I am a fan of the Ask a Manager blog, and it will not surprise you and as I was catching up that this question about knitting in meetings
caught my eye. I am a big believer that many of us focus better when our hands are moving, and there are all kinds of meetings and no one (I hope) wants to be that person who has to get asked a question three times. I recognize given the internet's fairly vicious response to fidget spinners that we are still in a very early phase of recognizing that people process information differently, and there is work to be done. The OP, in my opinion, did everything necessary to explain why the knitting would be beneficial to their listening. And I found the response - not what I would have wished.
I am not saying it is wrong, but what really fascinated me as I dived through the comments were the number of suggestions that people made, or their various rankings of things that are less distracting in meetings.
I'm a big proponent of the popcorn rule. I have, as an example, knit in church. My church wearing shorts to service, or sipping soda, or bringing popcorn are all things that would not be considered out of place. I would not assume that all churches are therefore knitting appropriate. I am also aware that non-knitters think knitting is me not paying attention, rather than the opposite. I can attempt to combat this by only knitting on conference calls where they can't see, demonstrating through my participation that I am engaged, knitting for co-workers, or deciding I have enough seniority that I get to. Obviously not every employee is in a position to do all of these things.
In the comments a short listing of things various people said would be less distracting that knitting - texting, doodling or writing non-work things on a notepad, working on a laptop or tablet, playing with a fidget spinner or worry beads, eating lunch.
None of these things are actually less distracting than knitting. But they are more common in meetings so we have built up a tolerance for such behavior. Or we haven't but we have accepted that we need to.
One of my friends was a late college returner. And she found sitting between two people surfing on their laptops was incredibly distracting to her. She wanted to start leaning over, suggesting the blue dress would look so much better on you. I was in a training where we were using a computer lab and the desks were so close together that I knew one co-worker was refinancing their mortgage and the other was checking on their child's soccer. We've learned to develop, not blinders really since I still saw all of that, but filters because a lot of us together in one room where almost everyone is multitasking means you have to so you don't overload.
I understand that for me knitting provides that focus and it can simultaneously distract the people to either side of me because it provides one more piece of stimuli that they have to attend to or ignore. I'm not saying that my coping mechanism is more important than yours. But what the many, many people suggesting alternate forms of distraction told me is that there is great acceptance for distraction, but knitting is not one they are used to.
And look, depending on the place, it may never be acceptable, but the meetings where half the people are crushing candy or slurping lunch, I don't buy that my knitting is more distracting. It's just different.