Do Real Men Knit?


I’ve written about the mental health benefits of knitting a few times, and I just saw this CBS Early Show report listing even more reasons to knit or crochet – including a 30 to 50 percent decrease in memory loss for aging people, stress relief, pain reduction, lower blood pressure, and a boost in immune function.

The report got me thinking, why don’t more men knit? After all, knitting was once a male-dominated occupation. During the Renaissance, only men were allowed to join knitting guilds. Later Scottish sailors and sheepherders used downtime to knit sweaters. And even after women took over the craft, during the World Wars, injured soldiers were encouraged to knit as therapy, and American schoolboys were taught to knit squares to be sewn into blankets for troops.

I don’t know a lot of male knitters, but I was excited to find that there are still some dedicated ones out there. At an online forum called Men Who Knit, male needle-clickers with aliases like Kilthoser and Spicemanknit share Medieval cap patterns and pictures of afghans. And a few years ago, some male knitters announced their favorite hobby to the world in a documentary called Real Men Knit:

As it turns out, even Mo Rocca’s hooked on knitting…

I asked my husband if he would consider taking up a yarn craft. He disappeared into the office and called me in a few minutes later to see the knitted beards I linked to last Friday. “I might think about making one of these,” he said, as he searched for a free pattern.

[Image: Cover of eight-page booklet, published by Wm. Briggs & Co Ltd of Manchester during World War II to encourage injured soldiers to take up knitting as therapy. Page two says, “Thousands of our men who are convalescing and very many who feel the strain of these trying days, are being advised by their doctors that knitting is the perfect tonic for steadying the nerves.”]

More on male knitters in history:

Why do you think more men don’t knit or crochet? Are you a male knitter, or do you know one? I’d love to hear from you.

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About Abby Quillen

Abby Quillen writes fiction and magazine articles. Her articles and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Colorado Central Magazine, and on Common Dreams, Nation of Change, Reader Supported News, The Daily Good, Truthout, and You can find more of her writing at


  1. I teach crafts to children at my son’s primary school. Knitting is started at age 6 there and all participate. My class is a half girl, half boy mix and all knit. Some better than others as not all started at this school. My 11 year olds are doing socks on four needles this year and some have done very well. We should have several socks to hang on the Christmas tree 🙂

    viv in nz

  2. I have a guy friend who’s moved to a new city, and I keep trying to get him to pick up knitting – he would SO EASILY meet straight women that way (some of them would even be sane!). I would love to meet a knitting guy.

  3. Hi Abby, I enjoy your blog – a lot.

    When I was a child in the early 1950s, I was a chronic asthmatic. I spent so much time in bed that my Irish-Canadian mother taught me to knit so as to help me while away the time.

    I Haven’t knitted in over 50 years but I just mentioned to a friend the other day that I was thinking of taking it up again.

    Thanks for the slight nudge. BTW, let your husband know that real men do knit, do you remember Rosie Greer?



    • Abby Quillen says:

      Thanks, Dan. I’d love to hear how your reintroduction to knitting goes. Hopefully it’s like riding a bike and you never forget how to do it.

      • As a continental knitter, I appreciate the reminder; I’ve been knitting this way so long that I was no longer conscious of what I was doing. Wish I had seen this earlier today when I was asked to show someone this method. As a guy, I appreciate the fact that you’ve now added to our ranks! Thanks, Liat 🙂

  4. I was teaching my friends how to knit the other day, and my brother came in and asked if he could learn too… which surprised me. But then again, knitting is so useful and easy once you know how to do it. Same with sewing; basic knowledge of stitching has saved and improved many items in my wardrobe over the years. I think both men and women can benefit from skills like that.

    • Abby Quillen says:

      Definitely! Both are such useful skills for men and women. Similarly I realized recently that I often leave the chores we tend to think of as male – like splitting firewood, fixing things, etc. – for my husband without even thinking about it. I’ve been making a point of tackling them by myself instead. It’s so satisfying.

  5. This post may inspire me to get back to knitting! It’s been a couple of years. My favorite guy knitter is Beautiful designs and he’s a photographer too, so the shots really show off his creations.

    • Abby Quillen says:

      Hi Lorie! A couple of years? I can’t believe it. You’re such an amazing knitter. What a beautiful blog! Thanks for linking to it.


  1. […] quilting, etc– is still often seen as a woman’s hobby. (Fun fact: knitting used to be a male-only occupation). It used to be even more stereotyped as an old woman’s hobby, but the advent of brighter and […]

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