The simple answer to the question is that it is the moving of loops of yarn from one needle to another in hopes of creating a garment. However, if you ask any knitter is something more. It is trips to the doctors office, and time spent sitting in a car. It is a labour of love and sometimes something very frustrating. It is often misunderstood by those who do not knit and often it is a starting point for interest and conversation if you knit in public. It is giving up part of yourself and sometimes it's a memory of times past.
I was knitting one time on public transit on my way to my local yarn store when an elderly man sat down in the seat beside me. After watching me for a few minutes, he proudly told me that when he was a young boy, he was taught to knit in school. He then asked me if I was married and explained to me, with much love in his voice, that his wife knits for him all the time and that he has received many sweaters over the course of their marriage. He believed that any man who has a women who knits for him is a lucky man indeed and that he hoped my husband knew “just how lucky he is.” (I assured him that my husband does.) He asked me where I was going and then told me that he was going to tell his wife about the "lovely young knitter" he met on the subway and promised to take his wife to my knitting store so she could connect with the new generation of knitters. He was truly thrilled to learn that knitting was a popular pastime, and happy to know that the "young people of today were still willing make productive use of their time". I'm not sure if his wife has been to the store, but I guarantee she would be welcomed with open arms.
Another time, I had gentleman sit down with me in the park where I was knitting on my lunch break. He told me that he had been raised in South Africa "where everybody knits". He moved to Canada when he was in his early 20's and for a long time couldn't figure out what was wrong with our buses. Then one day he realized that he couldn't hear the clicking of knitting needles as he rode.
I've never had anyone tell me horror stories associated with knitting. Sometimes I've heard "I've tried to learn," or "one time my great Aunt made me this horrid sweater." But I never heard how knitting ruined a life or gave anyone nightmares. Knitting always seems to bring out happy times or thoughts. So really, knitting is happiness. It is love. I love knitting as I know most knitters do. I love the way the needles feel in my hands and the way a beautiful yarn becomes a final product. I think that knitters make the world a better place and I am happy to be part of the that community, even if sometimes the non-knitting community doesn't understand it at all. Really, it's their loss and I hope that they each have someone who loves them enough to make them a knitted garment at least once in their life.