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Last Update: February 16, 2006 4:43 AM

Knitting is not just for women -- and never was

Two sticks

When you think of someone knitting, what image comes to mind? Is it one of a sweet, little old granny rocking back and forth in her wooden rocker while she deftly plies the yarn into something wonderful to wear? Do you see young athletic teens knitting and talking about yarn brands? Teenage boys, I mean.

Would it surprise you to learn that their ski coach is also teaching them to knit? And the coach is a guy! And it's happening right here in Anchorage. Obviously, knitting isn't just for girls.

Come Feb. 24, John Angst, the Dimond High ski coach, will be giving the fine points of knit and purl to local guys age 14 and older at a Midtown craft store.

But men have long been knitters. In fact, some believe fishermen who tied knots in their nets were the first to use knitting.

Some nations such as Portugal still have more men who knit than women. They practice a quick method of purling in the round that looks as though the knitter just flicks the stitches rather than actually knitting them. The yarn is carried over the shoulder and around the neck before it is dropped to the floor, where the weight of the skein of yarn creates the tension. The men use this method of knitting with such ease it would seem they don't even think about the work itself. Sweaters just appear from the circular needles.

Men continue to command respect for their mastery of the knitted stitch. Kaffee Fassett of knitting design fame has taken his art to the best-known galleries and museums of London, Paris and New York. He is famous for creative masterpieces of intarsia worked up in many bold and bright colors. Brandon Mabley, who also works with Fassett, teaches classes in color work knitting on a worldwide basis. The work created by these two master knitters challenges the most skilled of the craft.

Contemporary men have discovered the art of knitting and claim it is a soothing way to relax. Big, strong guys such as football legend Rosie Greer work magic with their large fingers. Indeed, who could dare to criticize him, especially since he is big, tall and has pointy sticks in his hands.

During the filming of "The Legend of Zorro," Catherine Zeta-Jones taught Antonio Banderas to knit as a way to occupy him while he mended from an injury. He enjoyed knitting so much he taught his wife, Melanie Griffith.

New York City's Lower Manhattan has a "Boyz Nite" at a Greenwich Village shop called Knit New York. The shop is fighting the stereotype that knitting is just for women. Men can drop in to knit until late at night. It is so successful that it has dozens of men, heterosexual and gay, who regularly come to knit, gather tips and drink beer or eat hot dogs. The conversation often ranges from dating disasters to which stitches work best with which yarns and what team won the last football game.

A group of men from Washington, D.C., that meets a couple of times a month started their own online zine. You can check out Dan Vera's and Michael del Vecchio's great patterns, knitting comments and even a knitting crossword puzzle at www.menknit.net. I especially liked Sean Riley's iPod mittens: a pair of really neat modern mittens with a pocket for the iPod.

Your local yarn shop has classes perfect for that young lad or grown-up man who might want to learn this not-so-feminine craft. Several shops even have male teachers on staff. It's really just a bunch of knots, you know, and even Boy Scouts and sailors tie knots.

Catherine Hollingsworth, interior designer, artist and professional knitter, has lived in Alaska for 17 years. A past president of Knitters of the North, she currently designs knitwear patterns for publication. To reach her, e-mail twosticks@adnmail.com.


A KNITTING CLASS FOR MEN, Men with Sticks, will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 24 and March 10 at The Yarn Branch of The Quilt Tree, 341 Benson Blvd. Cost is $35. For more information, call 561-4115.