I was listening to an audiobook that involves the theater, and was surprised to hear a character declare that “knitting on stage is bad luck”.
Having at least 50% of the qualification, and never having heard of this one, of course, I had to look into it. And yes, I found several sites that insist that knitting on-stage — or near the stage, or to the side of the stage — is definitely bad luck — even at rehearsals!
However, some sources do state that it is only a problem if the knitting is done by an actor or actress, so I guess that means it’s OK for the audience to bring their knitting.
The most often suggested origin of the superstition is that pointy needles could rip a costume, or a needle on the floor could be stepped on by someone and cause them to fall. A more romantic version says that the act of knitting will “entangle the production”, and connects this remarkable ability to the Fates — who may not be knitters, but they do weave the tapestry of Life, after all.
I also found a few other interesting superstitions about knitting, aside from the well-known “boyfriend sweater” curse.
(Not) Finishing Projects and Bad Luck
“Bad luck may befall a knitter who leaves a project unfinished.” I don’t actually have to say any more about this one, do I? Obviously we’re all doomed.
However, the “bad luck from an unfinished project can be transferred to the intended recipient“, as well. This is most often quoted in the context of starting projects for babies, which seems disproportionate to say the least. Why doom an innocent child because I can’t get my act together to finish a pair of booties? And “don’t stab your needles through the ball of yarn when you stop knitting,” or you know what you’ll get.
A version that goes the other direction is that “It’s bad luck to start a new project on a Friday, and if you do, you will never finish it.”
Friends and Lovers
“Knitting a pair of socks for your boyfriend may cause him to walk away from you.” HA! Not if he is smart.
“If you knit a strand of your own hair into an item, it will tie the recipient to you.” It must be that this one only works if it is the knitter’s own hair: because if it could be extrapolated to any old hair that gets trapped in the knitting, I think my husband would have run off with my cat by now.
“Don’t hand needles to a friend,” because this ‘stabs’ the friendship. To avoid this, put the needles down and let the other person pick them up.
“If you drop the scissors you are using to cut your yarn, it means your lover is cheating on you.” Disclaimer: some sources say they have to land open in the “V” shape for this to be true. Some also say that someone else has to pick them up for you.
Eastern Europe / Scandinavia
In Iceland, they have a unique version of Groundhog Day, I guess. “In late winter it is forbidden to knit on the doorstep, as that is known to lengthen the winter.”
A list of Latvian sayings about mittens:
- Mittens and socks should be knitted in summer, then they will be warm, soft and strong.
- One should not wash new mittens when there is an old moon, they will lose their color and let through the wind.
- One should not wipe their nose in a mitten. Whoever does that never gets rich.
- One should not give their hand to another with a mitten on, otherwise they will give away their luck.
I also remember being told by someone — probably Nancy Bush, who visited my knitting guild in 2006 and signed a couple of books for me — that traditional black-and-white Estonian knitting often would have bright red around the openings of mittens, hats, and socks, to keep out evil spirits.
“Your handmade items should always have at least one mistake, to keep you safe from the fairies.”
There is also a (disputed) Amish version of this, which is that all handmade items should have a deliberate mistake because only god is perfect.
Navajo weavers have a similar tradition, in order to preserve their creativity:
After the year 1900, the “spirit line” became a popular element for many traditional Navajo weavers… The traditional weaver became very concerned about trapping their creative spirit within the weaving and not being able to weave in the future. The “spirit line” is a small strand of yarn of contrasting color that flows from the inner design element of the weaving to the outer edge. The custom continues today in many contemporary Navajo rugs.
A Modern Take
“If you insult something hand-knitted, you will mysteriously develop puncture wounds.”