Friday 11 August 2017

Exclusive Interview With

How do you flog yarn to a typical bloke, making knitting as desirable a hobby as football, real ale and X-Box? Now we A Woolly Yarn readers know that knitting is a unisex pastime - there's nothing girly or sissy about it - but sadly once boys get past primary school age, or even before, many reject knitting as something for girls.

Thirty-six year-old Yorkshireman Lewis (Lewy) Ryan is on a mission to change this stereotype by creating a community of knitters across Barnsley and launching a knitting portal for men, appropriately named ManKnit. He exclusively chatted with A Woolly Yarn about his values, plans and wool range.

ManKnit patterns and wool are unashamedly marketed towards men. Says Ryan: "The whole Manknit ethos is to try and get more males into knitting. The packaging, the names of the products (ManBowls for example), the pattern designs, even the colourways .. they're all aimed at encouraging more men to pick up the needles (or at the very least, want to wear the finished item if a loved one has knitted it for them)."

Image courtesy of ManKnit
ManKnit's own range of wool - Falkland Fine Merino and Blue-Mash, a Blue-Faced Leicester and Masham blend - come in natural colours in a blue wrapper. There's a reason for this explains Ryan: "With the ManKnit colourways and patterns I've tried to be rather plain ... most blokes don't really like anything to bright or flamboyant, even too much cabling can put some blokes off."

A 100g ball of ManKnit's Blue-Mash costs £12.99.  Supporting patterns on the website include beanies and an aran scarf.

It's not all manly colours though. Amongst ManKnit's natural plant dyed yarn range there's ... sshh ... Pink Ice Cream Aran and Pretty In Pink Aran.  Perhaps so the blokes can knit something for their girlfriends?

Offline Ryan runs knitting classes for men. How has he persuaded his fellow Yorkshiremen to pick up the needles? "Busting the gender myth is hard" he replies. "I think the men that I taught to knit have done so because they find it a skill and aren't worried what others think."

Lewis (Lewy) Ryan
He gives a case study: "There's a engineer that comes to my regular Knit and Natter evening. He's 6'5'', covered in tattoos, rides a motorbike and always has oil on his hands. On his first evening (he's never knitted previously) he compared knitting to welding, saying it was an incredible skill to have, once you have mastered it you can create anything! However he still hasn't told his friends at the engineering firm he works for that's he's knitting as he's worried about what they'll think."

Hopefully as ManKnit's community grows men will feel able to out themselves from the knitting closet.

A Woolly Yarn is delighted to see that ManKnit's wool range is British. No Chinese imports or acrylic here.

Image courtesy of ManKnit
Ryan says his wool is locally grown and spun, environmentally using free air miles. He notes that "there are so many breeds to choose from in the UK, each breed's wool having its own properties, be that colour, texture or feel. I myself prefer rougher yarns as they are more robust (I use them for hiking and camping so they need to stand up to the elements). There's an amazing choice in the UK and that's before you start to blend various breeds for their properties."

He's not a fan of synthetic fibres, which "are used without thought of what happens to them after they are worn. They just go into landfill and won't decompose for hundreds, if not thousands of years ... I really can't understand why more people don't champion wool."

Hear hear!


  1. Good way to break through knitting's female associations! I would like to read more about championing wool. Many of your readers might know the pro's and con's of wool over acrylic etc, if be really interested in an 'ethical info' article about knitting materials. From pollution to non slaughter production to reused yarns?

    1. Great idea Denise, we'll look at that for a future blog post.


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