Men who Knit – Part 3
We talk knitting and gender prejudice with world famous knitting artists… and men who just really like to knit.
Have you faced any gender prejudice for your knitting?
Kaffe Fassett: I have never been shown anything but surprise and delight that I can knit so my response is gratitude.
David Demchuk: Yes, I’ve had strangers talk about me behind my back (and even confront me) on restaurant patios, ticket lineups, movie theatres. One partner of mine disliked it when I knit in public or at gatherings of family or friends (although all those people received knitted gifts from me at one time or another). However, many many more people have been very positive and supportive, and curious in the best possible way. I generally tell people that men have been knitters throughout the history of the craft, including sailors and soldiers, and that their discomfort with men doing ‘feminine’ things says more about them than it does about me. That usually cuts the conversation short.
Aastrikke makes her first toe-up flap sock using the Widdershins pattern as modified for 64 sts by David Demchuk.
Barry Klein: I have always been someone who stayed away from the norm. I experimented with things in school but I loved being creative. Of course being a young man and knitting was not handled well in school and at times I took a lot for it. I was taught to live with decisions and make them the best. My friends loved getting things that I created. I found that if I shared my talents and my creativity, fewer people made comments. The truth is that the people who make comments are the ones who are jealous that they can’t do what I do. I loved it the first time I told someone in high school why their pestering me didn’t bother me. In our store, we wrote patterns for our customers. To do this, we had to take full body measurements. How many 17 year old boys got to measure a woman’s body? This doesn’t change today. When I travel… I knit. I get looks and I always ask them if they want to see what I’m doing. Share the experience and everyone is happy.
This man may not be a delivery man. But it makes us think: More delivery men should take up knitting. It would be a very rewarding use of their downtime.
Mike Bates: Sometimes on trains and the like you get funny looks, although with us being English people tend to be too polite and reserved to actually approach you. However, at work I often knit on my break, and while my boss jokes I ‘shouldn’t do that’ in plain view because it’ll ‘give the wrong impression’ he’s just being a bit silly. I have, however, had ‘lads’ and older gentlemen who feel quite happy to point out how I’m doing ‘woman’s work’ and that I should get a woman to do it for me. I usually respond by just telling them that I enjoy it, it’s actually very good fun, and that they should really give it a try sometime: kill them with kindness. I get wonderful responses from ladies however, they’re always interested to know what I’m making, willing to have a good chat about it if they’re knitters too… there’s the odd hint of latent gender prejudice in the questions about ‘why are you doing that?’ but of course that’s ignorance/surprise rather than actual bigotry.
There’s also the odd yarn shop where you can walk in, alone, and have a browse without the sales staff approaching you or even acknowledging your presence: they don’t expect you to be a knitter because you’re male, and when you ask them a question they downplay all the technical aspects as if you know nothing because, I suspect, they think I’m buying it for my partner. Even if I ask more in-depth questions they sometimes gloss what the terms I’ve used mean, which seems a bit redundant. I respond to that treatment by not buying from those stores, and if it happens more than once I just stop trying them – they’re very unlikely to get a recommendation from me after this point. Which is a real shame, because many yarn shops are independent businesses and need all the support they can get.
Kaffe Fassett is a renowned artist who has inspired people across the world with his colourful work in fabric, knitting, needlepoint, patchwork, painting and mosaic.
Barry Klein is the owner of Trendsetter Yarns and is a past president of the National Needlework Association. He has designed patterns for Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, and Knitters Magazine among others.
David Demchuk was born and raised in Winnipeg and now lives in Toronto. A playwright, independent filmmaker, screenwriter, essayist, critic and journalist, he has been writing for theatre, film, television, radio and other media for over thirty years. Known primarily for his work in Canadian theatre, David’s plays have been produced internationally.
Mike Bates is a man who keeps asking himself the question “how does it work?” and eventually began to direct that question at a pair of knitting needles.