Men and Textile Arts

The other night Thor and I were watching a movie; I was also, of course, knitting.  He suddenly turned and asked me whether I would teach him how to knit.  “I’ve been watching you,” he said, “And I think I can do it.”

I told him that of course and handed him the cashmere I was knitting on size 2 needles.  For some reason, he refused to touch that.

So I went to one of my fiber stashes and rummaged around for a better teaching wool.  I found a skein of bulky Lamb’s Pride (by Brown Sheep) and gave it to him, along with a size 9 or 10, 24 inch circular needle.

As the long-tailed cast on can be rather intimidating for new knitters, I generally cast on the first row for knitting students.  Thor, however, wanted to learn to cast on.  I was very surprised at how quickly he picked up first the process and next the knit stitch (Continental style).  He soon had knitted up several rows in two colors.

The next day chatting with my friend Summer, a crocheter extraordinaire, about this, she said that a male friend of hers crochets regularly “quite well, in fact.”  She told me a man in her church also crochets regularly but he won’t talk about it or crochet outside of his house.  (The man’s wife told my friend.)

I was curious as to whether there is a vibrant e-community of male knitters and crocheters – undoubtedly a minority in the knit and crochet world.  I found a few blogs, including “Men Who Knit,” “Real Men Crochet and other things” and “The Crochet Dude.”  Then I viewed “Real Men Knit” and “Real Men Crochet” on YouTube.  I also found a CBS News article from 2009, “Men & Boys Knitting Up A Storm.”

(One of the videos suggested that as men created knitting, they should be proud to pick it up again.  Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never read anything to suggest that men created knitting.  The writer of the narration may have gotten confused by the fact that during the Renaissance, only men could join knitting guilds.)

That said, in many cultures over time, men regularly knit (e.g., shepherds – as sheep aren’t known for their conversational skills, knitting would be a nice, productive hobby with which occupy oneself).  Fishermen of the Faroe Islands, Scottish isles and Iceland also knit – sometimes while out on boats and other times in front of their hearth, no longer young enough to challenge the icy seas.  During World War I and II, men too old to enlist commonly appeared in public knitting both for the war effort and to show their support.  According to Clinton Trowbridge’s “When Knitting Was a Manly Art” (in The Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 1997):

When I was at boarding school during World War II, however, everyone knitted – including the headmaster, the teachers, and the whole football team. We knitted 9-inch squares, which somebody else sewed together to make blankets and scarves for British soldiers. “Knitting for Britain,” it was called.”

Be that as it may, relatively few men – compared to the number of women – knit or crochet.  Except for Thor, I have not seen a man knit or crochet in years, but maybe that says something about where I live – or maybe I don’t get out enough.  🙂  Until Thor, the last man I saw knit was Eugen Beugler, a prolific knit lace designer, in Eugene, Oregon.

I don’t know if Thor will continue knitting.  I am hopeful, though, because he said wanted to learn the purl stitch next.  Also, he’s captivated by cable work so I suspect one day he may ask me to teach him how to cable.  And he did ask me if knitting a hat was hard!  If the thought of a cabled knit hat doesn’t hook him and keep him knitting, I’m not sure what will!

Gentlemen:  Do you knit or crochet?

Ladies and Gentlemen:  Have you seen or taught many men knit or crochet? 

 

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Crocheting, Knitting. Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Men and Textile Arts

  1. Wow – how fun! A family that knits together … 🙂

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  2. Jessica S says:

    Yep, I’ve taught my hubby the basics. He’s working on a worsted weight ribbed scarf for himself, although he’s not touched it since the weather turned warm (which I can understand.) Three of the four members of my household can knit, myself, the hubby, and our two girls ages 11 & almost 13.

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  3. Pingback: Closet knitting « The Man Who Knits

  4. Do you feel as though you’ve joining a coven now? 🙂 I am glad to hear another man knits! The honey has just mastered knitting and purling and how he wants to knit a cabled cap!

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  5. Warren says:

    I enjoyed reading your post! Another guy who knits here. I have been VERY addicted to it for 6 years now, although my mom taught me to knit dishrags as a kid.

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  6. Wow – thank you for sharing your “story!” And I never heard the “men knit, women crochet” mandate. Interesting! And your cousin who knits while drunk must be VERY coordinated. Keep knitting!

