Crafting A New Narrative: Why Men should Embrace Knitting

In our societies, prescriptive gender roles still linger and, in some ways, the stoking of “anti-woke” gender wars embed ideas of binary sex and gender even more firmly in social languages. What maketh a man or maketh a woman might seem to have little to do with knitting, but it’s time to redefine deeply embedded narratives and champion the idea that crafting, like knitting, crochet or quilting, is a pastime for anyone, including men who knit. In recent generations, knitting has been disparaged as a feminine interest (and that itself has all kinds of problematic strands to it). Let’s make it simpler: such views overlook the myriad of benefits and simple enjoyment that knitting can bring to someone, regardless of their gender identity. This article aims to underscore why knitting can be a gender-neutral endeavour and how this multifaceted craft can, even should, challenge social conventions and promote inclusivity.

The historical weave of knitting & its alignment with women

Knitting possesses a deep-seated history, initially undertaken by both men and women to create necessary warm clothing, to make fishing nets, to create comforting bedding. There’s a long history about how ideas of the internal (home) and external (outside) became normalised and congruous with ideas of femininity (home/personal) and masculinity (outside/external). Knitting was cast as a chiefly feminine activity, carried out by women to clothe their families. As cultural norms have evolved, the perception of knitting has been slower to escape those gendered associations. However, that shouldn’t restrain us, as knitting should be embraced as a skill that has little to do with gender, rather it grants the knitter a way to exercise their creative self.

Re-emergence of Men in the Knitting Landscape

There has been a visible resurgence of men getting interested in knitting, driven to some extent by ideas of comfort, an appreciation for handmade things and a quest for creative expression. The movement has had many leaders, including people from the LGBTQ+ community, but also straight and cis male stitchers. There are a new set of connections between guys who knit, who might have felt pretty isolated in the past. The traditional ‘social networks’ for knitters included knitting guilds and women’s institutes (I’ve been called “lady” more than once!). Those were (and are) essential social spaces for women and I think they’re great. However, the real change has been with online buying and social media platforms like Facebook groups, Instagram and TikTok. Online stores allowed men nervous to buy yarn in public to try the craft out unimpeded. Plus, social networks have created spaces for men to share their knitting work, and they have fostered an inclusive environment, making it clearly okay to be part of the knitting fold.

The Benefits of Knitting for Men

I suspect the benefits of knitting are no different for men and for women! It’s a fun activity, a way of working with your hands (while doing something else like enjoying music or a movie). It is productive, you’re making a ‘thing’ by yourself, while much of our work lives might feel less tangible, so you can feel accomplished (good for self-esteem). There are also benefits for mental wellbeing and personal growth. Knitting is a calming activity that can feel meditative; alleviating stress and allowing you to be mindful. Plus, you get to be creative while having to work through problem-solving puzzles!

Well-known MEN WHO KNIT

A number of prominent male figures have embraced knitting. You may well know of Kaffe Fassett, the designer and artist (known both for knitting and quilting fabrics). Alasdair Post-Quinn is well-known for double-knitting and geometric designs. In the UK, the Olympic Medallist Diver, Tom Daley has become known for his pool-side knitting, helping to shatter some normative barriers along the way! Who else comes to mind? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the article.

Addressing Societal Barriers and Misconceptions

How male knitters are perceived has seen some improvement. Personally, I feel more comfortable about going into a yarn store than I did ten years ago, and that’s for two reasons. First, I feel more welcome in most yarn stores I enter; nobody is batting an eyelid anymore. Second, I feel more confident that this is my craft too and that self-confidence has worn away any of my old internal (self)prejudices.

It’s time for any existing stereotypes and misconceptions to be confronted. It was ‘traditional’ to question the masculinity of men who knit. However, it’s critical to remember that knitting, like any craft or hobby, does not dictate a person’s sexuality or gender identity. To dispel the barriers might require us male knitters to speak up and be more visible. Some people will always be ignorant, but being visible will inspire more people to take up the craft, and there’s nothing that I love more than discussing yarn with others!

Communities and Resources for Men Interested in Knitting

There are a lot of online resources for men interested in knitting.

Social Media: Although I rarely use Facebook any more, I do stay connected with Facebook groups for men who knit (a search in your area will find one, or there’s a general one which has mainly US-based knitters). Plus why not follow male knitters on Instagram or TikTok? [You can find me on Instagram by clicking here].

Ravelry: The knitting pattern platform, Ravelry, provide tutorials, patterns, and forums for knitters of all levels. I’ve found some excellent men’s scarf and hat patterns and connected with pattern-makers who design things that I really love (Nordic designs, Rauma yarn, Shetland knitting, multi-strand colour-work).

Local yarn stores: some local yarn shops offer classes and workshops tailored to men, providing a supportive environment where they can learn from seasoned knitters.

Conclusion: The Need for Gender-Inclusive Crafting

Knitting is so versatile that it’s a great avenue for allowing your creativity out (and having something at the end of it!). But it’s more than making a thing. It’s also a way of creating and fostering meaningful connections (online or in person). By promoting gender-inclusive crafting, we’re creating space for more people to explore their creative potential, to find joy in knitting and forging more friendly and diverse communities. Knitting is not the only creative platform through which to rethink social stereotypes, but I hope that each stitch that I make helps to unmake outmoded norms!!

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