Men That Cross Stitch: The Manbroiderers

[man-broi-duh-ree, -dree]

  1. A movement of men who cross-stitch or embroider. Subversion of a traditionally female art form.
  2. Any piece of embroidery or cross-stitch done by a guy

We detailed in some depth about the role of women in the history of cross stitch, and its always been a female pursuit in popular culture. However that doesn’t mean men don’t stitch, as we discussed in our post about dudes who cross stitch, and it definitely doesn’t mean they haven’t stitched in the past. In fact, male embroidery can thank cheap German wool, the industrial revolution, and some prisoners.
The modern manbroidery movement has brought a lot of men into the cross stitching and embroidery world, however, there’s a lot more to the movement than men just started to stitch one day. In fact, it starts back in German some 300 years ago, when the thread in Britain became a commodity most people could afford. Up until this time cross stitch was firmly a female pursuit, with young ladies creating samplers to prove they could run a household. However when this cheap influx of thread came into Britain, suddenly it fell out of fashion to create samplers. This all came, as at a time of economic change in Britain; the Industrial revolution.
The first men recorded to move into embroidery were actually fishermen, used to knotting together fishing nets on mass. They realized that their skills weren’t transferable to the new industries, and so set up the Arts and Crafts movement.

Fine Cell Work - A prisoner cross stitching in his cell (source:
Fine Cell Work – A prisoner cross stitching in his cell (source:

We’ll fast forward over what was quite a turmoil filled time, and start again in the 1960s with Lady Anne Tree who visited HMP Holloway women’s prison to help two female inmates. They started cross stitching and Lady Tree decided that the time spent in prison should be put to good use. She campaigned heavily for decades before the government allowed prisoners to earn money whilst in prison and finally in the late 1990s got exactly that. She created Fine Cell Work, which teaches male prisoners to cross stitch end embroider. These inmates were so good at stitching they have been featured in the Victoria and Albert, commissioned by English Heritage and been used by some of the worlds leading interior designers.
Finally, we get to the modern age. The rise of MrXStitch did a massive part to help push the 2011 craft push (helped out by the recession) and now we have flickr groups, designers creating patterns just for men, and the likes of Mr X Stitch holding the flag for all the male embroiderers.
This TEDx talk MrXStitch made actually features a lot of male embroiderers, including my own stuff, it goes into detail on why cross stitch is important.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Bernard Huneault

    As a quilter, I’ve often thought of trying X-Stitch or needlepoint. Not certain what the difference would be. After watching your presentation which I thoroughly enjoyed I think I might give it a go because a needle is easier to carry when you travel than a sewing machine. Any recommendations about what I start with besides YouTube. I’ll google the difference between needlepoint and cross Stich. Where does embroidery fall into this activity?

  2. Frank

    The man in the cell stitching the tattoo design is doing needlepoint, not cross stitch. Impressive nonetheless.