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November 04, 2009

Comments

Mel

I just tell people that I knit because I enjoy it. That's enough reason, right? David and I often bounce ideas off one another with our knitting. He's good with matters of general design and colour, but I'm the one with more technical skills. And the one who gets to fix things if one of his projects goes awry.

Bams

What you have to say on the topic is very interested. I am often very surprised at the gendercentric attitudes on knitting.

Whether you think of knitting as art or craft (and i think it could be both or either depending on whose hands are doing the knitting), why would it be any different if you have man parts instead of lady parts? It's like saying all female artists paint in the style of Marie Cassat and that all male artists resemble Edgar Degas. There are just as many different types of female knitters as there are different types of male knitters.

My weigh-in on the Kaffe Fassett issue is that I think that his work is fabulous, but that being male makes him stand out in a crowd of estrogen. Standing out in the crowd makes him more marketable and therefore has helped him develop his color sense and talent more and more.

Just my two cents (or twenty ;)

Elizabeth

From personal experience, I would say that the men's knitting experience as you describe is repeated for the areas of lace, embroidery and cross stitch.
Has there been an actual rise in the number of men knitting, or just a perceived rise? In other words, do one know more men who knit in one's local circle, or is one just aware of more men who knit because of the availability of long-distance communities? I personally know 4 men locally who knit, which is up by 4 from five years ago, all of whom are in the spinning guild with 150 people (so - 4 out of 150 which is still not a huge percentage but better than nothing).

Valerie

Thanks for such a thought provoking post. While reading,it occurred to me that I know several men who knit and do not belong to any "knitting communities". I wonder how representative they may be of an uncounted group?

As far as technical knitters...what about Eugene Beugler? He certainly has a distinctive approach to designing lace. It's interesting to me that his work is not imitated the way that say Evelyn Clark's work is often imitated (even before she wrote the book about designing triangular shawls).

Also...when I read your paragraph about men wanting cables, I laughed. Yep, my 23 yo son and dh like cables, but they discount a lot of the cables I suggest as "too feminine". Beyond looking like hearts or having bobbles, I have yet to figure out what makes a cable masculine or feminine.

LaurieM

First off, I stay away from forums because they seem like a time waste to me.

Second, women have been marginalized for so long from so many activities (sports, male-oriented hobbies, let alone professional arenas) that I find it hard to have sympathy for men joining knitting circles. I suspect that any singling out that is done at a knitting circle is mild compared to some of the singling out that women have endured for such a long time.

I agree that if men what to be more included, and have more designs and yarns geared towards them then they will have to speak up. It's nothing different from what women have had to do over and over again.

Finally, I also agree that any differences in knitting styles have more to do with the person than the gender. Women tend to down play their own abilities, so I'm not surprised that they would discount the abilities of their sisters.

I'll see your Kaffe Fasset and raise you Alice Starmore.

Dan/Brewergnome

I have to say, I object far more to being deified for being a male knitter ("Oh, you knit? That's so awesome and cool and amazing!" Um, no it's really not, and the woman next to me is doing lace that would blow my socks off.) than I do for whatever minimal marginalization I feel.

As for men knitting different and having a different color sense, horsepucky. People see the world differently. Look at any two dyers and you'll see that the way people perceive color, imagine color, and execute color is different.

And when it comes to men's patterns... Personally, I have to say if we want more patterns for us, maybe we should design them. If we're so "adventurous" and "technical" as knitters, it shouldn't be a problem, right?

Natalie

I'm not a male knitter, but it seems to me that on Ravelry male knitters tend to have way more male friends than most female knitters do. I think Ravelry has helped with those connections.

Last night when I told my kids a friend would be coming over with some wool my 2 year old son said, "Roll it in a ball." I think I'll have to get him involved before he hits kindergarten & gender stereotypes blunt his curiosity.

Kristin

I am fortunate to belong to a Knitting Study Group in our local guild with some of the most talented and technical knitters around - male and female. I've been in the group for seven years now, and there's little difference between the interests, personal taste and ability of the two genders.

Then there is my husband, who asked me to teach him to knit specifically so that he could make pumpkin hats for our girls. Now he cranks out felted clogs for the family every year, and that's just about all he knits. He enjoys it, but he has absolutly no interest in developing his skills.

So I guess you could say that I've seen a bit of both sides, and would have to say at this point that gender doesn't have a thing to do with it.

Duffy

Very nice essay, Ted. Thank you for sharing your perspective. You nailed quite a bit of the challenges of designing knits for men, especially conservative style. When I've thought about some of the complaints of why there are so many cabled sweaters designed for men, I think part of it is that they're made with heavy yarn. Yet if you go down in yarn size, the challenge turns to completing the garment. Imagine doing a cabled sweater for a man with a 50" chest in fingering yarn.

I had some very interesting conversations with the men and women who attended SOAR this year. To me it was what was it about the craft that attracted them to it. It all boils down to expressing oneself through a medium, whether it be through fiber or the making of the tools for the crafts. One of woodcrafters commented that it was important for him to spin so that he could fully understand the dynamics required for making an excellent product.

As with any situation where someone new joins a group, it's important to step away from the person's appearance and focus on what that person's interests are with the group.

Some women feel very defensive about men joining because they feel it's a threat to their "safe zone" to have a man there. I've experienced that with lesbian groups who are looking for human resources but tend to choose women over men. It's been a real challenge to get women with this mindset to move past their fears.

Barb B.

Well, LaurieM. I have to disagree with you. (and I'm a woman who got told I couldn't ever have a job in the career I wanted because I'm female) It's like saying "I can't be sorry for you being bashed on the head because I've been bashed on the head harder". It's wrong, and that's that.
In my experience, men who knit are knitters. And nothing more. Just knitters. I've taught a lot of people to knit, all ages, both genders. Each one had a slightly different approach, and I didn't find it had anything to do with gender (or hair colour for that matter)
I have never understood the whole "he's a man and he knits!!!" or "she's a woman and she hunts!!!" or any of the other phrases like it. Change that to "a person who knits" and it's a whole different thing.

On designs for men. I have a couple of patterns I've sent out to magazines. I KNOW men will wear them, because my men do. Their friends have nagged me to knit them. But they are not the same old tired designs tweaked a smitch for the new fashion year, and editors go with what sold yesterday when it comes to men's patterns. Now Jared Flood has put out some wonderful designs, and my men tell me I can knit any one of them, and they'd wear them. We need more from him, and more like him.

EliC

3 semi related comments: First, like Picasso and Rembrant, Kaffe is in a class by himself.
Secondly, my husband is the mostly feminine one while I am the mostly masculine one. So, going to the knitting shop when those few "no boys allowed" women are around drive us both crazy. The "well we were repressed so long so now it's their turn" argument doesn't hold water. Do two wrongs make a right?
We also understand about people trying to make him feel welcome and they're just being foolish. We call them the "VERY HELPFUL people" (He gets it even more than usual, because he's also visually impaired. lol ...Ah, isn't it great how much you can do with so little?)

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