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Published on February 1st, 2018 | by Yazmin

41 comments

“Go take up knitting!” – Insult or Good Advice?

‘Shouldn’t you be knitting?’. While the answer is always a ‘yes’ from us, the prompt to ‘knit’ often has less cozy connotations. The recent controversial video by Vanity Fair on Hillary Clinton has us at LoveKnitting wondering whether today’s knitters are still facing stigma when it comes to our favorite hobby… 

When Vanity Fair ran a controversial ‘comedy’ video on Hillary Clinton’s 2018 New Year resolutions, it was suggested she “take up a new hobby in the new year… volunteer work… knitting…  literally anything that will keep [her] from running [for president] again.” 

Last year the deputy mayor of Toronto, Denzil Minnon-Wong, suggested that chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat should “stick to knitting.”

The remark “go take up knitting” has been used as a derogatory and dismissive term for years, often used in context where a women’s professional ability is undermined or questioned.

Are we knitters still battling with an age old stereotype that suggests that knitting is passive and disempowering?

Pop culture has often fed into the myth that knitting is somehow un-feminist. In the much loved 1998 adaptation of The Parent Trap starring Lindsay Lohan, the assertive Meredith Blake retorts: “What am I supposed to do, sit home and knit?!”

While Meredith is the power-hungry antagonist and rival to Lohan’s lovable twins in the film, her line resounds an often common reaction: the myth that adhering to this traditional craft is some kind of betrayal to modern female empowerment. 

In 2017, knitted pink pussyhats became the symbol of resistance at Trump’s inauguration, proving that knitting is not only integrated in current political protests, but is in fact at the forefront of the modern feminist movement. (This cover proves you can crochet the hats as well)!

Knitting and Gender

Ironically, although knitting has been seen as a typically feminine past time, from 200 AD to the 16th century male knitters dominated the craft. Recently, an emerging movement of male knitters have appeared on the scene, with British department store John Lewis offering ‘Men only knitting classes’ and high profile celebrities such as Ryan Gosling endorsing the craft. More men are turning back to knitting as a way to alleviate anxiety and cultivate well being. 

Lawyers, who are trained to not show emotion for fear of appearing weak in the courtroom, have endorsed knitting as a great way to deal with stress, improve brain functioning and address perfectionism, helping to remedy long-term health concerns.

With more male and female professionals turning to knitting as a mindful practice, to help stress relief, explore creativity and well, just enjoy because let’s face it – it’s so darn satisfying to craft your own apparel, isn’t it time that, rather than an insult, “take up knitting” became an adage that reinforces what it means to thrive and succeed in today’s fast paced culture?

What stereotypes have you faced as a knitter? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below!  

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About the Author

is writer, filmmaker and coffee addict who loves anything crafty and creative! Her writing has featured on numerous publications including Elite Daily, Amor Magazine and Huffington Post. She also founded the award nominated collective blog aliljoy.com.


Last updated: February 13th, 2018.

41 Responses to “Go take up knitting!” – Insult or Good Advice?

  1. Karen Bond says:

    Shame the picture is of a crocheted hat!

  2. Samantha Ashby says:

    I’ve never had a bad experience with knitting 🙂 The funny thing is wherever I go with my knitting or crochet, it always sparks such lovely conversations, usually about wanting to learn or experiences with beloved relatives, the kind of conversations that leave you feeling good. Even the taxi driver who picked me up from my knitting and crochet group while my car was in for MOT last week was telling me about his friends who knit and crochet. Crafting doesn’t just make me happy, it makes everyone I meet with it happy.

  3. Julie says:

    I have been knitting since I was 7 years old it’s a great past time especially if you are worried or just need some me time & I have found people to be delighted when you have knitted for them I would never be ashamed or think it’s a derogatory thing people do they don’t know what they are missing

  4. Linda Dominique says:

    In the past when attending creative courses of one sort or another and people ask what kind of craft or creative experience you have, you see their eyes glaze over if you mention knitting or crochet as if it doesn’t count. The use of colour, texture and form in the creating process doesn’t seem to register for them.

  5. Denise Sheard says:

    I have been knitting since I was a child, making things for myself, my children,my granddaughter,my daughter in law and my friends. I get great pleasure in making things from clothes to toys and many other things. It keeps me busy and happy. So keep on knitting everybody

  6. Jeannie Helberg says:

    I’ve been knitting since I was about ten years old and have never felt ashamed of it or seen as something derogatory. I take great pride in every single item I knit and as for the ignorant people out there blabbering and intending the term “take up knitting” or whichever way they put it … blah-blah-blah. It’s my way of relaxing (I often sit and think about knitting when I’m stuck in traffic and it relaxes me – really!). Fortunately for me I’m too thick-skinned anyway to be in the least perturbed by insults or anything meant as an insult, and that includes my knitting. Go knitters!

  7. Meryl Payne says:

    I learned to knit just before I was five in the late forties. The UK was recovering from war as were other countries and there were not many toys available. Those that we had seemed rather limiting. However, I had knitting needles and yarn not to mention pieces of fabric and sewing needles to make lavender bags. This started me off on a lifetime of knitting, crochet and sewing for which I am eternally grateful to my Mother for teaching me so early in life.

    • Pam Page says:

      I have to agree with you, as my lifetime of sewing & knitting started at the same time as you, and in the same way. When I thanked my mother for her efforts, all she would say was that she did not want me to be bored. Thanks to her I have had a very creative life and have certainly not been bored. I hope girls are being taught when they are young now, so they can have their own lifetime’s enjoyment.

  8. Trisha Scott says:

    Yes, knitting brings many benefits but there are some who might sneer though ignorance. I am an artist and see knitting as another creative pursuit, my knitting allows me to clear my thoughts and focus. I refuse to allow false assumptions that knitting is mindless rather than mindful spoil the pleasure.

  9. Sue says:

    Knitting is creative and relaxing. It is a joy to be able to create something out of wool, needles and a pattern. I have been knitting since I was a teenager in the early 1960s, creating garments, accessories, blankets, toys and so on for myself and family members of various generations as well as sewing garments and other things. It is a source of pride that I can create something unique. There should be more knitting and sewing time in life.

  10. Brenda says:

    I learnt to knit and crochet when I was five and feel blessed that I have those skills. A few years back I started a knitting and crochet group and have taught a number of men and women. A number have had mental health issues and they have all accredited these crafts for helping with relaxation and a feeling of well-being. My next venture now I am fully retired is to speak to my doctor to see if I can get a group started within the practice to help others

  11. Judith Osborne says:

    I’ve been knitting since I was six years old and up until secondary school I didn’t have a problem but it was during my early in evens that I experienced the most insults and derogatory problems, I was both mentally and physically bullied, to the point of having my teeth knocked out by the other students because of my craft. I gave up knitting for many years as it bought me such painful memories. I’m now in my 50’s and have come back to crafting and am loving every minute of it. I realise now it doesn’t make any difference what other people think, what matters is my happiness.

  12. Irene says:

    I too have been “teased” about my crafts. My male cousins were rude when I won a dress the doll prize in school at age 10. My mother encouraged me when I wanted to make my own clothes in my early teens, I knitted my first cardigan at 19 but I never admitted it to anyone and stopped crafting for years until I had children and made their clothes sewn and knitted and yet again dolls clothes. This was through necessity rather than pleasure. It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s, and after a breakdown, that a friend took me to classes in a craft shop that I rediscovered the joy of making. Then I discovered that people who do not create tried to bully me. I developed a very thick skin and now knit every day but I also sew and embroider.I love my creativity and my life.
    ,

  13. Irene A says:

    My grandfather taught me to knit and crochet back in the fifties when I was a small girl. At his rural village school in the 1900’s all the boys had to learn (and sew) with the girls learning woodwork and other handy stuff. My daughters never wanted to learn but now my eldest (41) taught herself and puts me to shame with her knitted and crocheted creations.

  14. Ann Roberts says:

    I belong to a Knit and Natter group, and one comment from someone who is not a member was “I don’t do girlie things’, suggesting she was above it!

  15. Rosemary Keeble says:

    My dad taught me to knit last year. He’s knit since he was 22. It inspired me and i’m thoroughly into my projects. I absolutely love it. Still a beginner but i can spend hours browsing for that next pattern and the different types of wool.

  16. Annie says:

    In response to the idea that knitting doesn’t require a brain, I would suggest that those who utter this should knit a traditional Aran sweater and then tell us again how much brain it actually needs to decipher and remember a full Aran pattern.

    Anyway, I never had negative experiences like this. I am a feminist and I knit because it is relaxing, it’s pain relief and nothing is more satisfying when a project is finished, looks beautiful and is unique.
    The only really annoying this is when others seem to think that when you like doing something they can get it for free.

    • Jackie moore says:

      I have hydrocephalus and met a lovely lady betsan corkhill who came to one of our talks she is a neuro physiologist and has written books and does lots of lectures involving the benefits of knitting. I had given up with knitting and noticed the decline in my mental ability and since picking it back up with lots of encouragement have noticed an improvement in my well being

    • Shelley says:

      Not only the pattern, there’s the maths that goes into it too. How many stitches per inch? How many balls if the item takes x amount of yarn and you’re not using the recommended one.

  17. Robyn D. says:

    My late partner learned to knit during the 2nd world war. As a boy sailor in the Royal Navy, it was something to do when there was absolute silence because of the proximity of submarines.
    When we lived in the country our neighbour had been a high country farmer growing fine merino wool. He gave me a beautiful fleece which I spun and knitted into an Aran jumper for him as a surprise. The look on his face when he saw it was wonderful. He’d never seen anything from his own sheep after the shearing finished. He almost wore it to bed!

  18. SHK says:

    Me an early knitter too – from age 6 and never seen it as a ‘separate’ activity. It has been integral to my life. Knitted in at university and got called out by the lecturer who tried to patronise me, until I repeated his arguments verbatim and with clarity because, as I explained it helped me stay awake in a hot classroom, focus and remember. As a Midwife, I’ve knitted at several deliveries, helping the woman and partner to calm down and relax more, all the while focused and watching (it amused parents I could knit without looking at the needles). Knitted while waiting for examination and results at the breast cancer clinic (thankfully all OK) and have knitted at boring ‘parties’ that I probably didn’t want to go too at all, but felt obliged (that one I can get away with only because of my age now!) So, to paraphrase, Women can ‘have it all’ ……..they can combine a career with knitting!!!!! 🙂 🙂

  19. p.m says:

    I was taught to knit at a young age and during the early 1960’s was fostered with a dear Lady I call Mum Blake and her daughter, there I learnt to perfect and was taught how to make a garment look professional. Mum Blake used to make skirts for us with material bought in the market etc we felt so proud Irene in her double,double knit jacket (it was stunning I still have a copy of the pattern) and both of us in our new skirts heading for the Royal Tottenham on a Sat night.
    Since then I’ve knitted and up till recently headed a small knitting group at Church. as previously said it eases tension, helps with arthritic hands, concentration and gives a sense of achievement. and to see the joy in a person who has finished their first item is so worthwhile.
    I knitted for my children,there children and other peoples. The making and giving of a gift cannot be bought, I recall making teddies with a group after a world tragedy, knitting to put hats & gloves in shoe boxes for a charity. which gave one a sense of helping when there seemed nothing I could do to help.
    I am so thankful for those who helped me learn to knit and sew and for the hands I have to still be able to produce my own knitwear. And if they so want would help anyone of any age or gender to pick up and click there needles to gain a sense of “I can, I did, I have something to show for my time. so knitters unite and share your knowledge it’s needed and I’m delighted the craft has made a come back.

  20. Lynne says:

    Knitting is relaxation and therapy for the many stressed by today’s pace. I started knitting in grade three when soldiers needed socks and our teacher’s husband was away. Knitting all kinds of articles for friends has consumed spare time. Seventy years on and I have knitted socks for family and friends for Christmas and have seen the delight on their faces as many of them were unable to knit. Girls and guys keep on knitting, it brings a lot of joy.

  21. Alison says:

    My Gran taught me to knit at an early age & I used to do it sat in her old apple tree ( health & safety would have had a fit). I designed & made all my own doll’s clothes. Sindy was not only stylish but warm. I am sure knitting made me the relaxed person I am. Still like to knit outside so plenty of fresh air too. ( I do give the tree a miss now though).

  22. Mrs Valerie Hoidgkins says:

    I have been knitting since I could hold knitting needles and like so many others my mother taught me also. When I retired at 68 I just did not know what to do with myself. Found a local craft fair which was held once a month which I have now been doing for the last 6 years. My knitting is toys and dolls clothes. It took a while to get known, and word of mouth is a wonderful thing. I like to think my toys are of a high standard. I am now 75 and still knitting like a mad thing. It keeps the brain active and I just love all of my toys. Its the wonder of two needles and a ball of wool and of course me which can create such lovely things. There are people who turn up their noses at knitted toys, but then that is their opinion. There are also the people who really appreciate the work that goes into these toys. A lot of young people these days cant even sew on a button, because their mothers cant sew buttons on. It is such a shame, as they get older they will have no creative hobby they can pass down to their grandchildren and show them the wonders of two needles and a ball of wool. I hope to keep knitting and going to my craft fairs for a good many years to come.

    • tmana says:

      There’s definitely a “lost generation” where needle knowledge is concerned. The good news is, their children are definitely interested in learning, and knitting and crochet are popular classes among teens and young adults. The other good news is that as that “lost generation” starts becoming grandparents, the to-be grandmothers are keenly interested in being able to do for their grandkids what their mothers and grandmothers did for them.

  23. Sally says:

    My mother taught me to knit at a young age and I made many dolls clothes and items for myself as I grew older.When I hit my teens my peers often mocked my hobby and I left it behind me.When I discovered I was pregnant I had a yearning to knit for my baby and took up the needles once more but now my children are older they no longer want to wear my creations.I do keep my friends and neighbors supplied though!I look forward(if it happens)to knitting for my grandchildren.

