The story appears on

Page A11

December 7, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Let’s set the record straight. Men who knit are not sissies

If you think knitting is only for girls, meet Pan Ruibin.

“There should be no gender gap in knitting or other handicrafts,” said Pan, 34, a male knitter and knitwear entrepreneur in a village in the southern province of Guangdong.

At age 6, Pan learned knitting from his mother, who like other women in their village handcrafted clothing for a foreign trade company in the 1980s and 90s. By the time he was 10, Pan had become quite accomplished and could knit a woolen sweater with ease.

“I have liked knitting since my childhood,” said Pan. “The voices of doubt have always been there. Many people said that I was like a girl. I was embarrassed at the very beginning, but now I don’t care what people say about me.”

While his teenage schoolmates were engaged in rough-and-tumble play after class, young Pan knitted and chatted with his mother and his neighborhood ayi.

But as the 21st century dawned, those happy memories seemed a distant past. Handmade items were being replaced by machine-made goods, and knitting circles all but disappeared.

Leaving his hometown, Pan studied pharmacy at university. However, he wasn’t really interested in his major, so undertook to learn Japanese on his own and later worked as a Japanese translator for a foreign company after graduation.

In 2009, he had the idea of starting a business related to his hobby of knitting. He opened a Taobao store called Panwallzer and tested the market for handmade knitwear in his off-work hours.

To his surprise, there were many people nostalgic about handcrafted clothing. In the first year, he earned thousands of yuan a month, higher than his existing salary.

Determined to press on, Pan quit his job and returned to his hometown. His parents weren’t exactly overjoyed about his plans.

“My dad insisted that running an online shop was equal to unemployment,” he said.

Despite their doubts, Pan persisted.

Now he employs up to 70 local knitters, women aged 35 to 70. Many of them had been unemployed for years with the decline of handmade knitwear. Although it had been a long time since they used needles, their knitting skills weren’t lost.

“I am so happy to see again that previous warm moment when a group of women do knitwork and chat together in my village,” said Pan. “Many elderly women are drawn to our team because they miss those good old days.”

Apart from enriching the lives of local villagers, Pan is also popularizing knitting on social media. On Douyin, a Chinese short video app whose overseas version is TikTok, his account has attracted 2.3 million followers. One of his most popular videos features his use of chopsticks as crochet needles. That drew 1.8 million “likes.”

According to Pan, the viewers are mostly aged 30 to 50. Pan said he wants to teach the viewers how to knit on the site.

“Every piece of handmade knitwear is distinctive,” said Pan. “Each piece emanates warmth.”


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend