Defying stereotypes: Photographer to use his talents and teach boys to knit

John MacDonald of Richland might be a photographer by trade, but he also has other talents you might not expect -- knitting, crocheting and quilting.

He will be teaching a three-day knitting class just for boys ages 9 to 14 next month at the White Bluffs Quilt Museum in Richland.

"White Bluffs has been pursuing boys knitting classes for some time, and have felt that having a man teach the class would be the best way to go," MacDonald said.

Museum officials sought MacDonald, 31, to teach the class because of his reputation. He and his wife Marcia own Sheep's Clothing store on Gage Boulevard behind Columbia Center mall in Kennewick. The couple also operate the Hyak Photography Studio.

"John is a legend," said Virginia Treadway, a museum board member. "He's a firm believer that men are the ones who invented knitting, so he was happy to teach the class. Plus, he's not only good at the craft, he's a wonderful storyteller, as well."

And to encourage boys that knitting is not just a hobby for girls, the theme for the knitting projects will include snake and monster motifs.

"This upcoming class is going to be specifically on knitting, which is kind of funny, because I only learned knitting when I bought the shop," MacDonald said.

He learned to crochet and quilt from his grandmother when he was 5 years old.

"She taught me to sew by hand and then on her treadle sewing machine," he said. "And not because she didn't have an electric (machine). It was just because as a kid I thought it was really cool. I made a lot of clothes for my cat that he never quite approved of."

As he got older, crocheting fell to the wayside, but he never stopped sewing.

"Sewing I kept up with over the years because it's useful to the point that everyone really should know the basics," he said. "I lose a lot of shirt buttons, jacket buttons, etc. I've also spent a lot of life traveling, and sometimes it's easier to fix a rip than to find a new shirt in east Africa.

"I'm also weirdly built and somewhat lopsided, so I end up altering a lot of clothes."

MacDonald also doesn't get caught up in stereotypes of whether knitting, crocheting and quilting is more of a feminine activity than masculine.

"What is masculine and what is feminine always changes through history," he said. "The origins of (knitting) are a bit of a mystery, but when it was first known to be popular in Europe, it is believed that most knitters were men, which was true of most trades up until the Industrial Revolution (which started the latter part of the 1700s)."

So what's the fondest memento a man who has traveled the world taking photographs could have?

"All the grandkids were given a quilt that my grandmother made," he said. "All are simple patchwork quilts tied with yard. It's traveled all over the country with me during the past 20 years, but it's still on my half of the bed today."


-- What: Knitting for Boys Only class. Age 9-14.

-- When: July 17, 24 and 31. Class hours are from 2 to 4 p.m.

-- Where: White Bluffs Quilt Museum, 294 Torbett St., Richland.

-- Cost: $50 and includes supplies.

-- Register: Call 943-2552 or online at www.whitebluffscenter.org