I knit everywhere. On the bus to work everyday, in waiting rooms, in the car, on my lunchbreak, down the aisles in grocery stores, walking across the University campus where I work.
People's reactions are pretty polarized. Most people sneak furtive glances at my work trying not to stare, while some people are prompted to speak. They ask me what I'm making or tell me their Grandmother crochets too. (Here I usually explain the difference between knitting and crochet..."one hook? crochet. Multiple needles? knitting). Then a slightly awkward silence follows when they just watch what I'm doing and I don't bother to look up. Then: "I wish I knew how to do that". I assure them that they can learn and tell them where the nice LYS is and that they offer lessons for free. And the usual response? "I don't have the patience to knit"
Patience? Who said you need PATIENCE!?
I'm sure there are other knitters out there in the great wide internet world who knit because they're patient. But me? I knit because I'm NOT patient. I can't just sit down and wait for an appointment without doing SOMETHING. If I'm not knitting, the time passes more slowly and I get bored more easily, and I end up obsessively clicking a pen or tearing apart and reforming the piece of lint I found in my pocket... Knitting helps me BECOME patient.
Yes, sometimes you need patience to set aside a project that's not working, or to wait until you can ask someone else to try and interpret a pattern. But I don't think that's what they mean.
Perhaps they think knitting takes patience because I'm making large lacey items on very small needles, or a pair of socks on US 1's. And they think "All those stitches, that must take a long time", but what they don't see is that every stitch emerging in a pattern and that every loop of the yarn is magic. Knitting is the INFINITE amusement
! If you were solely concerned with the act of knitting, you could rip and reknit the same ball over and over and over again, and then it truly would be infinite, but the most wonderful thing about knitting is that it transforms your spare and idle moments into something beautiful (or beautifully misshapen, depending on your skill level ;) ).
I recall not so long ago, saying that I wouldn't knit anything larger than socks on US 1's. And lo and behold, here I am, HAPPILY working lace with TINY yarn and Size 1's. So perhaps I began knitting because I DIDN'T have patience, but now it's taught me a measure of it. So perhaps my response to the "I don't have patience" spectators should be "Jump right in, and you'll LEARN patience. And you'll end up with a nifty scarf too."