GUEST COL­UMN

Penny Batch­e­lor cel­e­brates a new gen­er­a­tion of men in­spir­ing oth­ers to take up knit­ting

The Knitter - - Contents -

The rise of the male knit­ter

KNIT­TERS ARE aware that in the 21st cen­tury our craft is pop­u­lar with both sexes, and isn’t just a hobby for older women, as it’s of­ten stereo­typ­i­cally por­trayed in the me­dia. De­sign­ers such as Kaffe Fas­sett and Martin Storey, with their world­wide rep­u­ta­tions, have long been fly­ing the flag for male knit­ters. Their pas­sion and ta­lent has in­spired a new gen­er­a­tion of men, from de­sign­ers such as Jared Flood, Stephen West, Tom Van Dei­j­nen, and ‘Sock­mati­cian’ Nathan Tay­lor, to en­trepreneurs such as Jon Dunn-Bal­lam of EasyKnits, and Gerard Allt, founder of I Knit, a yarn store and knit­ting group in Lon­don, who en­cour­ages all-com­ers to take up the hobby.

Yet is the growth in pop­u­lar­ity of men pick­ing up yarn and nee­dles a sus­tain­able trend or a flash in the pan? Lewis Ryan thinks that male knit­ters are here to stay. He is the founder of ManKnit.co.uk (whose slo­gan is ‘The Manly Way to Knit’), a web­site and so­cial group launched in 2016 to in­spire men with yarn and pat­terns suit­able for the rugged out­doors.

Lewis tells of one cus­tomer who com­pared learn­ing to knit with pick­ing up a skill such as weld­ing. He points to the craft’s med­i­ta­tive ben­e­fits for men, plus the fact that it’s a hobby that can cre­ate some­thing use­ful, such as a pure wool hik­ing jumper.

Tar­geted mar­ket­ing plays its part, too. Says Ryan: “With the ManKnit colour­ways and pat­terns I’ve tried to be rather plain… most blokes don’t re­ally like any­thing too bright or flam­boy­ant. Even too much ca­bling can put some blokes off.”

Else­where, knitwear com­pany Rowan has re­ported an in­crease in the num­ber of men reg­is­ter­ing with its web­site. It’s a trend Graeme Knowles-Miller, tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor and mar­ket­ing as­sis­tant at De­signer Yarns, has seen him­self. He says that more men want to learn to knit, as the lines of stereo­typ­i­cal ‘male’ and ‘fe­male’ hob­bies blur and be­come broader. “Whilst there have al­ways been fewer men’s pat­terns on the mar­ket than those for women and chil­dren, bet­ter men’s de­signs and an in­crease in male de­sign­ers join­ing the in­dus­try will ad­dress the bal­ance in the fu­ture,” Graeme points out.

With an es­ti­mated 3.8 bil­lion men in the world, there’s cer­tainly a huge mar­ket po­ten­tial for hand­knit com­pa­nies to break into. It’s up to male mar­ke­teers, de­sign­ers and knit­ting en­thu­si­asts to lead the way.

Find Penny’s blog cel­e­brat­ing mod­ern Bri­tish knit­ting, A Woolly Yarn, at www.awool­ly­yarn.co.uk

1 Lewis Ryan set up Manknit.co.uk to help en­cour­age other men to start knit­ting 2+4 He sells a range of rugged knit­ting kits 3 Manknit of­fers wool blends spun in York­shire, such as Falk­land Fine Merino and Blue-Mash (Blue­faced Le­ices­ter and Masham)

Lewis Ryan also sells plant-dyed yarns in sub­tle colour­ways

Martin Storey cre­ates men’s knits for Rowan

Deb­bie Bliss’s de­signs ap­peal to male knit­ters

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