TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not Only Men Who Knit, But Men Who Knit Lace

by Diane Gerlach
the Yin Yang Knitter

Contemporary male knitters abound, well, at least are becoming more common. The first male knitter I knew of was Kaffe Fassett, famous for his fabulous colorwork in the decorative arts.

Other than Kaffe, it was not common to hear of men knitters in the late 20th Century. Rosie Greer embroidering? [All Pro defensive lineman, Los Angeles Rams, 1960’s and 70’s] Yes, but knitting…no.

In World War II Britain, it was expected that everyone, schoolchildren and adults alike, would “Knit for Britain." When World War I was waging, the American Red Cross provided yarn and instructions to knitters all over the US, to encourage them to knit gloves, hats, vests, socks, etc, for the men in the military. It is not known how many men on the home front were knitters.

"War, War, War, Warm, Warm" by Rayela Art
Reverse painting on glass collage

During the American Civil War, there was a huge effort to produce knitted goods for soldiers on both sides of the conflict; there is documentation that boys and men were involved in this effort.

Not so surprising when one considers that the first French knitting guilds in the 1300’s were male organizations, and it is likely that knitting came to Europe as it was spread from port to port by Arabic sailors.

In many communities in the Andes, men are the knitters.

Lauren Weinhold explains her photo, “This gentleman is knitting a hat by the side of the road. I had heard that needles are often recycled bicycle spokes, sharpened to a fine point, and this picture seems to confirm it. Also, his technique is quite different from European circular knitting - he is actually purling every row in the round, working from the outside of the loop, not the inside. This is supposed to be "easier" for the integrated colorwork. It is also a tradition that the working yarn is looped around the neck - it is here, although hard to see. (The end ball is in the small bag near his foot on the ground).“

In Men Who Knit and the Dogs Who Love Them,

Annie Modesitt and Drew Emborsky include short bios of 16 male knitters, one of whom learned to knit as a child from his grandmother and another who learned from his wife as a way of spending more time with her. Selected pages are available here.

But men who knit lace, now that’s special. A personal favorite is Jared at Brooklyn Tweed who scaled up a vintage knitted doily pattern

into this jaw-dropping Hemlock Ring Blanket in a lovely manly shade of gray.

He also knit Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi Shawl as a blanket,

which became so large it presented a blocking problem. (Photos courtesy of Jared)

Montse Stanley’s book, Knitter's Handbook : A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handknitting has an illustration of a wonderful pair of Spanish 19th century knitted stockings with inscriptions ‘Jacinta Cabanes’ knitted into one sock and ‘Recuerdo de Vicente’ on the other, recording a gift from a man to a woman.

Were they knitted by Vicente himself? On needles finer than anything readily available today?

Kenny, The Boy Who Knits produces lace shawls


and lace socks. (Photos courtesy of Kenny)

A lovely Spiral Counterpane was knit by Ricke Scott:

He is a member of Men Who Knit, an online community where you can buy Real Men Knit, the DVD.

In The Dining Room at 209 Main, a restaurant in the central Wisconsin small town of Monticello, a display features the exquisite work of Gene Beugler:

Yknit offers a podcast by WonderMike and Stephen hizKNITS, who describe themselves as "two needle junkies who happen to be men". Episode 5, "Lace in Your Face" interviews Nino Esposito

and Ted Myatt, the Knitter Guy.

Who would have predicted it, all these men who knit? And, men’s knitting retreats are popping up from Australia to Albany, NY. Steve reports in his blog, Famous Steve Knits, that there were six male knitters at the Atlanta Knitter’s Guild’s recent retreat, an all-time high. EZ would be so proud!

[Elizabeth Zimmerman affectionately known among knitters as EZ, revolutionized modern knitting with innovative techniques and patterns in her books and in her knitting series shown on American Public Television. In 1974, she founded Knitting Camp, which continues today under the direction of her daughter.]

Amazing work. Good job, all of you guy knitters, and thank you for the eye candy!


Note from Rachel:
I made a series of reverse painting on glass collage pieces recently. I had found an article on men knitting during World War II and used the images in the collaged pieces. These were inspired by Diane's charity knitting and are available for sale on Etsy. Click on the images for the link.



  1. I am in awe of the beauty of these knitting examples. I LOVE the Hemlock Ring blanket and the Spiral Counterpane. WOW. I used to be an enthusiastic knitter but I've lost the mindset needed to do it. These pieces are pretty inspiring!

  2. This article is so interesting..bicycle spokes as knitting needles, fantastic! I love your collages, theyre so creative & beautiful.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts with Thumbnails