Friday, August 02, 2013

Men With Needles And Yarn

I grew up with my mom knitting whenever she was watching tv or doing other activities that left her hands free.  So it's not a complete surprise that my son has started knitting.  In Bainbridge he took me to Churchmouse Yarn and Tea shop while he was looking for some needles. And I had my camera.  (The pictures were all taken at the shop.)

Apparently, knitting is relatively new. 

"A quick cruise of the Oxford Unabridged English Dictionary also reveals that the term 'to knit' wasn't added to English until the 1400s. Further poking around will reveal that any term meaning 'to knit', specifically make loops with two long, straight needles, wasn't in any European language before the Renaissance. Other than the Middle East, and Spain, other places in the world were even later in their assigning words for knitting. It's pretty obvious; knitting hasn't been around that long. Most of what we're left with in terms of physical evidence is a tiny pile of knitted fragments, and a lot of speculation. And did I mention the knit fragments are really hard to interpret? Before the development of knitting, a craft called nalbinding was used to make stretchy fabrics. [original link didn't work so I put a new one in] for a quickie lesson on how nalbinding is done. The drawbacks are obvious immediately.) Termed 'one needle knitting' by some museums, it is similar to knitting in structure, but stronger, less stretchy, and a lot more difficult to create. The resulting fabric would look very sloppy unless done by a master, and it wasn't something you could have the kids do while tending the sheep -- unlike knitting."

Somehow, knitting has come to be thought of as a woman's activity.  But Yarn Boy sets us straight:
Since there was money to be made from knitting (and we already know the history of how men feel about women making money), it was initially a male-dominated craft. It is generally believed that sailors and traders from Arabia, as well as Catholic missionaries,were responsible for spreading the craft of knitting around the world. Knitting didn't become the female-associated activity that it is today until cheaper and faster methods for making clothing were developed, and men moved on to other forms of world domination. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was highly unusual for a man to knit.
I didn't know that Catholic/Muslim link. 

I found a number of men's knitting blogs. 
(Almost) Eternal Bliss
There are moments in a knitters life that are without match. Usually they are relatively fleeting- a finished project, a mother’s joy at her new shawl or the admiration of others as they see skilled fingers producing intricate lace. I’d hardly imagined that it was possible to string a series of these moments together to create something akin to Nirvana, but this past weekend proved me wrong.
My dear friend Matthew had pestered me for years to attend a Men’s Knitting Retreat. For one reason or another, I’d never been able to go. This year, Matthew took matters into his own hands and essentially signed me up whether I wanted to go or not. I acquiesced, requested a few days off and packed my bags. .  .

With Icelandic Air flying non-stop to Anchorage this summer, here's a link to an Icelandic knitter on video.  Here's the description:
Halló, this is Iceland. It is true that my men are very manly, and sometimes have names that are hard for you to say. This is Þórgnýr Thoroddsen, whose name is very hard to say, but he makes up for it by being a very good (and manly) knitter. If you see him on one of my streets, and would like him to give you some advice on how to do knitting like an Icelandic man, just call out “Halló, Icelandic man with a difficult name who knits! Stop and show me how!” He will not mind at all.

From the House of Humble blog:  (nice picture of him sitting on a huge, colorful, crocheted, I think, quilt)
"In the Winter of 2010, I was on a train crossing the Hawkesbury river on the way to my job in Sydney. I had my headphones blaring (I would have been listening to either Neil Young’s Comes a Time or Hold Time by M. Ward, as those were my train riding albums) and I was knitting an iPod cover in the shape of a crocodile. Every now and then I’d look up from my work to check on the journey’s progress and enjoy the scenery out the window. Once when I looked up, the old lady sitting across from me mouthed something and smiled. I’m a terrible lip reader so the headphones came out to sit on my lap. She was saying something along the lines of “It’s so lovely to see a young man knitting.” Sadly her husband continued to stare out the window and didn’t add to the ensuing conversation.
One of our awesome bloggy neighbours, Raynor from The Shy Lion, was in the paper over the weekend. It was an article all about people who do things that defy gender stereotypes. They interviewed Raynor because, like me, he is a man who knits and crochets. Reading the article got me thinking about being a man and a crafter, and it reminded me of the friendly old lady and her less friendly husband.

