Real Men Knit (For Babies)

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I typically steer queer of these kinds of stupid gender role things. Sure, knitting was historically, at some time and some place, a man’s job. Sure, men knitting has been the subject of a handful of books, documentaries, and blogs and online communities over the past few years. But the point isn’t who. You see, real people knit – men and women. And they’re all big weirdos.

For us homesteaders, sovereignty can extend beyond the kitchen, garden, and workshop… all the way to the rocking chair. If you don’t practice any fiber arts, I recommend giving the ol’ knitting needles a go.

Knitting is one of those crafts that can take a loooong time, present many opportunities for mistakes, and may leave you with a finished product that doesn’t fit or that you don’t really like. By the same token, it can be awesomely rewarding and a good way to keep busy when you’re laid up or forcibly quarantined. There are a million free resources online for learning how to knit (YouTube videos!), and luckily, it’s a fairly simple practice; nearly all patterns comprise a small set of common manoeuvres: knit, purl, yarn-over, slip, and a few others. If you have the tools, making your own needles is definitely an option… otherwise, kits with multiple sizes and circular setups can be pretty inexpensive, cover most projects, and last forever.

I took up knitting about eight years ago, but I’m by no means an expert. Since then, like Liz Lemon, I’ve picked up the needles only rarely. More recently, my knitting exploits have been mostly inspired by gift opportunities. And there’s no better gift opportunity for a knitted something than the stork’s arrival.

Babies are delicate, slobbery, crabby critters; as I understand it, they should be kept warm at all times, and they should be surrounded by soft stuff. Also, folks generally care about babies more than regular-sized people, so if you’re a procrastinator, the fact that a baby will be receiving your handmade gift might keep you more inspired than you were with, say, that watercolor painting for grandma you never finished. Enter the knitting needles!

Traditionally, baby knits involve small needles and thin, lightweight yarn. That means more stitches per square inch, and, thusly, more time spent knitting for the same amount of finished fabric. So socks would seem like a good way to go for a quick project – babies have tiny feet. Unfortunately, I’ve only experimented with the humble tube sock and have yet to truly master the art of gusseting. Tube socks are fine for my calloused, worn feet, but doesn’t an infant deserve something a little more?

Although it will, I’m warning you, require a significant time investment, I think that a really beautiful and thoughtful way to celebrate the birth of a baby is with a knitted blanket. I made one with a simple, repeated pattern a few years ago for my cousins’ daughter, and it was a hit. Now, whenever my family talks babies, I inevitably get the look that says, “You’d better dust off those needles.” Funny how quickly a family tradition can develop…

So, with the news of my second first-cousin-once-removed’s birth, I’m back at it. Last week, my cousin Kelsey and her husband Aaron welcomed baby Brayden into the world, and I couldn’t be more excited to play the part of fairy godfather.


]]>This time around, I’m making a baby version (with some pattern tweaks) of a big-boy blankie I knitted myself in college. I’m incorporating horseshoes, ladders, and cables, and I’m knitting everything up in a super soft wool I bought from Catskill Merino at the Union Square greenmarket – one of my favorite local fiber sources. It costs a pretty penny, but there are a few areas where I feel justified in splurging on materials, and this is one of them. No first-cousin-once-removed of mine will be swaddled in acrylic if I have anything to say about it.

Like cousin, like cousin.


The horseshoe print is one of my favorite patterns, and it’s really easy once you get the hang of it; the yarn-overs just keep moving towards the center of the shoe, so you’ll start to eyeball it. Here’s how I do it…

Cast on a multiple of 10 stitches, plus one.
Row 1: K1, (YO, K3, SL1, K2tog, PSSO, K3, YO, K1)
Row 2: Purl all
Row 3: P1, (K1, YO, K2, SL1, K2tog, PSSO, K2, YO, K1, P1)
Row 4: K1, (P9, K1)
Row 5: P1, (K2, YO, K1, SL1, K2tog, PSSO, K1, YO, K2, P1)
Row 6: K1, (P9, K1)
Row 7: P1, (K3, YO, SL1, K2tog, PSSO, YO, K3, P1)
Row 8: Purl all

K = knit
P = purl
YO = yarn-over
SL = slip stitch (like to knit)
K2tog = knit two together
PSSO = pass slipped stitch over

You can find descriptions and video demonstrations of these all over the internet, e.g. at Knitting Help.

And with that, it’s back to the needles for me.

P.S. If you are a dude and are afraid knitting might emasculate you, check out these real men knitters:

But unless you’re that football player, you’ll still look pretty queer playing with yarn in public. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with being a closet knitter.


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