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  7. Shane says:

    Another man who knits chiming in here.

    I was told in no uncertain terms that “Men knit, women crochet”.

    After I learned how to knit, a couple of other men in my family “came out” to me that they also knit. On person in particular, my cousin who’s a redneck hellraiser if there ever was one, admitted to me he likes to get drunk and knit. I couldn’t have been more surprised. So I wonder if there aren’t some men who knit on the sly, not wanting to admit to it.

    I guess I’ve never understood a lot of the gender role stuff, but it’s kind of funny that other sorts of crafting, such as woodworking, are considered so manly, and yet knitting is not. To me, the enjoyment of any craft is the completion of a finished product. And knitting is something that’s so tangible, it seems like the sort of thing that would appeal to men.

    I do knit in public on occasion, and not once has anybody ever remarked on it. 🙂

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  8. I did not know this. Fascinating! And it certainly speaks to the cultural aspect of what is considered “feminine” or “masculine.” Thank you for sharing this with me

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  9. Sumana says:

    Some mountain communities in India knit a lot – men and women. My mom, as an undergraduate student in India, got caught up in this campaign to knit for our soldiers (must have been during one of the India-Pakistan wars). She would knit on the bus and one day the security at the college gate asked her what she was making. And when she pulled out the sweater (jumper?) she was working on, he pulled out his project!! They compared notes and had a happy chat about patterns and such. This guy was from the Gurkha community who hail from Nepal and are known for their fighting spirit and bravery. Many of them served and continue to serve in the armed forced. In fact we have Gurkha regiments in the Indian army.

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  10. rantoniomg says:

    Crochet is. I haven’t made anything lately but once I made a hat for a friend and then I decided I needed one for myself and basically running out of yarn prevented me from making hats for anyone else. 😛

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  11. Is it as addictive to men as it is for women? 🙂

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  12. Pingback: Finished Projects « The Man Who Knits

  13. rantoniomg says:

    In answer to your question(s), yeah, I knit and crochet but I prefer the latter. I knew one other guy who crochets. I’ve never taught anyone to do either. 😀

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  14. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to check it out (and I love film noir!).

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  15. I am a big fan of Wonder Mike and his podcast Fiber Beat at http://fiberbeat.libsyn.com/ . (I found them on iTunes.) He finds all these little side streets of the fiber world. He might interview someone who has a new design for drop spindles, or who revitalized a town in Paraguay with a small yarn industry. The interviews are interesting in themselves, but then Wonder Mike blends in a humor and perspective from film noir or Sherlock Holmes novels. He has kept me entertained through many a long road trip!

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  16. Interesting. I don’t remember teaching women who wanted to jump into projects like that. Hmmm. Well, except for Thor, who’s now planning a project and is particular about the yarn he wants. I have a hunch whatever it is will include a cable. He loves ’em. 🙂

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  17. jingersnaps says:

    I used to work in a knitting store and taught several men how to knit. What I loved most about it was that the guys who wanted to get started always had a specific project or technique in mind and were never, ever scared to jump right in the deep end. They started off with crazy colorwork, socks and stocking, dog sweaters, and double-sided knitting as first projects and were completely gung-ho.

    I’ve taught my boyfriend to knit as well, and he made an oddly-shaped blanket that was originally supposed to be for a future nephew until he turned out to be twins. The cat now loves it instead. He’s got a stripey scarf in the works, but doesn’t quite have to determination to finish.

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  18. I am glad to know there are some men who are not reluctant to let others know they knit (and design)!

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  19. domesticnews says:

    A couple in our dinner group are both good knitters. He has designed patterns and completed gifts for his staff.

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  20. CrochetQueen says:

    That’s awesome! 🙂

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  21. I snickered as I read your last paragraph. When I taught women’s studies classes, there were always male students who took the class thinking that was the best place to meet girls! 🙂

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  22. So does he include warp preparation and warping the loom in the “speed” ? 🙂 Maybe he’s just the kind of person who prefers the end process more than the product. For instance, I find warping the loom the most enjoyable part … which many thinks is very weird!

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  23. I think a man’s textile group would be a good way to get men interested in the art to come!

