More men find knitting is a relaxing hobby

The first knitters were men who had special reasons for learning the skill.


Jacob Reed took up knitting because it sounded interesting and unusual.

“If it’s the typical thing people do, I’m not interested,” said the 29-year-old computer-science graduate. Rather than being told what to like, “I’ll figure it out on my own.”

Reed isn’t the first guy to pick up a set of needles. But more men are taking to the hobby — or at least coming out of the knitting closet.

“I see new men knitters all the time,” said Betsy Slayton, who has worked at the Black Sheep Wool Co. in Salt Lake City for 14 years.

“Why wouldn’t they knit?” asks Debbie Stoller, author of “Son of Stitch ’n Bitch,” the latest book in her popular knitting series. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s really relaxing,” and it appeals to all kinds of men, “punk rock guys to woodsmen and everything in between,” said Stoller.


U Men were the first knitters, forming guilds in the 15th century where they made, among other things, the caps worn under steel military helmets.

U Soldiers in World War II knitted while recovering from their injuries.

U Irish fishermen designed ornately patterned sweaters so that they could be identified if they fell overboard and their bodies washed ashore.

“I think it’s naturally manly to knit,” said Andrew Shaw, assistant manager of public affairs for the Salt Lake City Public Library. “It’s creating something with your hands.”

Longtime skill

Bailey, the library’s fiction buyer, has been making sweaters and vests for more than 20 years, since he asked his mother, a gifted knitter, to make something for him and she refused. “You need to learn it yourself,” she told him.

One week, he mastered the knit stitch, and the next he learned purl. Today he knits classic and intricately patterned Aran sweaters that hail from Ireland.

Nonknitters may think of it as a solitary hobby, but the initiated know there is a bond among knitters. People gather at stores to seek help and show off their work. Groups meet in coffee shops weekly. The Internet has developed a huge and vital community, including the site

Detail oriented

Other men take pleasure in the almost mathematical nature of knitting.

“I enjoy seeing patterns emerge and paying attention to instructions and details,” said retired bioengineer Richard Phillips, 66. He learned to knit as a boy, made a sweater for himself in the mid-1980s and returned to it in earnest several years ago.

“It’s kind of a complicated thing to understand how yarns work, the varieties of sheep, how yarns are spun, [following] cables and charting, the way the pattern interconnects so that the whole piece ends up in unity,” he said.