Arnie Lindblad wrapped a strand of yarn around one needle, then back around another one in something called a slip.
What it was called wasn't nearly as important as the picture being painted.
He's a guy. And he was knitting.
Lindblad, who spends many a morning knitting with impromptu groups at the Baa Baa Sheep shop in Norfolk, Virginia in the United States, would advise against coming to any quick conclusions.
Men knit. Always have.
Fact is, there was a time when knitting was a men-only world. Only because of industrialisation did men drift away from making socks, blankets and sweaters out of skeins and skeins of yarn.
These days, guys like Lindblad are gravitating back to the needles, part of a growing number of men who happily knit one and purl two. Their reasons are as varied as the knitting patterns themselves.
It could be something as simple as making a gift. What could be better than handing a fancy scarf to that special person for a birthday and telling them you knitted it yourself?
We're talking serious brownie points, bro.
Then there's the zen-like relaxation factor. Baa Baa is full of it, with rows and rows of colors and textures giving a calming aura of positive vibes – the kind of place where a man can turn off some of his machismo.
Lindblad got started when a group of his science students at Hickory High School in Chesapeake 15 years ago said they were going to learn how to knit and dared him to join in.
While his first work was nothing to brag about, the fact that he actually knitted something was enough of a charge to get him hooked.
"Probably the worst scarf ever made," he said with a laugh, not missing a stitch as he talked.
Knitting took on even more importance when it became part of Lindblad's therapy after suffering from a stroke two years ago.
"Made things a lot easier, me already knowing how," the 73-year-old said.
Chuck Swan got into the craft because of a lifelong fascination with string and yarn. He took a class and started knitting about six years ago.
"I was definitely bitten by the bug."
A retired engineer, Swan said the design process of knitting is just one of the reasons he enjoys the craft so much.
"Spending time with other creative people," said Swan, a 59-year-old who sports a fu manchu-style mustache that begs to be worked over by a pair of knitting needles. "There are a lot of reasons why I like it.
"And it helps with a degenerative hand disease."
According to Richard Rutt's book, A History of Hand Knitting, men evidently started to migrate from knitting sometime in the 16th century. That's when inventor William Lee designed a knitting frame that made making scarves, socks and sweaters faster and more cost efficient. When others started copying his machine, men found other things to do.
But some men and boys continued to knit throughout the next few centuries, especially during the world wars when officials asked anyone who knew how to knit socks, helmet liners and mittens to make as many of the items as they could.
Yet today the craft is largely associated with women.
"There is still a stigma to it for men, I'm sad to say," said Lorie Armstrong, president of the Tidewater Knitting Guild of Virginia. "Men who knit are still an exception to the rule, at least until it's more widely visible that it's for everybody.
"But some of the most accomplished knitters I've ever seen are men."
One of them is Matty Marino, a 30-year-old who manages a Chesapeake Starbucks. His intro to needles and yarn happened when he was wondering what he might do to celebrate the arrival of a new nephew.
He learned the basics on YouTube, making a simple baby blanket.
"Knitting de-stressed me," he said. "I didn't have many hobbies to speak of and needed something other than watching TV or playing video games to keep me busy."
Marino went looking for expert help and ended up at Baa Baa, an all-things-yarn shop. He was surprised at first that he, a man, was welcomed with open arms.
"I took art in school and wanted to let my creative side come through," he said. "I started when I was 27. All my friends were into the bars and clubbing and I was just kind of over that. With knitting, I found the community I'd been missing."
Sandy Westbrook has been a regular at Baa Baa and said the integration of men into knitting circles is just hunky-dory.
"At first I found it to be a little odd because I just wasn't used to men doing crafts," she said. "But we're all used to it now and the guys are just one of us."
During one of the get-togethers at Baa Baa last week, Westbrook was having an issue with color transformation on a project she was working on.
"Chuck, something here is wrong and I can't see it," she said. Swan dropped what he was doing and scooted in close.
"For starters, you have green in here," he said, drawing a laugh from the eight folks knitting in Baa Baa's lounge area. "I think you need to start frogging it."
That's a term for "un-knitting," basically taking the project apart. But why call it frogging?
"Because you rip it, rip it, rip it," Westbrook said with a laugh.
Baa Baa owner Roz Klein was working with customers while the knitters solved problems and chatted about life, loves and current events.
She said she's seeing more and more men pop in for supplies or to get help with a project.
"Knitting is good in so many ways," Klein said. "So if men aren't knitting, they're really missing out." – The Virginian-Pilot/Tribune News Service