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We know how empowering it is to enable others - to start their own creative projects and tell their own stories. That’s why we’ve decided to share our customers’ stories* to highlight their aspirations and challenges and share that wonderful sense of accomplishment you get from learning something new. At Stitch & Story we want to share our love of crafting – encouraging others to tell their own stories and create remarkable memories.
How/when/why did you learn to knit and/or crochet?
I currently knit, and my wife and her recently departed grandmother crochet. Growing up my family always focused on handmade over store bought. My great-grandmother was a carpenter and my grandfather hand built the addition to their home sans the foundation. My mom does macramé, quilting, sewing (made most of the early clothes for the family), and cooked from scratch. My father was an all round handyman, woodworker, and electronics genius. He made some house number signs one year with routing, built a deck, and even made a game show style buzz in system for one of our school projects. Mom and dad always try to buy well-made handmade items, with a focus on buy it once and never need to replace it. So, as a family we would go to all kinds of Arts and Crafts shows, and about 18 years ago I stumbled on something I had never seen before. There was an artist that had a booth full of felted wearable items, I remember hats, and I remember some stuffed toy animals. I was completely taken with them. The artisan was excited by my interest and walked me through how they knitted the items first, then felted them, showing me the knit structure that was felted. I was at university and didn't have any time; it was an hour commute each way and I had no money to try and get into a crafting class. I had not put any effort into prioritizing this beautiful act of creation I found, but the seed stayed with me.
Cut to the very end of December, maybe the 24th of 2018, my wife and I were walking through a retailer in the States, and on my year-end holiday break, and I saw a Stitch & Story kit for the Cable Coo Hat. It stated it was everything one needed to make said hat - 2 balls of yarn, 2 straight needles, the cable needle, pattern - and, because of the internet, a website full of videos to help me get started. We moved in with my wife's grandparents at the end of 2017, to help her grandmother who was dealing with dementia and her grandfather who is having issues with getting around. Unfortunately, her grandmother ended up dying in August 2018, but we are still helping her grandfather. Downsizing our space, I didn't have much creative relief so this coupled with the price being just right for me to give it a go - and if it didn't work out, I at least would be happy that it killed a couple of hours - I picked up the kit and brought it home. It was also a perfect storm as far as time, too. I was spending my unused vacation for the year and was off for almost 2 more weeks with no real project to worry about. So, I spent an evening and started to watch the videos on Stitch & Story, then made the hat for the first time.
Despite knitting having historically been a male occupation, why do you think male knitters/crocheters are underrepresented nowadays?
Honestly, I think it has to do with societal pressures on what is gender. I see that the change will happen, with the proliferation of society breaking down the walls around LGBTQ+ and in the States, at least, working on bringing racial divisions down. The "manly" and "womanly" roles, I think, are the same sort of societal problem we have been dealing with. The cultural acceptance of even more minor things like the whole metrosexual clothing movement, or at least some tolerance of it, has helped soften the hard lines around what genders should be allowed to do in "proper society". There are plenty of other cases where these gender roles have harmed all of us. Look at the thoughts around girls and math. Women mathematicians helped put humanity on the moon; the earliest of computer scientists were from the secretary pool. Women as just as capable at math as men, just look at our history, but they are made to feel less than.
What do you feel companies like Stitch & Story could do to make men feel more welcome in the crafting community?
There is a lot. I spend a lot of time on Stitch & Story, Ravelry, a forum called Knitting Paradise, and other "fiber related" sites. There are men; there are even straight men (like myself) that are there. The issues I see, is there is a little bit of a lack of designs that come out male or masculine and a lot of the colors do seem to skew towards "girly", but the yarn dyers, yarn sellers, and pattern designers must make things that sell or there won't be any industry. Sometimes the pattern isn't female, but the colors shown or the only models used are. I have no problems visualizing myself in a sweater that is presented with pictures showing it in "girly" colors or only being shown off by female models, but sometimes it is hard to visualize something that is TOO far towards the female side, and I assume it just isn't right for me to put it on my needles. It is hard to sit down and spend months working on something that you aren't sure is something that you could wear. If all you are seeing looks very female and is only on female-bodied humans, then you might move on and eventually shrug and assume that knitting isn't for your gender.
What advice would you give to men that are interested in knitting and/or crochet?
Start with a hat, swatching doesn't really matter, much, or a coaster. Something that won't cost a ton to get started - and if the first couple of tries fail, you aren't out a ton of yarn (the only real consumable). A scarf is also an easy start. Find some color and feel that you like in the yarn, then you just need needles - I love circulars, for everything.
Women and men both will be interested in what you are doing. A lot of the fellow male engineers I work with have told me they were taught to knit or crochet by their mother or grandmother. You might be made fun of, but usually that is more jovial, and not hateful, but we are men and it is more manly to take the ribbing in stride and show you are man enough to do a recently considered unmanly thing. BUT in my experience, most of the time, it will be a very positive, very constructive, and very uplifting response. Or just as nice (maybe even nicer), complete ambivalence, because most people are concerned with their own things too much to care about yours.
What has been the most important thing you’ve taken from learning to knit and/or crochet that you would like to pass on to others?
It is an art form that focuses on the now, the one stitch you are making at a time. It is very meditative, and gives you a place to relax and be one with yourself. There is a zenness that you can achieve with knitting; it can be very addictive. Most importantly, make sure it isn't your passion before you decide that it isn't. I have been having serious discussions with my wife about finding room to place a loom and if we could find a place that we might be able to have our own sheep/alpaca/goats to care for and produce our own fiber.
What has been your best knitting and/or crochet memory, or favorite thing you’ve made?
My first major project (after doing the original Stitch & Story Cable Coo Hat twice with the same yarn - first time didn't turn out at all) was a baby blanket for a buddy’s new and first daughter. He was very taken aback that I had spent almost three months making it for him. I am also making a pair of "Wild Rabbit" from designer Claire Garland for another buddy’s two daughters. They are quite a bit more complicated, and I am loving it.
Do you have a favorite Stitch & Story kit?
I have two, but the Cable Coo Hat is the only one I have actually made, yet. I do really like the hat, even after making the first one, frogging it, and remaking it. My wife didn't love the white so we picked up a different color and made her another one. It is a really nice pattern and, with the feedback I gave on how one does the cabling, the Stitch & Story instructional page now makes it more understandable as to where I went wrong when working on my first attempt.
The second is the Mateusz Snood, it is very pretty looking, but I have not started it, so I can't say how much I like it. I might take it out tomorrow for World Wide Knit/Crochet in Public Day, as the two bunnies are at a point now that it would be hard to knit them in public.
* If you would like to be featured as part of our crafters' stories please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org