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  24. Maybe one day you’ll set your needles down and leave the room, and he’ll pick it up and give it a try! 🙂

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  25. Sadly we live in a society where a boy who wants to do fiber arts is mocked. 😦 That said, there are men like Peter Collingwood and his son Jason, Kaffe Fasset, Eugen Beugler and lots of male textile artist bloggers! 🙂

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  26. Thank you; I am flattered! I will go to your post later today and read the instructions.

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  27. Maybe he wasn’t trying hard. 🙂 I haven’t read that men are generally talented at knitting/crocheting, but there are lots of studies of gender and math skills. Curiously, females outdo males on math tests until gender issues become more divisive. When I was in college, I volunteered as a geometry and math tutor at an inner city school. At one session, a trio of girls came, sat down, and rather defiantly said, “Why are we here? Everybody knows girls aren’t good at math.” I silenced them with, “Then why is your tutor female.” Their confidence increased and their math skills certainly did too. 🙂

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  28. I think you should write about a post about men who knit/crochet! I look forward to reading it!

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  29. Most of the guys I know can knit, but choose not to. Partly because it’s a girl thing, partly because they have other hobbies they’d prefer to do, and partly because they hate thinking about clothes altogether. I swear most of them would rather go around naked than go shopping (is that because they consider it a girl thing too? Who knows)

    There were also usually quite a few guys at our local knit night, but most of them were there because they’d realised (or been told) that they would be centre of attention in a room full of women. But that only works the first time, so they were rarely seen again.

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  30. MmmYarn says:

    I taught Mr. MmmYarn and he was doing k2p2 ribbing within half an hour, with no mistakes. He stuck with weaving; thought knitting was far too slow and weaving involved a big-ish machine (the loom) and was therefore more interesting for him than little needles.

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  31. katzendog says:

    I’ve never taught a man to knit but I know many who do and several who crochet and quite a few who spin and weave. I work part-time at a yarn shop and a man owned part of the shop and worked there and taught sock knitting. He’s moved now but we have another guy on staff now. He’s starting a guys’ knitting group at the request of a young male knitter.(He made flyers with Russell Crowe’s and Cary Grant’s pictures and our female customers wanted to come.

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  32. Russell Farr-Jones says:

    I knit. I have a blog about it too. 🙂 I also crochet, which I think I love more than knitting. I still have an issue with other people knowing I knit (although my partner takes great joy in telling people). It’s weird as its not really considered manly. I was thinking of writing a post about men who knit myself so will think about this in more detail,,,

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  33. CrochetQueen says:

    I tried to teach my boyfriend to crochet, and he couldn’t get past the chain. However, I read somewhere (sorry I can’t remember where) that men are generally talented at knitting and crocheting because they often have good math skills, and the two are somehow correlated.

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  34. I’ve definitely known men who knit, especially when I was in college. I’ll occasionally catch hubby watching in absolute fascination while I knit, and he asks lots of intelligent questions about it. Can’t quite convince him to pick up the needles and try it out though.

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  35. grimdreamer says:

    Sad to say I’ve never seen any guy knitting. Although my brother did learn how to make rugs and he was the only one I saw ever doing such a thing. Not sure he does it now, but guys should really give it a try!

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  36. At least he tried it, which is probably more than many men would do. 🙂

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  37. Good for your son! What’s the old saying – “the family that crochets together …” 🙂

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  38. I’ve always hated the “male default.” Thankfully at least it’s now considered sexist in formal, academic and professional writing.

    But it is rather interesting, isn’t it, that women could engage in an array of stereotypically “male” skills without being mocked … let’s see: fishing, whittling, mowing lawns, changing car’s oil … That just makes women seem more capable. Yet let it be known that a man sews, crochets, knits, cooks, etc. and suddenly he risks becoming the butt of jokes.

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  39. Hmmm … weak excuse! 🙂

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  40. Thanks for referring me to ths site!

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  41. To which most of us can only hope to aspire!! Yes, that man has always had stunning ideas!

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  42. Maybe if he sees you wearing warm wooly sweaters he’ll think about it. I was surprised to see how much Thor actually enjoyed knitting … he asked me how hard it would be to knit a hat so I think he’ll want more lessons from me. Whether he’ll tell his friends … don’t know. 🙂

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  43. Maybe we could attract more men by also teaching how knitting and crochet needles could be used as weapons too. Joking! Well, sort of — my grandson found a bunch of my very long single points and uses them as swords when plays pirates. As does my granddaughter!

