Monastery Knitting

This weekend I went on a retreat at Saint Gregory's monastery in Three Rivers MI... I actually knitted in public at the guesthouse. If I had not attended the mens Knitting retreat this past fall I probably would have retreated to my room and knitted there(part of my own Opus Dei) one of the women on the retreat asked if I was knitting, the comment was "she tried but never got the hang of it." I think it was novel for her to see me doing this. The other male in the guest house didn't say much. Just said hello. There was something rather daring and exciting to do this for the first time on my own. Something freeing at the same time. With so many years of "closeted" knitting at home in this community here in Fort Wayne, it felt remarkably freeing for me. I didn't get to spend much more time at the monastery. The storm was moving in and and being in the country the roads would have been really bad. So I had to leave.


Joe-in Wyoming's picture

How nice that you took your knitting with you on the retreat. Since knitting is meditative, it would make a nice way to have contemplative activity, yet be respectful of the needs of others around you if they are in silence. I took my knitting to New York with me several years ago - staying in a convent for a friend's Profession - and had a nice time knitting around the city and in the religious community. Too bad your retreat had to be cut short by the weather.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

jinct's picture

Good for you! So many people have forgotten, or just don’t know, that knitting was very much a male activity for a long time. I belong to two knitting groups where I am the only man; I helped to start one of them. I think the more men knit in public it will become commonplace, and people will stop looking at us like we’ve just stepped off some sort of UFO. Keep clicking those needles anywhere you want!

bobinthebul's picture

While I appreciate the fact that knitting was once more accepted as a male activity, and agree that it is one way to change public perception about knitting specifically, I am sometimes a bit dismayed by the apparent need to "justify" it that way. (jinct, I'm not saying you "need" to, I'm speaking in a general way. Your post simply reminded me of something that's come into my thoughts frequently) I don't mean that we shouldn't be aware of it of course, or that it's "wrong" to bring it up. But one of the things I became quite aware of after I came out of the closet was how often I had shied away from doing certain things because they might be perceived as feminine. For example I'm also a gardener and it was amazingly freeing to not worry about what someone might think when I brought a bouquet of flowers to enjoy in my office. I suppose it's nice to know that in England and Holland there is no such taboo on men and horticulture but I'd like to see people free to do what makes them happy without needing some "male precedent" to justify loving it themselves.

It happens here too - when I knit on a boat for example, I almost always get a guy telling me that in such-and-such a village, the men knit. It's almost like they have to find an excuse for me, or fit me into some safe category to get past their own discomfort with the fact that there's this big guy with a moustache knitting a sock in front of them. ;)

That said, I'm still under the influence myself - I have knit some lace but I don't think I'd work on a lace shawl on public transport. I could "justify" that by saying it requires a lot of concentration and I wouldn't want to be distracted, but honestly the real reason is that I *would* feel the judgment when people would look at me and think "erkek degil" ("He's not a man!"). Mental habits are hard to change!

Bill's picture

Although I often knit in public...I also sometimes have to think about the particular project I'll take with me...some are a bit too feminine..
Yet I have no problem wearing a scarf that has sequins or metallic threads in it....


I kinda flip between that subject as well. I know one knitting shop I go to and the women run up thinking it novel that a "man" can be knitting. (I am not sure what the REAL issue with this is) but after I talk to them and they see that I do know what I am doing the novelty of it runs off and the realize that I am just like them.east (at least when it comes to craft)
I have always been aware there are unwritten laws that people think men and women should follow. I always questioned this. It made my parents mad at times. I guess I see myself at times a shaker of tradition. I fondly remember telling my mother that my best friend in college shared her issues with menes and my mother said it was something a "nice" man doesn't talk about with girls LOL.
I guess I never inside felt I had to do something to justify myself. (I figure if they don't like it they can move) I know who I am and will continue to what I like and not what people expect me to do.
One thing I still struggle with and taking these risk helps me to deal with what my father use to tell me. I was born breach position. Somehow (I am not sure how) he attached this to my mental status. "He's always backwards" After hearing this said to me over 20 some years, I've some to see this now as a positive, more than when I was younger a negative. Being "backwards" means your clever your enduring and you are progressive. And its no reflection of who I am.

Tom Hart's picture

I knit in public almost everyday. I’ve honestly and sincerely never thought of knitting as remotely feminine. My early projects were extremely masculine. I made a couple of rugs from jute gardening twine. Paper-bag brown and deep forest green. It was like something you’d find in a barn. It would be physically impossible for most women to have made those rugs. It was tough for me and I’ve got big guy-hands. Plus most women knitters would not be interested in handling jute (think burlap bags or gunny sacks) twine.

And now I’m doing socks. Everyday socks. The impression I like to give when I knit in public is that knitting is utterly ordinary. And it is. In the late Middle Ages entire populations knitted. Men, women and children. People ask me what I’m making and I’ll say, “A sock.” And they’ll say, “Is it for you?” And I’ll say, “Yeah.” And you can see the reassurance on their face. “Oh, he’s just making himself a sock.” There’s something very ordinary, very “homo sapiens” about making one’s self a sock. Socks are utterly common and are something everyone with feet wears. People get that.


In Colombia those beautiful knits they do in hats and other items are knitted by both men and women(what amazes me is they do it on dps in the round from the opposite side (ws)) I think somewhere in the centuries of evolution of work we assigned knitting as a female occupation something useful she can do in the house at night when everything else was done.