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It sounds like the title of a politically correct fairy tale, doesn't it? But no, it really exists. In the center of Lake Titicaca there lies the tranquil and beautiful Peruvian island of Taquille. An island where time seems to have stood still, the people still speak Quechua, the ancient tongue of the Incas, and handicrafts are a primary source of income. With a backdrop of the snow-capped Andes mountains, no vehicles disturb the tranquility. And the residents of the island wear traditional dress that represents the fiber handiwork of the women AND men of the island.

The women of Taquille do the weaving and share in the spinning duties. Young girls carry their hand held spinners everywhere they go and the woman weave the intricate and colorful images that represent the rich cultural history of the island. But whenever one sees travel photos of the island of Taquille the inevitable image is that of the island men and their knitting. Boys are taught to knit at a young age -- a much better alternative to Nintendo as far as I am concerned -- and they knit as they walk around the village. As they grow to be men, they knit hats called Chullos,in colors that depict their marital status: white for bachelors, red for married men. Even the tassles on the hat say something about the man, If you are single the tassle hangs behind your head. If single and looking for a wife, it hangs to the side of your head. I know many American single women who would welcome the introduction of this tradition in our would be so much easier than the inevitable neck-craning search for the gold band.

My discovery of this island's unique culture has caused me to reflect on what it would be like if Taquille's gender-bending knitting tradition were shared with this country. What would it be like if North American men were the ones who did most of the knitting? For an answer to this question I turned to an American male knitter.

At 6'3" and 270 pounds computer manager Mike Diehn is about as far as you can get from a stereotypical knitter. He learned to knit from some female co-workers at and has taken to it like an alpaca to a pasture. When I asked him what he thought it would be like if, like Taquille, more men knitted in America than women, he immediately said that he would not be as interested in it seems he likes standing out in a crowd (and at 6'3" I bet he does often). He went on to speculate that given the male personality, the tools of knitting would be larger and more elaborate. He also felt that men's fashions would be different, more sensual and textured. He went on to speculate that women's fashions would probably be affected too (especially given that he is learning to crochet just so he can knit his wife a bikini). He finished by saying that perhaps men would be more affectionate and open up more socially given the wonderful interaction he has been part of in his lunchtime knitting circle.

Mike's thoughtful reflection made me consider how I envisioned the craft would change were the men to be in the knitting majority:

  • Evening and weekend television would be filled with knitting-related programming like "Knit
    Chat with Tom Arnold," and "Monday Night Cast On"
  • Kaffe Fassett would do beer commercials.
  • The traditional Presidential fireside chat would be given while he knit a new the first lady a new cardigan.
  • Knitting would be encouraged in board meetings.
  • Over a Friday night beer a male-bonding conversation might begin with, "Hey, did you catch that latest fair isle pattern in the new Vogue Knitting issue?"
  • The local yarn shop would be replaced by large chains with tons of choices, like "Yarn Depot."

On second thought, never mind. Why not keep things just the way they are? Though I would love to visit the idyllic island of Taquille one day. But for now I would like things to stay the way they are in our country. Besides, it is hard enough to get my husband to mow the lawn without having him say, "Just one more row, honey."


Ann Hagman Cardinal is a freelance writer whose first novel, Sister
Chicas -- co-authored with two other Latina writers--is due to be released in April of 2006 from NAL/Penguin Books. She has a regular column in Vermont Woman called "Café Con Lupe" and she writes on knitting often and has had articles appear in Family Circle Easy Knitting. Ann also works as the National Marketing Director for Union Institute &

She lives in Vermont with her husband, Doug, and son, Carlos.