Knitting With A Y: The Accounts of A Male Knitter  
 "25 year old clarinetist living in Minnesota. Began knitting summer '07 and can't seem to put the needles down! Ravelry name: yarndude"

Mad Man Knitting is a blog by a man who's knitting Teddy Bears for a living.  His book page gives a quick summary:
I was the head server at one of Savannahs most successful and popular restaurants, The Firefly Cafe, catering to the best of this citys blue-bloods. But, once the restaurant was sold, everything changed. The new owners were running the business into the ground, my partner left, my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and my weight dropped to a 115 pounds. And while most people find themselves escaping into drugs and alcohol, I became obsessed with knitting. I spent long hours chugging beer after beer and working on any pattern I could come across, developing a psychotic routine of mindless action while life around me was crumbling.

These next two blogs' titles reflect male knitter sensitivity to their image:
The Straight Male Knitter
We walk unseen among you. We possess both “Y” chromosomes and knitting needles. We’re equally at home in a yarn shop and a gentleman’s club. When admiring exceptional décolletage, we may find ourselves distracted by the softness of a mohair sweater as it clings to the complex curves of your bust. If we ask to touch that delicate fabric, rest assured we do want to experience the fabric. But that probably isn’t all we want to touch. We are men. We love women. And we knit.
It Takes Balls To Knit: A big-balled, bald man with sharp sticks -
 On July 25, I was lucky enough to be one of the 3,000 or so knitters in attendance a the 9th Annual Stitch ‘N’ Pitch event at the Seattle mariners baseball game! What a blast we had – and Seattle won the game 8-2, due in large part to a barrage of runs in the 2nd inning. 6 runs as a matter of fact. In that 6th inning Nick Franklin went yard, I mean went yarn for a 3 run blast!
It turns out we were in close proximity last week because my son took me to the Stitch 'N' Pitch night Seattle Mariners baseball game too.  

Men Who Knit has blogs, forums, even a store.

There's an ABC News video at this website on male inmates learning to knit.
"I'm arrested for armed kidnapping and I love knitting."
Every Thursday around dusk, a group of men, hardened criminals sentenced for a variety of violent crimes and incarcerated at the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Md., can be found with knitting needles in hand and balls of yarn in their laps.

Yarn Boy (the history quote above) also has original patterns and is one of the smartest looking male knitting blogs I saw.   He lives in San Francisco and I guess the young twins he mentions are taking up a lot of time because the most recent post on his blog is April 2012.

This post was supposed to be a short, quick photo post from the yarn shop.  A quick post while I finish some longer posts that need more thinking.  But I'm finding all sorts of websites on this topic.  But I need to stop and go to bed.   But here's one more link - to Knit Vienna - that has lots of pictures of knitted and crocheted decorations in urban settings as well as a section on men knitters (middle of the page) that includes pictures from some of the websites I'd found - including the picture I liked at House of Humble and the Icelandic video. 

My son gave me a baby hat he'd knitted to bring back to Anchorage as a gift for a friend's new addition.  

1 comment:

  1. Steve -- you're right that House of Humble is sitting on a crocheted cover. Many brownie points to you for distinguishing between crochet and knitting. Those of us who do these crafts get very huffy when people mistake one for another. This one is the traditional "granny square" pattern that was so popular in the 70s among hippie types and beginning crocheters.

    But you're not right to call it a "crocheted quilt." A quilt is technically a covering made of two or three layers of fabric held together by stitching. I would describe Humble's thing as an afghan or perhaps (loosely) a blanket.

    Love the post -- and glad that your son has found a craft that is so satisfying!


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