Not ready to be outed as a “man who knits”

So I managed to get up early to stand in a very long queue for the start of London’s I Knit Day 2008 exhibition on Saturday. With the exception of a couple of trips to yarn stores, this is the closest I’ve come so far to admitting that I’m a [whispers] “man who knits”.

There were two surprising things about the day: just how many people are prepared to stand in the rain waiting to get into a knitting exhibition; and that I seemed to be the only guy in a queue that run almost the length of two streets. Fortunately, the rain meant that I could hide myself under an umbrella trying not to be recognised.

Exhibitors were of a high quality and certainly attracting punters. An engaging guy on the Lana Pura stall was extremely pleasant; though his suggestion of joining a local knitting group is way too advanced for someone who is still at the stage where being a [whispers again] “man who knits” is probably best kept as a furtive secret.

The marketplace stalls were really good, with a few so popular that a high degree of determination was necessary to get near the merchandise. I spent what felt like a thousand pounds of some fantastic marled yarn from Black Hills, which is destined to become an extremely dreamily soft sweater. Had I been inclined to take on a debt equivalent to a small developing nation, I could have been tempted to a sweater’s worth of Manos Del Uruguay "Wool Clasica".

I think I managed to escape and get back to the non-knitting world without being recognised. A day well spent, but until there are more of us, I will not be outing myself any time soon.


Marknits's picture

I can't say I understand the social milieu in which you live, but what is so horrifying about being a man who knits?

Britisher's picture

Well, I'm sure you recognise that my post is just a little tongue in cheek, but I don't think I know a single other man who knits. Sure they exist, but not many would admit it in public. If it weren't for this site, one could imagine being rather alone over here.

I've been seen knitting in the airport and other places. Have had older ladies (60's+) aproach and talk to me about knitting, crocheting, quilting, and how it's so nice to see men doing it, and so on.

Kerry's picture

World Knit in Public Day is a very liberating experience ;-)

YugiDean's picture

I think what made me more confident regarding my hobby was learning some of the history...that men were the originators of knitting. Fishermen and noblemen both. Fishermen out of necessity and noblemen out of boredom. These days I think we're a little of both. LOL

I have never once had anyone comment on or regard my knitting with any form of prejudice or negativity. In fact, I work with a gentleman about ten years my senior who saw me knitting and informed me that he used to knit back when he was a kid and that seeing me do it made him wish he'd kept up the habit.

I don't think of myself as being "alone." Even before I found this site, I preferred the concept "unique." ;-)

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright

AdrianG's picture

I think it must be a UK thing.

I find it very uncomfortable to knit in public... in fact since I've started again in my early 40s I find it even more of a challenge. I can't quite work out why. I'm an out gay man living in central London. Pretty confident and don't take any nonsense from people on the street -- so why should I feel so odd about my knitting? I even find it a bit embarrassing to tell my friends about it.



Come on now, where's that famous British stiff upper lip?

Britisher's picture

I think you may have put your proverbial finger on the problem. The British 'stiff upper lip' probably still go hand-in-hand with the last vestiges of a rather rigid sense of gender roles. Nobody bats an eyelid at boys who are able to cook, they can enjoy decorating their homes or choosing furnishings, it's even OK to use skin-care products, but probably still aren't really supposed to cry in public (unless they are also sportsmen) or sit around kitting sweaters (or even socks).

Thanks for posting about it. I appreciated your insight and enjoyed your humor.

crmartin's picture

I'm a little shy about knitting in public although I have done it on a limited basis. I'm not shy about telling anyone that I knit and have brought items into work that were auctioned off for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event.



MasonM's picture

LOL I enjoyed your post. As an American long haul trucker I knit in truck stops and pubs all over the country. Proudly and unashamedly.

You may be surprised at the number of men who do indeed knit or crochet but, like you, simply don't do it publicly. I've had quite a few tell me they do but just aren't secure enough to do it in public.


Linux: because a PC is a terrible thing to waste


Linux: because a PC is a terrible thing to waste

I have knit in public all over the country (US) and have been into yarn shops in several states. I have gotten some funny looks in airports, and a couple of shop keepers in Buffalo NY seemed shocked to have me come in, but the vast majority seem to get a kick out of a big bear of a guy playing with sticks and string...

Donski's picture

LOL made me smile... After entering the shawl at the show at the weekend (see my blog) I guess I am an "out" knitter now :) But like you it's behind closed doors. My mates now know i knit and are a bit amused but interested in it. I think practically all of them have said they learned to knit when they were kids. Not so much the girly thing that I worry about , more like looking a bit like Angela Lansbury sat with my needles on a park bench LOL. Think I'll keep the knitting an "at home" affair and just show me wares in public :)

PS: join I set up a group for Brit men who knit, at the next Iknit we'll all meet up and go en massé :) safety in numbers.

ManMadeKnits's picture

I'm always surprised to hear how difficult it has been for some people to knit in public as men. When I began, granted, I was in a very liberal college full of quakers, hippies, and gays. Now, however, I live in the very conservative suburbs and I've never received any negative flak about except lovingly from friends. Like Yugi, I took a lot of comfort in the fact that men INVENTED THE FUCKING CRAFT and would launch into the appropriately fact-filled diatribe when somone commented that it's amazing that even guys knit in this day and age, but now I just talk about how much I love it. Besides, it sells more scarves than a gender-righteous rant.

For those of you trying to overcome their yarny agoraphobia, find a friend who attends a knit together and take it from there. When in doubt arm yourself with a slew of witty repartées. I think it was Mason who quipped my favorite when criticised at a truck stop one day: "I took up knitting as part of an anger-management program after beating the shit out of some jerk at a truck stop."

It's our craft, don't be afraid to own it.

"The only sin is mediocrity." --Martha Graham

steve kadel's picture

quakers, hippies and gays, oh my. quakers hippies and gays, oh my.

we put birds on things

MMario's picture

The Patchwork Jester of Oz?

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

MMario's picture

A couple of years ago I got cast in a movie specifically because I knit in public. I got bumped from the part they originally wanted me to do by a dwarf; but still shot the whole movie with my current project either in my hands or tucked under my arm.

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation