When the going gets tough, the tough get knitting

There’s nothing more calming and relaxing than sitting down with your knitting.  Whether it’s on your own or with a knit group, the benefits of a bit of knitting therapy are many fold.  Unlike other relaxation techniques such as meditation or unwinding in front to the telly, with knitting you have a finished product – something to show for your time and, best of all, something to enjoy showing off.  One of the nicest things about knit clubs is the oohing and ahhing at everyone’s works in progress and finished pieces.  There’s also nothing quite like the little smug feeling you get when a none-knitter asks where you got your scarf/jumper/hat/shawl and you say “oh this? I made it.”

Charles's scarf
Charles’s Scarf – made proudly by me, with love

I’ve been knitting in public a little recently.  I was making a scarf for my dear friend Charles (you can read his blog here), which he needs for a trip to Norway this month.  I knew I had to get it finished quickly so I took it with me whenever I went to meet friends.  Knitting on the tube is much more rewarding than playing solitaire on your mobile phone.  Whilst knitting in public it attracted the interest of a couple of my male friends. When knitting at the pub quiz, Patrick asked if I’d make him some fingerless gloves and whilst knitting in my home with the guys round, Jason asked if he could have a go!  I suggested to Patrick that, whilst I could knit them for him, he would be perfectly able to knit them himself with just a little tuition from me.  I immediately got yarn and needles for Jason and cast of a few stitches and then set him off knitting.  considering the somewhat vast quantities of alcohol that we had consumed at the time, he did remarkably well.

This got me thinking about male knitting.  Men invented knitting and until the turn of the last century more men knitted than women, but by the 1950s and 60s knitting was firmly labelled as a women’s hobby and male knitters were unheard of.  I sense that things are beginning to change.  There are several young male knitters who are becoming famous in the knit world as pattern designers.  For example: Stephen West of West Knits and Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.  Knitting patterns are mathematical in nature and stitch construction is also logical and often follows technical rules.  Words like logical, technical, mathematical and construction are words belonging to the male dominated world of engineering.

Jared Flood Gromit Russel Crowe

Sexy male knitters: Jared Flood, Gromit and Russel Crowe

So why is knitting perceived as sissy?!  The guys above aren’t worried about their masculinity.  OK, Gromit is fictional but he’s a pretty cool and very clever little mut.  And, as you can probably tell from the photograph, Russel Crowe certainly couldn’t knit when this picture was taken, however, he has learnt to knit since and claims it helps him with anger management.

It seems that knitting also helps with focus too as the boys at The Dog Kennel Hill Primary School (awful, awful name for a school!) in Peckham have found out at their knit group, which boys are clamouring to get in to.  I found this article  in the Guardian very interesting.

Perhaps most surprising, and the reason for my title, was this article about Knitting Behind Bars, a knit group in Maryland for male prisoners.  They seem to love it and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to call them sissies!

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Prison knitter

Male knitters from the Knitting Behind Bars knit group from the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Maryland, USA

To donate to Knitting Behind Bars, visit their Etsy shop, or contact Lynn Zwerling at lynnzwerling@verizon.net.