Key Points:

Knitting has been revived by young Kiwi blokes.

And a Bay of Plenty teachers college is hoping a billboard featuring a man knitting will attract male students and help fill the nationwide void of male teachers.

The Bethlehem Tertiary Institute has put up a billboard with the slogan "Real men teach (and knit)" - featuring a photo of a man knitting red wool - near the busy Hewletts Rd flyover between Mt Maunganui and Tauranga.

"There's a resurgence of guys learning to knit, which we learned through those of us who have teenagers in different schools," said marketing manager Luisa Schroder.

"We just felt it was a bit quirky and relevant at the moment.

"We really know that we need more male teachers because our society just needs those mentors. We felt like we wanted to tailor something specifically at young men and say to them 'Hey it takes a bit of real courage to put yourself out there in front of a classroom and be a teacher, it's not an easy job but it's really important and really of value'."

The proportion of male primary school teachers fell from 42 per cent in 1956 to 18 per cent in 2005.

Ms Schroder said 20 per cent of the college's students were male, compared with 10 per cent five years ago.

Last year, a survey showed that many primary principals believed male primary teachers should be heterosexual, rugby-playing "real men" if they wanted to be good role models.

One respondent in the study referred to the "limp" handshakes of two male teachers who appeared ineffectual and wussy when interviewing for jobs. In that case, strong females were hired instead.

Bethlehem College principal Phillip Nash said several male students were members of the school's Knitting Ninjas group who knit for orphans in Romania.

"Boys are certainly happy nowadays to try things that are traditionally seen as girls things and a lot of girls are trying out what's perceived to be boys' activities. We have a lot of home economics students that are boys and more girls trying out graphics, woodwork and even going into the engineering shop."

Hollywood hardman Russell Crowe, who was born in New Zealand, hit headlines in 2004 when it was claimed he had developed a love for knitting while his wife Danielle Spencer was pregnant because it helped him relax.

Twenty-two-year-old teachers college student Lynden Cook was taught to knit by his mother when he was 8.

"She wanted me to be a well-rounded individual, and apparently knitting was started by men way back when. I heard it was because they wanted to make fishing nets."

He said several of his friends enjoyed cross-stitch as a pastime. "Creative hand-stitching in general is not just a woman's domain. It can be quite fun for guys as well."

Mr Cook offered free knitting lessons to men at the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute's stall at the recent Christian Parachute Music Festival at Mystery Creek.