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How Olympian Tom Daley Became a World-Class Knitter

How Olympian Tom Daley Became a World-Class Knitter

How Olympian Tom Daley Became a World-Class Knitter

Out Olympic diver Tom Daley wants to make the fashion world more accessible — one stitch at a time — through his knitting brand Made With Love.

It’s the middle of summer in Los Angeles, and Tom Daley is wearing a knitted sweater vest.

Though it started out as an unseasonably cold year for L.A. — and the wind chill in the Hollywood Hills home where we’re meeting for a chat is substantial — thick, warm, handmade knits are usually not the first articles of clothing people think to reach for during the hottest season in Southern California.

But Daley — who has become the veritable poster child of all things knitting after going viral at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 when he took his crafty hobby poolside — looks effortlessly put together as he sits on the porch in his blue-and-white, checker-patterned sweater vest (no shirt underneath), paired with blue jeans and Chucks. He’s making a point that handmade knits can be sported all year long — and one can look cool while doing it.

Making a name for himself in the athletic world, the 29-year-old, medal-winning Olympic diver formerly didn’t think of himself as much of a creative person, though he loved arts and crafts growing up. Then in 2020, he was introduced to the world of knitting and crochet when his husband, Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter and filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, suggested he take up a hobby after his coach told him he should find something to occupy his mind during rest and recovery.

“I ordered some needles and some yarn, went on to YouTube, and taught myself how to knit,” he recalls, noting that Black told him lots of people on film sets knit in between takes during production to help pass the time. “With each project, I learned a new skill or a new technique or a new stitch. Then I started designing my own things, and then once I started that, I went to the Olympics and people saw that I knit. One thing led to another.”

After the closing of the Olympics, and with the love and support of the worldwide community of fellow knitters, Daley founded his own knitting and crocheting brand in November 2021, Made With Love, where he sells everything from shirts to hoodies to hats to tote bags. Now Daley is at a point in his creative career where he and Made With Love can help spread the love of knitting to the masses. And with the help of a collaboration with Lion Brand Yarn — one of America’s oldest and most respected craft yarn companies — he’s doing just that.

“The Cottony One” is Made With Love and Lion Brand Yarn’s newest collaboration, featuring a line of craft yarn that comes in multiple colors, with names inspired by different aspects of Daley’s life, like his Olympic medals (“Gold Medal,” “Silver Medal”) and his and his husband’s favorite cocktail (“Lychee White”). Sold in Michaels stores, these products aim to make knitting and crochet as accessible as possible to people all over the country, and to help sartorial enthusiasts everywhere make affordable pieces that they’d be proud to show off.

“Fashion houses like Burberry or Dior or whoever may create these stunning pieces, crochet, knit, whatever it may be. But being able to ‘fashion hack’ it…[gives] people the option to have it ready to wear or make it themselves if they’ve got the [knitting] skills or have the patience and time to be able to do it for a fraction of the price,” Daley reflects.

And while it is already a dream come true for him to be able to work with an esteemed name in the yarn space, like Lion Brand, Daley also mentions that one of his career goals is to host a community fashion show that features a diverse group of knitters and designers.

“There’s so many incredible knitwear crochet designers that are living every day designing things for themselves just to wear,” he says. “I think it would be amazing to be able to create a Made With Love community. Instead of being Team Great Britain, we could be Team Great Knittin’. Have all of this team of knitters that want to create things and we do this thing as a community, do a fashion show as a community. Made With Love is my baby, but it’s also something that I want to share with everyone and bring everyone into.”

And speaking on community, it’s not lost on Daley that there are many queer folks in the knitting and crocheting space (and fashion in general). And it’s nice to see one of the most visible LGBTQ+ athletes in the world — in fact, this year marks a decade since his public coming-out — branch out into unexpected avenues and push back against the gender binary in the process.

“People often get boxed into the things they can and can’t do. People might say, ‘Oh, a guy knitting is feminine,’ or ‘A guy knitting is gay.’ I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard that diving is gay just because I’m gay and that everything is all of a sudden gay. Even my [diving] partner Matty [Lee], when I came out in 2013, because he was a diver at school, people were like, ‘Oh, does that mean you’re gay? Because you’re a diver too?’ People can be really weird with that,” he recalls.

“For me, I think not boxing yourself into anything and being able to enjoy the things that you enjoy and stepping outside your comfort zone a little bit learning a new skill is fun,” he concludes. “It can be a little bit challenging at first. But I encourage everyone to be able to give knitting and crochet a go because you never know, it’s something that you could really enjoy. It’s almost like the feeling of finishing a book, but like 10 times more satisfying, the feeling of when you finish a project.”

photographer NESRIN DANAN @blackprints
All garments and products from TOM DALEY’S MADE WITH LOVE collaboration with LION BRAND YARN @madewithlovebytomdaley

This article is part of the Out September/October issue, available on newsstands August 29. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.