No need to knit your brow

2011-01-22 16:41

Some (real) men do it too. They practise the gentle, old-fashioned art of knitting and crocheting; producing beautiful jerseys, shawls, gloves, beanies, socks, blankets and ... lace.

In recent years, Hollywood stars such as Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz – knitting away on movie sets – became the cool public face of what has now become a hot trend.

People – South Africans in-cluded – are rediscovering the joys of knitting and a range of other crafts practised by their grandparents.

And local celebs, a soapie hunk included, do it too.

Yes, the coolest in the ranks of present-day knitters is not the exotic Ms Kidman or her sisters.

It’s the hundreds of guys behind the moustaches expertly wielding the needles, muttering “knit one, purl one”.

These men study The Knitting Stitch Bible and The Manly Art of Knitting, the knitting dude’s bible authored by Dave Fougner, an American who tried to entice male knitters out of the closet in the early 70s.

With Richard Nixon’s macho mafia in the White House in those years, it took balls (that’s not balls of wool) for men to admit to taking up the knitting needles.

But these days they do so unashamedly.

These guys trade patterns, tips and instruction videos on “men-who-knit” websites.

They even go on exclusively male knitting events.


Registration for this year’s Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat in the Easton Mountain Retreat Center in New York state – so one of these websites tells us – is currently open.

In case you’re wondering, “men-who-crochet” websites tell us that modern guys have crochet talents as well.
So there you have it.

Men and women do it. Some of them do it much better than grandma, some create disasters published on websites.

Why have so many ­new-millennial people developed a love for knitting and other ancient handcrafts?

“It’s relaxing,” says Stian Bam, the 34-year-old actor also known as Dawid Greef, TV soapie 7de Laan’s serial womaniser.

“It clears the head,” he says.

His grandmother taught him to knit and crochet and his wife, Truda, likes the “funny little things” he creates with the needles.

She incorporates some of it in things she makes for their home.

He loves “playing” with the needles, says Bam.

“It helps me with stress and it helps my wife with the decor.”

They are currently working on decorations for the little apron and bag to be used by his sister’s daughter who started school this week.

Therese Benade (Cherise in Home Affairs on SABC1 and Astrid in Villa Rosa on KykNet) is another inspired knitter on set.

She knits easy things: squares for blankets or scarves, she explains.

But crochet is her forte. And she loves it.

She says: “It calms me. It makes me switch off.”

People regard gifts created by hand as special, she says.

“They get so sentimental about these things.”

People’s return to knitting and other handcrafts constitutes a huge trend, declares Danielle Ehrlich, partner in the Cape Town-based LIV Green Design.

This firm incorporates handcrafted elements made by members of the community in its furniture designs.

“It’s a spiritual movement,” Ehrlich says.

“People are moving towards the soul.”

According to him, they have taken up handcrafts to get in touch with themselves and other human beings.
They want to handle things made by hands, not machines.

And they want to slow down their lifestyles and reclaim time.

“They do it because they want to take time out for themselves, to fully connect with themselves, to meditate,” says Ehrlich.

Compassion one square at a time

Knitters in 40 countries have been mailing loads of colourful squares for blankets, jerseys, beanies and toys for 1.4?million local Aids orphans to Knit a Square’s head office in Joburg.

Tapping into the world’s new fondness for the art of knitting and crocheting, the organisation distributes the colourful results of this trend to South African children in need.

This is a lesson soon to be imparted to convicts in maximum security prisons where, believe it or not, they will be given the opportunity to learn to use needles and wool.

According to Knit a Square coordinator Ronda Lowrie, maximum-security inmates will be given the opportunity to join a knitting project for purposes of rehabilitation.

Lyndie Ngwenya – one of the leaders of the knitting movement in Soweto – and her sisters not only do a lot of the knitting thing, but also visit poor areas to determine the needs of people. And they distribute the items sent to South Africa.

“Its like a drug,” Ngwenya explains, “When you are making a blanket, you think about the child who will receive it and that makes you happy.”

Joining Knit a Square has taken Ngwenya on a journey. “I have learnt a lot.

A needy person is also a child of God. And we have to help each other.”

Lowrie says two of the rooms in her house are storerooms overflowing with an “outpouring of love”: squares, jerseys, toys and other woolly artefacts. “We have received 170 000 squares from approximately 40 countries,” worldwide,” she says.

At 24 to 35 squares per blanket, this translates to between 8?000 and 9?000 blankets, she says.

And the blankets, explains Lowrie, “are just the currency to get to the children to tell them exactly how beloved they are. We tell them they are the future, unique and special”.

View what knitters do for children at Knit-a-square.com.

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