Men in stitches: they're taking up knitting to relax

Women outnumbered at woollens event, as male interest in retro crafts increases

Laurence Fishburne is said to do it; even Russell Crowe. Reports of Hollywood tough guys who love to knit may be little more than wishful blog fodder, but a growing army of men are winding down with needles and yarn.

The image of women getting together to "stitch and bitch" is outdated: interest in knitting, whose male celebrity fans include the singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, has surged in recent years as part of the wider revival of retro crafts fuelled by a make-do-and-mend culture. About 50,000 people will have attended the four-day Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill, north London, by the time it closes this afternoon.

While male knitters are still in the minority, retailers report the gender gap is closing. John Lewis has seen "a massive increase" in men shopping for wool in Sheffield, where men outnumbered women at a recent knitting event. The proportion of male haberdashery customers has doubled in the past two years – from 20 to 40 per cent – at John Lewis branches in London and Newcastle.

The handknitting company Rowan estimates the number of men using its services has doubled in the past four years. As a result, it has launched the Dalesmen Collection for Autumn/Winter 2011, its first dedicated collection of designs for men for six years. Men account for between 10 and 15 per cent of customers at the I Knit London shop, near Waterloo, compared with 5 per cent five years ago.

Andrew Stephenson, 49, a senior manager in the NHS who lives with his wife, Carol, in Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire, knits before work. "It's a hobby which is very absorbing and productive, and also does allow me to get de-stressed and start the day quite fresh and focused," he said.

David Wishingsky, 50, who runs the Marina Post Office Tea Rooms in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his partner, Philip, launched a knitting group in the café last week after learning the "therapeutic" craft six months ago. "It's almost like meditation because it's repetitive," he said.

The second UK Men's Knitting Retreat will run in Yorkshire next spring. The organiser, Fred Brin, 37, a freelance secretary from Wilsden, West Yorkshire, said the weekend was needed "because so much is geared towards the female grandmothers". Mr Brin, administrator of the Britknit Men UK group on Ravelry, a social networking site for knitters, did not know whether more men were knitting or it had "become more acceptable to be public about it because it is back in vogue".

Rosy Greenlees, executive director of the Crafts Council, said it was not a surprise that men were knitting. Sailors used to knit, and men and women knitted garments for soldiers during the Second World War.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas