succeed I find the pay-off unsatisfying. I’m into the process.

    I LOVE lace knitting & crochet for their beautiful maths, and for the way that I-the-knitter build a relationship through my project with this algorithm presented to me by the pattern-writer, and this relationship is built on trust, suspense and revelation. I literally gasp out loud with delight and excitement as each successive row reveals to me what the trickery on the previous row was for. I find it SO EXCITING that I try to rave about it to my friends in bars (spoiler: nobody else thinks this is exciting).

    Obviously I need to find more knitter-programmer friends to hang out with.

  7. slashy

    p.s that is one fine USB necklace! I love a simple hack to create something elegant, functional and delightful! Mine usually take the form of “attach a hair-clip to something not normally worn in the hair”.

    1. Terri

      Heh. I once made my little sister a hair clip out of old mac ram (mac-in-the-box era, I think. It was small). At the time, she asserted that it was the best use of a mac ever. ;)

  8. Jennie

    I don’t programme as such, but I do make blog skins for people and have churned out plenty of websites. Similarly, I don’t knit because it takes so long to actually get anywhere, but I am properly obsessing about sewing at the moment, both turning old clothes into useful things (I made the legs of an old pair of jeans into a tool rack, for example) and making new clothes – the eventual goal being a Sixth Doctor outfit :)

    1. Terri

      I *love* doing clothing modifications. I used to live near a great consignment store and once in a while my sister and I would bring our purchases back, put on an episode of star trek, and modify all the clothes to fit us more perfectly. I swear, cosplay for us is mostly an excuse to buy pieces we wouldn’t normally buy and modify them to look right. ;)

      Good luck with your Sixth Doctor outfit! If you want to write a GF post about creating it when you’re close to done, don’t forget that we accept guest posts and I’m sure lots of folk here would love to hear how you put it together!

  9. antimonysarah

    Nope. The only time I tried was as a small thing at a Girl Scout event, and I was lousy at it and hated it. I did like cross-stitch as a kid, but I was terrible at that, too. I’m not good with fine handwork — I can’t keep even tension on anything, though I can sew a decent plain stitch and did take up and abandon quilting at one point.

    I do like to cook, with geeky abandon. :)

    And I think I know as many male programmer-knitters as female. It does seem to appeal to the mindset.

    1. John

      And I think I know as many male programmer-knitters as female.

      I never knitted (I couldn’t understand it, and my motor control balks at making my hands do something I don’t understand abstractly) but I used to sew… until I got RSI, and sewing turned out to be the worst thing of all for my hands!

  10. Carrie

    I can knit, but it’s not my maker-hobby of choice. (Also, I learned to knit before I learned to code.) There’s certainly something algorithmic about knitting. But I find knitting much harder to debug than code. Knitting seems more like programming by hardwiring circuits (not that I’ve ever really done that). If you make a mistake, you have to take it all apart and start again, line by line.

    I find cross-stitch very relaxing. I always feel like I’m pretending to be a dot-matrix printer.

    I also like doing my own minor clothing alterations (using a sewing machine). I’m still pretty much a beginner at sewing, but I enjoy it. I was so proud of myself when I learned how to do a European hem. I like being able to customize something and have it be instantly wearable.

    I love anything involving wood and power tools. Right now that’s entirely basic home-maintenance stuff — replacing siding boards, baseboards, hanging towel rods and curtain rods. I’m not going to be building my own ornate cabinetry anytime soon, but I still love physically working with wood and making it into something immediately useful and functional. Plus, power tools give me a rush.

    1. Terri

      I am jealous of your skill with power tools! I’m good enough to hack broken furniture sometimes, but until I own my own place I won’t have nearly enough excuse to practice on all those other projects!

  11. Knitting Clio

    I’m not a programmer but have been a knitter for most of my 40+ years. Maybe this means I’ll pick up programming quickly if I choose do so?!

    Also, my boyfriend is a programmer and has taken to knitting like a fish to water. So I’m wondering if there are more male knitters among the programming community than the rest of the population.

  12. Riv

    I am a programmer who knits! My main makerly-pursuit is metalwork, though. I’ve made geeky metalwork–Myst fanart–and metalwork for knitters–shawl pins. Maybe someday I’ll make geeky metalwork for knitters! :D

    (Ravelry username = riv)

  13. Jess

    Knitters and programmers alike might be interested in reading Knit, Perl, in which a programmer teachers a knitter to program, and vice versa.

    I am not a programmer, but I have definitely noticed an overlap in geekdom and knitting, and I have also found that it scratches the same itch in me that other mathy pursuits have done in the past; for instance, the combination of algebra and geometry reminds me of work I did when I was studying for my bachelors in architecture.

  14. Cat

    When I was growing up my mom a had rule that we could not just sit and watch we TV, we had to be doing something with our hands at the same time. As a result, I do a # of crafty things. I always have a number of projects going at once, most often sewing, knitting, crochet (see theIFF.org for cool ideas :) needlepoint, and french wire beading. I’m also dancing around the beginnings of restoring my mom’s old floor loom, which will be a fun combination of woodwork, mechanical stuff and fiber art.

    1. Terri

      Your mom is very clever. I rarely watch TV without a craft in hand nowadays! Good luck with the loom — those things are amazingly beautiful; I’ve often wished I had time to do a photography project centred around one.

  15. Julia

    I’m a programmer and I used to knit. I don’t knit anymore, but I learned knitting, sewing, stitching and embroidery somewhere in elementary school, my Mom did knitting and my grandmother was very skilled in various crafts. I even made fashion clothing for myself later in high school and college. Modeling clothing is quite like engineering… The latest thing I tried was frivolité http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatting. I gave up probably because of moving out of my Mom’s place, where I had all the materials without going shopping too much. I still have a few items in my closet.

    1. Terri

      I don’t suppose you have any recommendations of good tatting resources? A friend of mine inherited her grandmother’s supplies and has been doing okay at learning, but I’m sure a few more suggestions of things to look at wouldn’t go amiss if anyone has any!

  16. T

    Programmer. Knitter. Crocheter. Cross Stitcher. All long before I wrote code, but then, I’m over 50 and come from an era where writing code was “new”.

    I find this post interesting. My grandmother was a weaver and she taught me when I was younger. While I may not have seen programming until I was in college, I was, in effect, programming when setting up the loom.

  17. Elaine

    I just took up knitting last fall! (epersonae on Ravelry) I’ve always had a horrible fidgeting problem, and once I got started knitting, I realized it was like fidgeting, but then you have a scarf or something afterwards. (Currently working on a cozy for my Asus Eee Transformer!) It’s terrifically soothing, especially in meetings or on the bus.

    Slashy’s description seems apt as far as any connection with web development: “a specific flavour of making things that involves patience, repetition, iterative improvement and many small losses and victories on the path to a final product.”

    Also, it’s relatively inexpensive, quiet, & portable. I keep wanting to get into woodworking, but find it much more daunting equipment-wise.

    1. Terri

      I’ve also taken to crocheting/knitting during meetings and talks at work, and it’s been amazing because it gives me something to do with my hands that takes very little of my brain, so I find I pay a lot more attention in even the days when I’m sleepy as a result.

      The portability also makes smaller projects great for travel, and sometimes serves as a conversation starter with my seat mate(s). People are often surprised that you’re allowed to bring needles/hooks on planes in the US since they were restricted for a while, but it’s now a-ok to bring your project along, even metal knitting needles or crochet hooks: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1252.shtm

      (That said, the ladies at the local yarn shop said some of their other customers had needles taken away from them, so I guess not everyone knows they’re allowed! And I’ve had my scissors pulled out of my bag a few times before I started pulling them out myself. They’re bright blue and have “for kids” written on them, so anyone who looks at them can’t really claim they’re unsafe.)

      1. Mackenzie

        I’ve heard needles get taken by airport security more frequently in Europe. I wonder if circulars are less likely to be taken on account of the metal bit being smaller than the largest permitted screwdriver (7″).

  18. S

    I don’t knit or do any other crafts, but I write. The way you reveal information, follow threads, and order events to coordinate for the big finish is pretty similar in both programming and writing, though I didn’t realize this until relatively recently.

  19. Bruce Byfield

    Nobody’s brought it up, so I thought I’d mention that working on crafts at meetings can give you a psychological edge.

    My partner used to be on the grievance and negotiating teams for her union. She always took some crochet or knitting to meetings and hearings, and it never failed to disconcert and distract the other side, especially men.

  20. Siobhan

    I’m not a programmer, but I am in science going for my PhD in Molecular Biology. I’ve been knitting for a while, (on Ravelry too as siosaysthings!) and it’s the only thing that helps me relax on weekends or at the end of the day when I pop down in front of the TV. I think I have a serious problem with feeling unproductive, and the crafty process of making something out of nothing just feels so awesomely productive! It’s also nice when I can’t decipher my experimental results one bit to sit down and totally decipher a difficult knitting pattern. Love that! A lot less of my science-y friends are knitters than I’d like, it would be great to get geeky cool knitting ideas!

  21. gail king

    I’m a little uncomfortable with the “all” part of this. Why make non-knitters feel excluded?

    1. Terri

      I was basically just quoting the friend who asked the query, and right up at the top I said I didn’t think it was true, so I hope people didn’t feel genuinely excluded!

  22. Mercury

    See, I’m trying to go the opposite direction. I’m a long-time knitter who wants to pick up coding. I know a little Mathematica and even less Python, but I’m hoping I’ll have time for a C or Fortran class this fall.

    1. Terri

      Good luck with the coding, and remember, even if you get stuck, that you clearly have a great mind for code! I’ve taught hundreds of students, and I’ve found that it often helps to have a reminder that your brain works fine so you can push through the hard bits of learning a new skill. So if you ever need a reminder, think of all those times you’ve debugged a dropped stitch and remember you’ve totally got this!

  23. MadameZou

    I’m a long-time knitter and I’m a Debian contributor (even if my coding skills are -uhm- not so good, I’m still learning) and yes, for my experience there are a lot of coders who are also knitters!
    In Debian there are really a lot of knitters (we have also a ravelry group, “DebYarn” → http://www.ravelry.com/groups/debian-knitters): during last DebConf (the conference of Debian contributors) we even had a “Knitting BoF” (it really happened! we have pics!→https://gallery.debconf.org/v/debconf11/album/DSC00474.JPG.html).
    And there is also a FOSDEM knitting group (http://www.ravelry.com/groups/fosdem-fiberholic-society).

    More generally I think that the hacker attitude to try to {understand|fix|change|modify} things and having fun doing it, is a particular mindset which can be applied to a lot of different field.
    So, I like to dig into code, but also to modify clothes, to knit/crochet/sew, and to pulling apart things just to see how they look from the inside :)

    Cheers,
    Francesca (who came out from her long-time lurking thanks to this post)

Comments are closed.