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?