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