January 8, 2012

Of Men and Needles

I love men. Not in the freaky deaky way you might think upon first glance at that statement, but as a group. They are generally more rugged in appearance than us, they have a different thought process than we do, and they like things that are typically very different from the things women like.

Men have whiskers, they smell like men, they don't really like doing their own laundry or ironing, they hunt, fish, watch sports (sometimes obsessively), work on cars (sometimes with great expertise, like my husband), chop wood, love electonics, put up our Christmas lights, mow the grass, paint the fence...heck, sometimes, they even obey their wives, who usually believe they have their men all figured out. Or do we?

Did reading the list above make you say a few things to yourself like, "Hey, I am the one who does that!" or, "Women can do that, too!" ? Or maybe, "My husband is the one who does the laundry!" or, "My Aunt Una has whiskers!"

For me, it was my Aunt Gertie, but the reason we notice the exceptions is because we as people like, of course, to categorize others, yet we recognize that there are always individual differences. They stand out to us.

Yes, anyone can surprise us. And men are no exception. I still love their male attributes, and admittedly some of the more traditional ones, but I love that element of surprise that can be found absolutely anywhere. Even in our husbands, boyfriends, sons and dads.

Recently, I found out that a friend's husband belongs to a group on Ravelry called S.M.A.C.K. The acronym stands for "Straight Men Also Crochet and Knit!" It's like a support group for male knitters who have wives, kids and regular lives that may or may not include frequent T.V. sports viewing. They just happen to love wool (and perhaps the precise German engineering in an addi turbo).

These guys say they recognized that the men who were knitters were not really recognized as a legitimate group, yet they do exist. Just like those ROUS's in "Princess Bride." (There is a joke to be made here about "unusual size," but I am just not going to do it.)

Further, these men found out that when their wives/significant others/daughters/female friends learned of their knitting, they thought it was great, perhaps even charming and awesome. Their group on Ravelry celebrates their hobby and the bonds they form with others--and fibers--and encourages anyone to join.

And those Ravelry friends are not alone. There are dozens, if not more, groups and websites dedicated to men who knit. There are even exclusive men's patterns and entire books dedicated to the cause.  It seems to be spreading like wildfire. Or wool afire.

Now some of you ladies who may have read the historical account in Nancy Bush's book, "Knitting Vintage Socks" regarding men and knitting, may be feeling threatened. You may be recalling how men were the first ones thought to be the knitters, and that in some regions, these same men had to follow intense knitting apprenticeships, followed by almost walkabout experiences, in which they had to create never before seen stitches to ultimately be included in knitting guilds as "Master Knitters." You may be thinking, hey! it's our turn! You may especially feel this way if you are a woman who heard the medieval story of how women were not allowed to knit at home for fear that their brains may catch on fire, but take heart. I say that if we want sexual equality, then let them knit. Or eat cake. Or knit while eating cake. Or knit while eating cake and watching the Bronco's beat the Steelers in sudden death overtime...that's what I was doing today, and I'm not even a sports fan.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I personally love it that men knit and I would be proud if my husband or sons picked up a pair of sticks and went to it. It's a good idea.

In fact, knitting is good for everyone. It is being used more and more in schools as therapy for kids who are bullied or feel like they don't belong, for kids with learning disabilities like ADD, and in rehab programs for drug and alcohol addiction (see Eunny Jang's great personal story in the latest issue of Interweave Knits). I even heard someone say they heard it was being used in prisons as a way to change the mood.

The obvious "OZ"-like danger of that last idea aside, we all know that knitting takes you to another place during the actitivity. Further, think about how you feel when you connect with another knitter or when you are in your knitting circle. It can almost become like a religious experience.

So S.M.A.C.K. guys, for all these reasons, I completely, unabashedly, soap-box-style support you in what you are doing. I joined your group. And I love all that you are, yarn porn and all.

Go ahead and saddle up your horses, but don't forget your needles.


Jona said...

Yay for men who knit (they really know how to keep their wives warm)! I'm of the belief that textiles (knitting, quilting, etc) appeal to mens mathematical side. It's fiber architecture (or something like that)!

The Knitting Muse said...

I think you're right....there are even physics to be had with those fibers! And always, always with any of the textile arts, there are toys. : )