A couple of weeks ago the Wall Street Journal reported that truckers are taking up stitching to pass idle time. Yes, really, men do knit. It was in fact, very likely men who invented the craft to begin with. The craft originated in the middle east and was spread throughout the world by the traders, sailors and missionaries. (Sailors certainly makes sense..when one thinks of making nets for fishing and knot tying). Men first began knitting in order to create fabrics for utilitarian purposes (socks were the first pieces found) as a vocation.
In the early days of knitting as an industry, the process to join a Guild as a Master knitter was a 6 year process that an apprentice undertook to perfect his craft an prove his skill. A man could earn his way in the world by being a Master knitter. Those days would end with the advent of machines during the industrial revolution however, many country-folk continued on in smaller communities, in Wales, Ireland and in Scotland. Men, and in some instances, entire families in these communities continued to knit as it still proved a viable means of earning a livelihood. This is the era that brought Aran and Fair Isle knitting to us and yet by the 20th century, male knitters became a rarity.
Although male knitters may have become somewhat of an endangered species, there have been some very notable male knitters in more recent history such as Alexei Romanov, Sir Francis Avery Jones, George Washington Carver and Jacques Plante, FDR and Cary Grant to name a few.
Today, knitting is seeing a resurgence among the male population (or more of them are coming out of hiding), and is counted as a past time of a few football players, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne and quite possibly even Brad Pitt (unconfirmed but I now wonder about the knit hats he is often seen wearing).
It is said that Russell Crowe took up knitting to assist with his anger management and perhaps it is the zen of knitting that leads these and other A-Types to take it up. We do know that knitting can be a great de-stresser. It also seems that truckers are taking up knitting and quilting to pass the time between layovers.
It is also still possible to earn a living in the knitting world today (although I’m not aware of any Guilds that require 6 years to join) as evidenced by Barry Klein, owner of Trendsetter Yarns and Rick Mondragon, editor of Knitter’s Magazine. Barry has also published a number of knitting books, designed patterns for all the top knitting magazines and seems to be everywhere where knitters are.
Bringing men who knit to the internet, there now exists a terrific, relatively new knitting community online aptly named “Men Who Knit” that is a very active community (but have no fear, ladies are also welcome). If you are interested in connecting with men who knit you might also check out some of these blogs;
- the Boy Who Knits
- Crafty Andy
- Knitter Guy
- Knitting With a “Y”: the Accounts of a Male Knitter
Actually, I have found so many that I’ll add these links and the rest to the resources page on our website if you want to do more reading.
To this day, knot tying remains an art (think boy scout badges and sailing) worthy of being handed down so why “knot” knitting? Why isn’t there a boy scout badge for knitting?