5 Facts You Didn't Know About Knitting and Men


Oh Boy

Men knit! And this is not something that just happened.We need to bust up some of those stereotypes about women being the only ones making clothes and reading patterns in the family! The influence of men with fiber arts has a long history. Knitting is not a new hobby but do you know some of the history of men and knitting? I thought this was really fun and interesting! Here are a few facts for you.

1.So who was the first knitter? Unfortunately, that is not know, but we do know that men were the first to  use an early method called nålbinding which uses just one needle! Nålbinding predates knitting by about one thousand years and crochet by 1500 years! I am quite happy to stick with my bamboo needles!

Nålbinding was also used during the Viking-age of 793-1066 ACE in Scandinavia before knitting and crocheting were known. This was how they made sturdy clothing that was warm. Knitting looks quite similar to nålbinding; textile so historians need to closely follow the path of the yarn itself to identify the item as either knitting or nålbinding. 

Clicking and Clacking

2.The story goes that William Lee, an English minister, grew tired of hearing the incessant clicking of his wife’s knitting needles. In 1589, he modified the looms that were used to create rugs with hooks that would form loops that would be released during each pass of the thread, thereby knitting a whole row at once. Lee left his church work and went to secure the blessing of the queen (Elizabeth I) to ensure that no one else could create such a device and allowing him to make a healthy profit. Elizabeth denied his request and Lee went to France to try the same thing. Henri IV granted Lee the rights that he asked for, but was soon assassinated leaving Lee to die poor in 1610. Lee’s brother, James, took the idea back to England and was assisted by a man named Ashton in Nottingham in creating the first knitting factory. It wasn’t long before it was so cheap to create machine knitted clothing that many local hand-knitters were petitioning the government for limits of the business. Lee’s design remained virtually unchanged until the 1700s when it was modified to include the kitting frame and later to accept other materials like lace and silk

Fact About Fiction

Charles Dickens(1812-1870)

3.Who is the most famous knitting character? (Well, that would be aside from our notorious CEO, Nicole!) A creation of Dickens' fertile mind, Madame Therese Defarge appears in his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. As a leader of the Jacques during the French revolution, she used pattern stitches as a code and knit a list of the upper class doomed to die at the guillotine. This was a true testament to Dickens' talent. He was able to turn knitting, the frequent symbol of loving grandmothers and charming domesticity, into an ominous, cruel, inhuman act.

According to Rutt in his comprehensive A History of Hand Knitting, Dickens was inspired by the "tricoteuses", women who attended the National Convention in which the fate of the unfortunate rich was debated during the French revolution, knitting while they listened. Such a macabre pastime earned them a reputation as sadists, and an archetypal evil character was born in Madame Defarge. Great that Dickens promoted knitting though it is a bit twisted! 

Healing for All

4. Today, articles about how wonderful knitting is for us pop up all over the place. But what you might not know is that during World War II wounded soldiers were taught to knit. Reasons for this included: keeping busy, learning something to exercise the brain, interaction with others, meditative qualities,  and the satisfaction of making something.Sure does sound like why we knit today, male or female!

Losing the Stereotype One Stitch at a Time

Men knitting is nothing new, it just seems to be the exception to the rule in the modern world. Or is it? We all know that knitting provides so many physical and mental health benefits so why assume it is a girls only hobby? Rather than the picture of a frustrated knitter, I love this beautiful, tranquil man's face on the right that expresses the joy of creativity that we knitters love.

5.Men knit! How awesome for us that they don't get caught in some gender specific stereotype. Are you a man who loves to knit or do you know a guy in your life who has a passion for knitting?  Men's Knitting Retreats are held all over the place and encourage a variety of fiber craft experiences.

And are you still wanting more information about knitting? Here is a previous DGY blog  post with lots more facts about knitting for both genders. So if you know a person young or old, male or female that wants to knit, show them how! Spread the joy of creating! Give the gift of knitting notions, sure to be welcome with all knitters. And be sure to send us a photo of your gender inclusive knitting at info@darngoodyarn.com. Are you teaching your boy to knit? Hooray!

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  • Nicole Snow