Sunday, November 25, 2012

Knitting for Male Persons

Knitting quote of the day: from "He Shall Thunder in the Sky": "At least I pressed on him a parcel of food and a nice warm knitted scarf, made by my own hands. My friend Helen McIntosh had shown me how to do it, and I found, as she had claimed, that it actually assisted in ratiocination, since the process soon became mechanical and did not require one's attention."

Sometimes I fantasize about what my life would have been like to have had only daughters. In so many ways, raising males presents challenges. I think of how, when James was a toddler, I had to stuff our books into our bookcases so tightly that he couldn't pull them out and destroy them and how Isabel, his little sister, would, at the same age, gently pull them out, slowly examine the pages, and methodically put them back in place. I'm not into gender stereotyping, but experience suggests some broad differences which stretch beyond what mere individual personality differences can account for. Author Elizabeth Peters is spot-on in her characterization of life with a son, especially in her quartet of novels from "Seeing a Large  Cat" through to "He Shall Thunder in the Sky". She has acknowledged that she based her character of Ramses on her own son and his friends. Still, I'm aware that having an all-female family is not necessarily the road to familial bliss, as my close friend, Mary, mother of four young women, has confirmed.
When it comes to knitting for male persons, author/designer Bruce Weinstein has it mostly right. The young man in my life (my son, James) wants knits that will not stand out, but that will make him look cool while keeping him warm. Examples:

James does not (fortunately) demand easy-care fibres, having been brought up to understand the proper care of handknits. (I still remember the stunned look on the face of a yarn shop owner when then 4-year-old James pronounced, after looking and feeling a skein of yarn, that it probably contained mohair.) Two days ago he asked me for a new sweater for Christmas. Note that at least he has the sense to ask for this in November. So, now I'm thinking about what direction this design will take. I'm looking at photos I like of men in knits and compiling a little gallery to go over with James, so that I can nail down exactly the characteristics he's looking for. I'm tending to think about something in a gansey style, but in a chunky weight of wool, because James says he wants something thick and warm. In knitting for men, there's always a balance to strike between keeping the style understated and the actual knitting interesting. I'm looking at this book for inspiration, and thinking about using this wool.

Of course, that colour choice might be up for grabs, since over dinner last night (baked beans over mashed sweet potatoes, accompanied by fennel salad), James informed me that he might actually like a cream-coloured pullover. Quite a shocking revelation--perhaps his fashion sense is maturing, along with everything else!

BTW, for anyone who wants a simple winter salad, very light and refreshing, here's my recipe, such as it is, for the above-mentioned salad.

Fennel and Apple Salad

1 fennel heart, thinly sliced
1 apple, of a crisp, juicy variety such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Fuji, unpeeled, 
and thinly sliced
¼ c of thinly sliced red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of lemon juice

Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Use a whisk to emulsify the oil and lemon juice. Toss with fennel, apple and onion. Chill before serving.
If you double it, you'll have enough for lunch the next day; it keeps very well overnight.


  1. Funny, in our house the battle of book protection was the opposite. My son, at age 10 months, held books right way up, carefully turned pages and asked to be read to. He is still very much a reader. My daughter, his younger sister, had no interest in books and was not at all careful with them, though she didn't attack them directly. She still isn't much of a reader, though she has begun to develop a taste for audiobooks.

    1. I had a little giggle whilst reading that too. My son was always fantastic with books and his toys, and his little sister was always pulling everything out and usually breaking some toy, although not on purpose. I think she was and still is just a more lively person who wants to do everything whilst my son is normally quiet and placid. I quite like the color of the Eco yarn, and I hope you find the color you like. I dont knit for my children anymore as my son has never liked wearing anything knitted at all, and my daughter is now 11 so she doesnt want to.

    2. Luckily, both our kids became heavy readers. Probably it was because I read to both extensively when they were quite young (I read the complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy over 3 months when they were 6 and 9 years old), but it might simply have been that the only TV we had was a 30-year-old black and white set with no cable!

  2. You have reminded me that I haven't knit a sweater for my son for a couple of years and he was the only kid who ever asked for one. I might have to jump on the bandwagon.