Dads and Men who Knit and Crochet
With Fathers Day coming up this weekend, many of us turn our thoughts to the father figures in our lives.
I've been thinking a lot about my Dad lately, especially with my mom's illness. I've written a lot about my mom, but my Dad is pretty fantastic, too, and seeing the way that he takes care of my mom and looks out for my brother and me has truly been a beautiful thing to witness.
See, Dad and I are a lot alike. I may have inherited my fierce independence and low tolerance for nonsense from my mom, but my core personality is much closer to my dad's. We're both stubborn, opinionated, and relatively disciplined. We both love to learn and approach information with a healthy dose of skepticism and critical thinking. We both like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the Magnolia Network. Mom says we're both frustratingly indecisive about certain things, but once we make up our minds, very little can persuade us otherwise. We like to do things with our hands, and we both started our own businesses (he was a tool maker for many years up until he retired). We go a little overboard with our small vegetable garden, and we both have a bit of that Irish temper. Because we are so alike, sometimes Dad and I butt heads even though we're both saying the exact same thing (we've had some interesting arguments about which jigsaw puzzle pieces belong in which area of the puzzle that made Mom really roll her eyes), but we don't really stay aggravated with one another for very long.
Now, this isn't to say that Dad and I don't differ on a lot of things. I'm a fairly hardcore, liberal Democrat, and he isn't. He's relatively social and enjoys sitting outside with company that just drops by; whereas, I prefer to soak up as much quiet and alone time as I possibly can. He loves watching game shows. I only really got into them because watching them with Mom and Dad gives me a chance to spend more time with them. He gets a kick out of the antics on Swamp People; I will forever associate the covid lockdown of 2020 with watching endless episodes of that show only to excuse myself to stream something... not that... on Netflix. I enjoy fantasy fiction and am interested in various forms of mysticism; he is not.
But Dad's gentle care for my mom over the past six months has given me the opportunity to see a different side of my dad--the one that met my mom when they were 14 and 15 years old and has a truly deep love for this person he has spent more than 60 years of his life with. Seeing this side of my dad makes me appreciate him even more every day.
So, even though my Dad is not a knitter or crocheter (although who knows; I may be able to convince him one day to try something), I also think of all the dads out there who are.
Unfortunately, men who knit and crochet tend to be fetishized and treated as anomalies. Not that men don't stitch--just look at Arne and Carlos! But, a lot of non-stitchers treat men who stitch differently because they disrupt the stereotype of a so-called "feminine" activity. However, men have been knitting for just as long as women have. So much so that back in the 14th century, Europe saw a number of men-only knitting guilds. One of the prevailing theories is that the men-only knitting guilds were a way to capitalize on the marketplace for handknits by attracting wealthier clients and patrons through dangling the "artistry" of the handknit in front of them. Why was this space exclusive to men? In 14th century Europe, women were generally prohibited from business matters, and men dominated the merchant class, giving them easier access to the networking necessary for marketplace success. Men choosing to join one of these knitting guilds had to apprentice for three years to become a journeyman. This meant three years of studying different knitting techniques and perfecting their craft under the direction of a Master. After those three years, the newly minted journeyman had to spend another three to four years traveling the known world, further perfecting his craft, and gaining a "global" reputation for his work. Then, and only then, the journeyman needed to do what we would think of as a qualifying exam to become a Master by creating his "Master Work"--which typically included a series of knitted projects that showed off his breadth of skills. Generally, master work included a pair of cavalier socks, a beret, a woolen shirt, and a knitted carpet, all of which had to be completed in thirteen weeks! And, we're not talking simple, one-color stockinette knitting, either. These works not only included complicated stitches but also intricate colorwork, as well. That's quite a commitment! For more information about knitting guilds and the history of men in knitting, check out Mike of the Crafty Gentleman! So don't be so surprised when you meet a man who knits, crochets, spins, or weaves. Craft isn't gendered.