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  44. Maybe if you ran a “men only” class – I’ve seen women only backpacking trips. ?? Yes, do let me know!

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  45. I agree! And when I was growing up, the girls in our family also split kindly, chopped down trees, roofed, painted buildings, scraped paint, sanded piers .. Now that I think of it, the MEN in the family weren’t canning fruits/vegetables but that was something we women ALSO did … No wonder there are so many women in family who chose not to marry! 🙂

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  46. loulouandlillybean says:

    My son asked me to teach him to knit last year while he was home for a visit……I did and now he knits. I use to watch the Crochet Dude on PBS all the time and have gotten several good patterns from him. Men knitting and crocheting is a very good thing in my opinion!!!

    loulouandlillybean

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  47. Curls & Q says:

    I have asked my Hubs numerous times if he wants to learn how to knit he says, “What if one day you wake up and I’m a better knitter that you and I have to teach you stuff. How would you feel?” LOL! That’s his reason for saying “No”. I do keep trying! 😎

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  48. My mother taught both my brother and I to knit when we were kids (1970s). I remember him knitting squares for a scout troop project but have not seen him knit since! Of course there is Kaffe Fassett… I’m about to setup some crochet workshops so will keep you posted as to whether any men (apart from toddlers) show up.

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  49. P. Taylor says:

    You will be surprised at the number of men who knit. The website is http://www.menwhoknit.com/.

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  50. agujasblog says:

    Karen – I want to let you know that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. See my post on this award for next steps: http://agujasblog.com/2012/06/01/versatile-blogger-award/ Enjoy!

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  51. Vi says:

    Very interesting post! I’ve watched those documentaries before and was amazed at the types of male “closet knitters” out there. I’d love to see a man knitting in public one day, but now that I think about it I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man knitting period.

    When I was gathering some of my friends to join a knitting club I was starting at university one of my male friends earnestly wanted to learn how to knit and join the club and now he’s treasurer of the club that will be starting next semester.

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  52. bamboo#1 says:

    I taught my brother to knit a couple of years ago or so, and he does do it very occasionally. I don’t think he’s finished anything, though, because everything has to be perfect and he insists on only using patterns as starting points. He spends a lot of time ripping back. He’s a braver knitter than I 🙂

    At least back when I was in school in the 90s (don’t know how it is now) both boys and girls were taught to knit and sew and stuff in school. In principle you could choose whether to do wood & metal working or fabric/yarn crafts, but in practice all girls did the fabric things and all the boys did the woodworking – I hope it’s not that clear cut anymore. But at least for one year, these were switched around, so everyone got to learn the more basic skills.

    I also have an acquaintance from my university who taught himself to knit… And that’s it.

    This is something I think about pretty often, actually, because it seems that most knitting books and podcasts and everything knitting related addresses the reader as a female/assumes the reader is female. That bothers me a bit. I recognize that in a lot of other spaces “male” is the default, but I would still prefer if the language were equal/neutral in knitting publications of all kinds.

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  53. Michelle@craftingcollege says:

    I knit around my college friends, and while some think it’s funny one of best guy friends was really interested. I got him some needles and taught him and I think he really liked it, not sure how much he’ll continue in the future though.

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  54. Kaffe Fassett is a great man – glorious knitting to which I can only aspire.

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  55. tgonzales says:

    Karen,

    About three years ago my son who was 18 asked if I could teach him to crochet. I jumped at the chance and after 5 minutes he knew how to crochet. Of course he had watched his sister and me crochet for years and took to it naturally. In the short amount of time that he has been crocheting he has made 5 afghans, numerous hats and scarves, a couple of Christmas ornament covers, and I’m not sure what else. But I feel so proud that he wanted to carry on a long family tradition of crochet and its also fun to know that he has another creative outlet besides his acting. Thanks for sharing the stories of men or knit and crochet. I love hearing all about that subject.

    Hugs,
    Tamara

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  56. Julia says:

    I taught my now-husband to knit when were still in sort of pre-courtship, but he hasn’t really done it since then. I ask now and then if he wants to try again, so we’ll see.

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