journey as an out and proud male knitter has
spanned more than two decades. In that time,
and especially in recent years, I and my knitting
brethren have gone from being derided, to ignored
and then tolerated, to attracting curiosity,
interest and respect.
a greater sense of acceptance now than even
five years ago but, pleasant as it is, those
of us who see knitting as a socio-political
act (as well as a great source of hats) may
be wondering: What’s the new frontier
for male knitters? What, these days, makes
a male knitter “hardcore”?
For example, it used to be that a male knitter
was considered hardcore if he—well—if
he knitted. Period. That’s all it took. “A
guy who knits? Oooooh, hardcore!”
Then of course, came knitting in public. People
stopping and staring and muttering, as if you
were out there naked. Some were intrigued or
delighted, some were disgusted. One or two
would come up to you, timid and giggling, like
they’d been double-dared to step onto
the porch of a haunted house. But once it became
more commonplace to see men out knitting on
café patios, in movie lineups and with
gaggles of girl knitters (and other guy knitters),
the bar was raised. Now it was about what you
For anyone could knit a scarf or a hat or
a washcloth in front of a crowd of onlookers—but
a sock? A slip-stitch heel? That was hardcore.
That was like being asked to write for Hustler.
Or Interweave Knits. (True story: I was once
contacted by Hustler and asked to propose a
sex advice column for their magazine, which
prompted my straight male friends to call me ‘Silverback’.
But I guess my proposal wasn’t vulgar
enough or offensive enough, because I submitted
it and then never heard back.)
That was hard to top for a while, the knitting-a-sock-in-public
thing (which was just fine for those with Second
Sock Syndrome), but soon enough: if you were
a guy and you were out-there enough to knit
lace in public, well, that was the new hardcore.
(Extra points for you if you could go to your
weekly s’n’b and knit lace there
without buggering it up—that was super-hardcore,
like beating the original Nintendo Ninja Gaiden.)
Then suddenly all the knitting men were whipping
through Icarus like it was a jar of microwave-warmed
Nutella. What was left? What more could be
done? What new knitting feat would challenge
our notions of manhood and deliver some shock-and-awe
to non-knitters everywhere?
Yes, baby clothes. For it’s provocative
enough for a woman of reproducing age to knit
baby clothes in public (especially if they’re
not for her own baby). But a man knitting
baby clothes in public—as I’ve
had to do several times in the last few months—is
apparently like leaving a ticking briefcase
in the middle of a crowded London square. People
are literally beside themselves over the potential
harm that could unfold if the knitter was,
in fact, armed and ready to go off at any moment.
I like to knit at the movies. Not while the
film is on but certainly before, as I usually
arrive early and am otherwise subjected to
inane celebrity trivia and tedious big-screen
advertisements. Nobody bothers you. If you’re
careful to choose a seat under a potlight,
you can actually see what you’re doing.
This is the perfect place to knit, in my opinion,
and something portable like a baby sweater
on a circular needle is, to me, the perfect
nine, ten, eleven, knit the front, knit the
“Excuse me,” comes a voice from the row behind me.
“Yes?” I ask, not turning around. One,
two, three, four—
“What are you doing?”
—five, six— “Counting.”
“Oh. No, I mean—what are you making?”
Oh, for the love of—it’s
pastel green with bobbles all over it, what
does it look like, a jockstrap?
Now now: deep breath, smile. Remember, you’re
a Knitting Ambassador.
“Sorry. It’s a baby sweater. See?” For the first time
I turn and look at her. She looks like my fifth grade teacher, the former
“Oh,” she replies, looking from the sweater to me and back
again. “I don’t think you should be doing that.” She
leans forward to tell me, as if it’s a secret: “People can
Several dozen sharp and witty responses appear
before my eyes, floating in and out of focus,
but all I can do is move my mouth like a fish.
Suddenly, the Coming Attractions begin. Relieved,
I turn around, stuff my knitting away. But.
I can hear her behind me. She huffs a few breaths,
then stands up with what sounds like 15 bags
of shopping, and “excuse me”s her
way down the row and away.
Yes, she is moving. Away from me, and my deviant
I like to knit in one of the nearby diners,
where I sometimes meet a friend or two for
breakfast. (Not the cheap crowded diner around
the corner, but the more expensive, less crowded
diner a few blocks away.) Early on a Sunday
morning, when little else is open, it’s
usually just me and the wait staff and the
cooks behind the grill, plus the occasional
huddle of tourists from the hotel in the next
block. ‘Occasional’ like today.
thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four, slip
one, knit two together, pass the slipped stitch
large round shadow appears beside me. “Hi.”
turn and look up. A tourist—a husband—is standing over me.
Probably a year or two older than me but, shall we say, on a different
path. I look back to his table where his wife and two other couples are
staring at me, nervous and amused.
wife says you’re knitting.”
she?” I look back, give her a little fingery wave. She turns as
red as an oven burner and swivels away, to the great delight of her friends. “Well,
she’s right. I’m knitting.” I turn back to my work,
readjust my needles—
turn back, look up at him. “Because I can,” I answer. “Do
you have a hobby?”
states, a little defiantly.
say. “You should get one.”
I turn back to my knitting, but there’s
just no end to it.
“My wife says you’re
knitting a baby thing.”
I’m starting to wish the wife would just
come here and say these things herself. “Yes,” I
say, facing him once again. “It’s
“What for, are you pregnant?” He half-shouts the p-word and
his whole table cracks up. This, I guess, is the punchline.
I level a nasty gaze at his wife, and then
look up at him. “No, sorry, I’m
not. Why?” I ask. “Is she?”
At last, my (thankfully tall, thankfully burly,
intimidatingly tattooed) friend shows up, arrives
at our table. “Hi,” he says, “who’s
I go to introduce my new acquaintance but,
strangely, he’s already backing away
from us and hurrying back to his table. Very
shortly after, the couples—somewhat more
subdued—stand up and scuttle past us
out the door.
My furry friend cannot resist: “He so
When I only have an hour before I have to give
someone a finished object, I’ll knit
practically anywhere. The atrium at work is
ringed with tables, which are ringed with chairs,
which are full of colleagues. Who cares—I’ve
got to get this done.
a voice just ahead of me. I look up to see one of our female security
say rather warily.
that you’re making?” she asks. “Is that a baby sweater?”
lord. “Yes, it is.”
know that pattern, “ she exclaims, “I’ve made a few
of those! And what a lovely colour. Is it for a boy or a girl?”
girl,” I say, “though I didn’t know that when I started.”
I’ve never seen a man knit one of these before, and you’re
doing a fine fine job,” she smiles. “It’s a lucky baby
who’s going to be wearing that.” A sudden thought crosses
her face. “Are you going to make the bonnet? You have to make the
bonnet. The bonnet and the booties.”
I don’t know…” but I already do. The bonnet, the booties: