Well folks, I had really hoped things would be moving along with this website here, but due to lots of changes at my day job I have much less time and energy to devote to my knitting life. As soon as I once again find some life/work balance I'll be able to make updates and regular contributions to this site again. Thanks for your patience!
Despite a peripheral interest for most of my life, I didn't learn how to knit until I was in my mid-20's. As a boy, it just didn't seem like the kind of thing I "should" do, so I never really pursued it. But once I decided that knitting was not intrinsically a masculine or feminine act, I dived in with full force. I was still trepidatious, though, and didn't really know where to go to start.
Initially, I bought books and tried to teach myself that way. I'm a visual learner, though, so reading descriptions with the occasional still image wasn't doing it for me. I'd misunderstand directions, and without a base knowledge or someone to turn to and ask "is this right?" I was doing things wrong and not realizing it. It wasn't until I worked in the round for the first time did I realize I was wrapping the wrong leg of the loop on my knit stitches, essentially performing a twisted knit stitch on the right side. I looked at my work in the round versus my work knit flat, and noticed how different they looked. After deciding to look to online videos for help, I realized my mistakes and moved on. For anyone currently at this stage in learning to knit, I highly recommend Knitting Help for their visual aids.
I'm not sure about most people, but when it comes to knitting styles, I found learning English style (where the working yarn is held in the right hand and "thrown" around the needle) to be a bit easier to grasp, but once I got the hang of the basics, Continental (where the working yarn is held in the left hand, and the needle "picks up" the yarn) felt more natural. But even before I got to that point, my hands were just a mess of needles and fingers and yarn, a knitting style I've come to fondly refer to as "Caveman Knitting" - in part because I was figuring most things out for the very first time, but also because there was a lot of frustrated grunting and a fair amount of drool involved as I bent over the tangled mess in my hands.
Sometimes I am surprised at how attached some knitters are to the style they use themselves. They cite reasons such as their grandmother taught them to knit English, so that's the "right" way to knit, others say that Continental is faster (which, in my experience, it is) and therefore is the "right" way to knit. As with most things in life, both arguments—disregarding specific reasonings—are correct. Knitting English is the right way to knit: for HER. Knitting Continental is the right way to knit: for HIM. Knitting is a deeply personal experience, and if it's even possible to compare the learning experiences of two people, it would be unfair to do so. When I face someone, my right is their left, because we're looking at each other from different perspectives. I can be as adamant as I want that the window is to the right, while the person across from me adamantly states that it's to the left, but the reality is that it's to MY right, and HIS left.
Although there was some initial roughness, my style developed over the years and I consider myself an ambidextrous knitter, in that I am equally capable working in English or Continental, though I tend to prefer the latter for speed's sake, and mostly will knit English when working with multiple colors or on DPNs. Really, when it comes down to it, there is no "right" way to knit, just what works best for the person doing it. Sure, my early projects may have had unintentionally twisted stitches, and maybe my hands and body were positioned in such a way to make it look like I was tearing apart a recently hunted carcass instead of masterfully creating a garment, but to me, knitting is about the process as much as the result, not just on a project-by-project basis, but when it comes to the evolution of skill as well. No one can start out as a "perfect knitter" right out of the gate, mostly because such a thing doesn't really exist. Knitters are not just the ones that have their work featured in magazines and runways and shop windows, knitters are anyone who takes a pair of needles and yarn and dives in. I don't care if your scarves are lopsided or have dropped stitches or gaps, knitting is what you make of it, and anyone who makes the attempt is a knitter in my book.
The below was originally posted on the old version of my blog on August 26, 2012. I decided to repost it here, as it serves as a bit of an origin story to the purpose of this website going forward. It's more or less intact from the original post, with some inclusion of events that have happened since it first hit the 'net. Enjoy.
