The Secret Knitters

Okay so I recently graduated college where I spent much of my time in Gender Studies. As a male knitter, the entire needle-work-world, especially knitting has fascinated me because it is a huge pocket of society that still suffers heavily from gender suffocation (or at least in the public sphere). I've been thinking a lot about how we (KNITTIN' MEN) have a great opportunity to make a difference. While I often find myself angry and frustrated with all of those people who so stringently cling to their gender expectations (so often unconsciously), I have to remember that many of them have not had those notions challenged and disproved.

In my gender-sensitive fantasy world, i imagine men and women knitting independently and happily in public. I think we would all agree that this is not an unrealistic future wish... or do we? Is there anyone else who reads on the subway, but is always thinking they would be so much more productive if they could work on their knitting projects each morning? Okay - I'll get to my point. As the weather begins to take on its autumn-chill (which is so wonderful after an NYC summer) I have seen a drastic increase of knitters on the trains every morning and evening. However... I have yet to see even ONE man brandishing his needles like the proud advocate I know we all secretly are.

I think we should organize some sort of Knit-In on the New York Subway systems this year. It would be a chore to orchestrate something that would be noticeable to the public. We men need something to kick our asses into gear and start showing people that we aren't ashamed of our knitter identities. I know for me its a huge personal challenge - despite my defiant streak and desires to throw gender norms out the window... often I just dont want to deal with the attention. its exhausting.

So I guess I'm writing to ask how you guys are feeling about these public guidelines that we're all limitied by. Maybe we could inspire eachother to get out there and change some minds???? Knitting Fridays on Subway commutes?

An often disappointed optimist.... its fine.


Knipper's picture

Interesting point to bring up today. I was working in my local yarn shoppe in Philadelphia and a customer came in - and commented "you look out of place". It irritated me since I have been knitting for 23 years. I thought about commenting "you don't look sexist or ignorant" but then does that thought process have a look? And she was the customer who talked non-stop to anyone and everyone, meaning that she was a dearth of conversation from first sylable to the last. It is amazing how people come into the store and are amazed that I know anything about knitting. Quite frankly, I know a good deal. I am just ranting know.

I lived in NYC from 1980-2003 and knitted in public everywhere particulary on public transport. I could wrap myself around the pole on the N or R while going to work and get a few rounds of hat knitting completed. Sometimes people asked me what I was knitting, got congratulated and some plain old stares.

I say go for having a public revolution of knitting in public.

Thanks for your reply!

I'm going to be in Philadelphia this weekend - I'd love to come check out your shop. My girlfriend lives in Philly, so I often spend time there on the weekends. The only knitting store her and I have been to though is Sophie's. I'd love to come by and check out your store as well as others while I'm there.

Kudos to your public gender-bending efforts!

Oh I hear you Knipper. I love to blast away at stereo types. I made history at my school when I was 16 & took Domestic Science instead of woodwork. It opened the door for several boys to follow my footsteps & become chefs as I did. I was a chef for 10 years mostly in office buildings & factories & all my co-workers were-you guessed it, women. Now I teach 4 & 5 year olds at a private school. How many male Pre-K teachers do you know?
When my son was a baby I was shopping with him & he needed a feed & nappy change. None of the male bathrooms were equipped for that in 1982. I spotted a sign that said "Mother & baby room" I walked in, took out his bottle fed him & changed him while other women were doing the same or breast feeding. I got a few hostile looks & mutterings but positve comments from a few mums.
Even though I consider myself shy deep down I realise that I'm a bit of a rebel!

Knit away, knit away

"They say best men are moulded out of faults; and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad." William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

JPaul's picture

I don't want to be insensitive, but come's just knitting...OR IS IT?

First, remember this:  There are no public guidelines.  If you're coming up against limits, they're self-imposed.

You make a really good point, Jared, about the need to challange people's antiquated notions of what activites are gender appropriate, but you have to start with your own.  And truthfully, I know it's not easy.  I think it's because it's NOT just's not so much about guys knitting as it is about guys not being "men".  Like any "coming out", the biggest hurdles you have to overcome are usually about fear.  Ask yourself what are you afraid of?  Being laughed at?  Having people think you're gay?

I was knitting in a coffee shop some time ago and a women told me how great it was to see a guy knitting and then asked me if I got teased alot?  Well, to start with, I'm nearly 40 and teasing doesn't have the same impact it did when I was eleven.  It was curious to me that even though she was thrilled to see me knitting, she expected I should be getting teased.  The good news is, she wasn't wondering if I get beat up alot.  If the worst we have to fear is a good teasing...

I knit in a public all the time and rarely even get asked about it.  If I notice someone watching, I'll smile and go on knitting, but it's usually uneventful.  Maybe that's city life.  I've seen some REALLY crazy people on public transportation and nobody bats an eye.  They go on reading their newspapers.  Maybe that's the key...act crazy while you're purling..."oh, yeah, that's the crazy knitting guy...just ignore him, he's not dangerous." 

I'm exploring these gender-bending questions in my new video, Real Men Knit, which is part instructional and part documentary and will hopefully inspire more men to give knitting a try. Unfortunately, my budget is limited and I can't travel to every city you guys are in, but I wish I could because you would all be excellent interviews. I am in central California (San Luis Obispo) and will be doing brief video interviews with guys who knit in California in the next couple of months. I am also travelling to Toronto at the end of this month to shoot the instructional part of the video with Eugene Bourgeois of Philosopher's Wool and will be talking to some entertaining Canadian men who knit to stay warm!

I would appreciate any leads to interesting, outgoing guys in CA or the Toronto area if anyone has any. I hope to get to NYC a little later this year too. I hate to miss the Knit Out in October but can't avoid it.

I'd appreciate any feedback or help with this project - it will be a DVD sold either alone or in a kit containing nice 100% wool yarn, circular needles and a pattern to make a beanie. It will be light-hearted and fun with an aim to make men (and women) look at men who knit a whole new way.