  24. ava diane hinson says:

    i have been knitting for at least 10 years, i’m self-taught. thanks to excellent resources like knittinghelp.com I have had great support from friends and family. i seldom get to keep anything i knit…i enjoy gifting. this year i made a number of teddy bears for sibs and grandchildren. so cute. knitting can be carried wherever i go. very rewarding.

  25. Shirley says:

    I was also taught knitting and sewing by my mum and how to crochet by my gran and nan at a young age. The satisfaction I feel from completing a garment in any of these hobbies can’t be beaten. Although I’ve never been bullied or belittled, but even if I had it would not have stopped me it is just so enjoyable and relaxing. I love my knitting, crochet and sewing and am somewhat OCD about it and yarn and fabric, so much joy to be had browsing wool and fabric shops and then wearing your own unique creations.

  26. Lisa says:

    Knitting is my passion! I’m not very creative or artistic, but I have a very mathematical mind ( I used to be a very successful computer programmer). Patterns (especially lace and complex stitch arrangements) appeal to my logistical and number-starved brain. I took up knitting when my 4th child turned two and I’d chosen to put my career aside to concentrate on raising my young family. Knitting gave me ‘busyness’ for my mind while sitting through a myriad of sporting activities, doctor appts and lots of waiting around to pick up kids. I even took up knitwalking to combine exercise and mind stimulation. I often think of women in Victorian times who knitted out of necessity, but were probably also provided with essential activity for underused and oppressed minds.

  27. Janet Revesz says:

    I taught my younger brother to knit when he was about eight and I was ten – my dad was not impressed! I think atttitudes have changed and knitting – and all crafts – are fashionable and popular again. Knitting is also therapeutic as well as being creative and, of course, useful. I’m often amused when watching tv drama to see characters ‘knitting’ who have obviously never held a needle in their lives!

  28. Erkaa says:

    My mother learned me how to knit when I was 12. Since then I have not stopped, I also enjoy embroderies but knitting stays my favourite hobby. I have knitted many sweaters, dresses, etc… nowadays I mostly make soft toys; I recently gave a self-made rabbit for a baby boy, it was a success. I never had any negative reactions and if there were, I wouldn’t care about them. I love knitting, it keeps me busy, knitting keeps going my brains, counting stitches, choosing colors, I do not know in my village (South of France) of any knitting group, if there were one, I would surely join them, in the meantime I enjoy every minute I knit. The colors, the touch of wool … it is pure pleasure

  29. Barbara Fleet says:

    Any comments are soon silenced when the end product is produced then its envy at the skill of knitting or crochet!! I try hard not to feel smug!

  30. Nancy says:

    When I was young my mom taught me how to crochet (I taught myself knitting in my senior year of high school). Other kids asked why I was doing “granny crafts”. Since there is a history of arthritis in the family I just told them I wanted to get things made before I no longer could do it. Didn’t know until many years later that science found knitting and crochet help prevent arthritis.
    I have never stopped either knitting or crochet over the years and I enjoy teaching it to others. I donate lots of blankets, hats, and scarves to local charities each year. I hope to keep crocheting and knitting for as long as I am able.

  31. Lydia says:

    I learnt in my 20s a few years ago- lots of friends my age in London knit, where it was and still is considered cool . When I moved to Essex the reaction I got changed, 2 comments I recently received were ‘aren’t you a bit young for that?’ And ‘Have you turned into a granny?’
    So I think attitudes are changing and will continue to improve over time. In the meantime I tell myself the reactions say more about the person than they do the craft, or me!
    Hooray for knitting!

  32. Rachel says:

    I’ve been knitting through most of my 20s and the only “negative” comments I’ve received are generally limited to teasing about being too young or something about “and how many cats do you own?”
    In general reactions are usually more impressed. I work in construction and had a boss who was completely blown away hearing that I’d knitted the sweater I was wearing.
    As far as male knitters, though I was taught by my mom, my dad can also knit, crochet and sew. He taught my older and younger brothers to crochet their own hats. He’s retired now and has even taught small crochet ornament classes when he stays at RV parks because he’s met so many older ladies who regret never learning.
    I agree there is still a stigma but hopefully it’s dwindling!

  33. tmana says:

    I was quite surprised when, in my teens, I learned that my (male) cousin, a dentist, knitted. I was told that it was common for dentists and doctors, particularly surgeons, to knit and/or crochet, as it kept their fingers nimble for their professional work. (At the time, knitting and needle work were considered primarily female pastimes. This was before American football star Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier made known that he enjoyed doing needlework in his off time.)

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