In general, I consider myself a relatively masculine guy. Sure, I have zero interest in sports, but I performed well in them in P.E.* often hitting home runs, scoring goals, and if I do say so myself, before I tore my rotator cuff in my early 20’s, I had a killer tennis serve. I drink beer (and unfortunately am starting to show the associated belly), I tend to prefer dark earth tones and neutrals over bright and showy colors, and while I occasionally wear jeans I really should have gotten rid of 2″ of my waist ago, my overall look tends to be very casual, with a solid tee and worn down jeans, hiking boots or sneakers, and a cap or beanie on my head. I abhor shaving, and generally have anywhere between a week and a month’s worth of growth on my face. Hair growth… growth of hair. Oh you know what I mean, a beard. Regardless, probably the girliest thing I do on a regular basis is knit.
*Though, to be honest, my junior year I did decide to join the Step Aerobics class instead of regular Physical Education. Out of 40 students, I was the only boy in the class, but I kicked ass on our finals, which were to essentially choreograph exercise routines using the step and other accouterments ensuring an even and balanced workout that was also fun. We only did step on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; Tuesdays and Thursdays were reserved for 45 solid minutes of abdominal work. I never was in better shape than that year.
Not that I think knitting, or fiber arts in general, isn’t masculine. I really feel that my generation is embracing crafts like knitting whole-heartedly and for the most part, able to shed away the gender roles and expectations that have historically come with the craft. But we have a long way to go to really make our mark when it comes to knitted garments and accessories for men. Perusing patterns online and in books in my local yarn shop, I see some really cool and original designs geared towards men that are actually flattering and wearable, but they are few and far between. By far, in my opinion, the one book of patterns every male knitter should own is Queensland Collection Book 9 by Jane Ellison. The sweaters and accessories featured inside are clean, masculine, flattering, and not too busy.
The problem I have with men’s fashion in general, though, is that if it’s not generic, it’s not wearable. Men really don’t have the infinite options women do when it comes to everyday knitwear. Unless, of course, you’re doing drag. Now, aside from a few Halloween costumes (i.e. a poorly executed Hedwig when I was 20, a stab in the dark to build a Halloween costume from 6″ Jessica Simpson golden pumps in 2 days, and more thought-out drag outfit with a pink motif) I don’t really do drag. But in some ways… I think I’d like to, but it doesn’t really work with my outward persona. Sure, part of the point is to create a new persona, but I am for the most part, a behind-the-scenes kinda guy. I write words, I don’t say them. I design things, I don’t wear them. I take pictures, not get my picture taken.
So where does that leave me? Generally, I prefer to keep masculine, somewhat rustic but with a glimmer of urban chic. I’d love to go grand, but feel like it would betray my desire to cater to the tiny community of male knitters who don’t want to be gaudy, but want to have something more interesting than grandma’s boxy reindeer sweater.
In the last week, I’ve turned to two places for inspiration: the Gaultier exhibit at the de Young museum and RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. The exhibit was creepy and beautiful, and really told me that outfits for men, while teetering over the edge into the realm of costume wear, can be toned down for casual wear, while maintaining elements of what makes it daring and unique. And while I would (likely) never go as far out as the girls in the drag races go to create unique and awe-inspiring wear, it’s affirming to see restrictions on gender removed and the creative process taking over.
When I get inspired, however, my brain still defaults to a women’s article of clothing or an accessory, because it’s so easy to glam it up and take risks on a female body. As a man, I constantly battle with my desire to flaunt creativity without, well, flaunting it. Women’s fashion is generally remarkable by how notably different it is, whereas men’s fashion is generally applauded while remaining safe. Right now, in my head, I have about 5-7 designs competing for attention. I have a few sketches done, and a few ideas on yarns and fabric weights and design elements I want to use to shape and texture my creations, but I think I should be pushing myself more to come up with something that fellow men will enjoy knitting, and wearing, knowing the person who conceived it faces the same frustrations they do.
This is simultaneously an exciting and boring post. Exciting because I'm making some significant changes to my site, focusing a lot more on my knitting endeavors than anything else, but boring because that's all there is to say at the moment!
Oh, and taxes suck. Felt that was worth mentioning, too.
Have a good one everyone and keep checking back thomsinclair.com for new content, designs, and whathaveyou in the coming months!