I’ve spent many years trying to figure out what men and boys want in knitwear. Do they want soft? baggy? close-fitting? neutrally colored? what everyone else is wearing? something different?
When I first dreamed up the idea for Kung Fu Knits, my goal was to try a different approach. If boys are reluctant to wear hand-knit garments, maybe we need to think instead about what they DO want, and knit THAT. My son had been studying kung fu for a little more than a year at that point—he’s now nearly a black belt—so that seemed like a great theme to hang this idea on.
As I began to work out the designs—a whole kung-fu outfit! oooooh! nunchuks! throwing stars!—it dawned on me that this wasn’t really just a book for boys. Lots of girls I know would love this stuff, too. Heck, I would have loved this stuff as a kid. For that matter, not all boys are into kung-fu fighting. I began to talk about the book as a book of kids’ knits rather than boys’ knits.
And that’s when my lovely tech editor, Joeli, intervened. There are so few knits for boys, she said; why try to hedge your bets? Just call it what it is: it’s a book for boys. The girls who are interested will find it anyway. (Or words to that effect.)
She had a point. I knew I didn’t agree with her entirely, but I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since. She’s right that boys need more patterns, and that the whole ethos of this book is going to appeal to more boys than girls.
But, as I say, there are lot of girls who love this kind of stuff, and I was one of them.
That’s me at age nine, circa 1980, rocking my Dorothy Hamill haircut and my favorite outfit—including my Mork suspenders, which just makes me sad all over again about Robin Williams. (I have no idea what the pin said. And yes, that is a VW van—our neighbors’.)
My point is that this is not the face of a girly girl. All of my friends at this point were boys. I found it so confusing that there were girls in my grade who liked to wear makeup and do cartwheels during recess just to impress boys. Foursquare (the game, not the app) and riding bikes were MUCH more interesting.
You may have noticed from the other photo above that my son doesn’t fall into easy masculine categories either. His hair is even longer now than it was when we did the photo shoot for Kung Fu Knits. And not all of Liam’s tastes run toward smashing and crashing and tearing things up.
Here he is a few weeks ago about to blend up some strawberry mousse, which he learned how to make during a five-hour cooking class while we were in Italy. Because that and a pasta maker were what he wanted for his tenth birthday.
What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think boys and girls are simple, and I don’t think there are or should be clear boundaries of acceptable behavior or dress for either one. You knit what you want to knit, and you wear what you want to wear. I’m going to call Kung Fu Knits a book of boys’ knits as shorthand, but it’s really a book for any kid who wants adventure.
Kung Fu Knits is now available for preorder at Cooperative Press and on Ravelry. The book will be released on or before September 15 and is available either as a digital download ($9.95) or in paperback ($15.95), which also comes with the digital download.