Men’s knitting roundup #10

It’s been several months since we peeked into the latest men’s knitwear designs. Let’s go exploring…. Today we’re all about color.


Looking for new men’s designs can sometimes be an exercise in despair—frankly, most of what I see is either awfully frumpy or is really designed for women and has been questionably tagged for men. (Mind you, I have pretty wide-ranging beliefs about what looks great on men, but even my liberal limits are frequently tested by overzealous tagging.)

And then, like a bolt out of the blue, you come across something like this…

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PINCH ME but that is luscious. This is Wester Ross by Welsh designer Jane Howorth and knit, of course, out of Noro Kureyon. Pictured here on a teenager, the sizing ranges from 34.5–53.5 inch chest. I absolutely love the way the cabling and knit-and-purl texture plays with the striping effect of the yarn, the way the saddle shoulder cleverly travels across the top back (see below), the extra-long ribbing and thumb holes at the cuffs, and the impeccable shaping (no slouchiness!).

Jane has designed some other gorgeous men’s sweaters that you should also take a gander at; I will definitely be keeping an eye on her from now on.

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Bristol Ivy’s Quoin cowl is worked in three colors of worsted-weight wool—potentially yarn you already have in your stash. I love how she has combined asymmetrical striping and deep chevrons into a simple-to-knit but bold design. It’s like a Color Affection Shawl for your neck … with a lot less knitting.


Looking for a more ambitious knit to occupy the long summer days? I love this Mayan Ouroboros scarf pattern from Tania Richter. The instructions can be purchased individually or as part of an eight-pattern e-book called Fantasy Art Knits—all double-knit scarves with fantasy creatures fabulously charted out (in both senses of the word fabulous!). Five patterns have been released so far, including a Nine-Tailed Kitsune that is screaming my name.

Best laid schemes

My schemes, they gang aft agley.

I plan out these knitting designs of mine with care. I sketch. And I think. And I walk and think. And I mess around with yarn.

And then I actually knit these things I’ve schemed. And they end up looking completely different from what I had intended.

Case in point: my new Prosecco Hat. Here’s what it was supposed to look like. It was going to have a hem at the bottom, and was to have a two-color bubble motif whose color scheme reversed about halfway up the hat.

Neither one of those things worked out exactly. Problem #1: The internal part of the hem would have had to have been ridiculously long in order to play nicely with the color pattern, so it got jettisoned. Now I was stuck on what to do with the brim of the hat. Plain ribbing seemed dull. Corrugated ribbing is lovely but I feel like it’s almost become a cliche for a color-work hat.

I finally found a slip-stitch pattern (what you see on the finished hat above) that gave the brim of the hat some interest without detracting too much from the bubble pattern I’d worked so hard to chart out. Problem #1 solved.

On to problem #2: I was designing this hat for Malabrigo’s Quickies program. Believe me, that part in and of itself is not a problem. They have been great to work with.

The problem was the yarn. Well… no wait, not really the yarn, because the yarn is the luscious new Arroyo, Malabrigo’s sport-weight, superwash merino. It is scrum-diddly-umptious. No, the problem was that the two colors that I chose (VAA and Arco Iris) didn’t quite contrast with each other as much as I thought they would. Changing the two colors mid-way up the hat, so that the foreground color became the background color and vice versa, just made the hat look garbled and confused. Like a cake that you frosted before it cooled off completely.

So the dark green VAA colorway would now stay the background color all the way up the hat. Not quite as much bubblicious fun as I had originally intended, but still, plenty of colorful fizz to go around.

And then there was the photography. As I fall further down the rabbit hole of professional knitwear design, I’ve realized that I need to at least occasionally hire another pro to do my photography. I’m really only reasonably competent with a camera. I’ve got a LOT to learn.

Recently, I learned that a former student, Carlos Barron, had become a professional photographer, and I loved what I was seeing of his work. Mere days before I needed to get the Prosecco Hat pattern to Malabrigo, Carlos and I were finally able to schedule a photo shoot for this hat and a few other goodies.

And that’s when the entire middle column of the country got besieged with 100 tornados. So we had to postpone the shoot, but I still needed photos, and that meant heading for the trusty brick wall on the side of my house — the backdrop for so many of my knitting photos.

My husband took one of the above photos and my seven-year-old son took the other. See if you can guess who took which. (Hint: look at the angles.) They both did a pretty good job, but… well, none of us is Carlos.

In the end, I’m left with a hat that I really like and photos that I may need to replace. Not a bad outcome, all things considered. Just a little agley.

Sheltered: Introducing Modern Tartan

c Meg Kelly 2010

Hello, all. I hope you are each encased in human and yarny love today. Here in Austin, it’s 55 degrees and pouring rain, but tomorrow we’re headed to Baltimore from a more traditional winter wonderland.

I got an extra Christmas present this year: today, Hill Country Weavers released its pattern line featuring Shelter yarn: and the men’s sweater pictured above is my contribution. Hill Country Weavers is the big local yarn store here in Austin, and is one of nine flagship stores carrying Shelter, the beautiful new yarn designed by Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed.

Jared, of course, has his own beautiful line of patterns for his yarn. A group of designers here in Austin decided to try our own hand at the yarn, seeing what it would do under an Austin influence, thanks to some prompting from HCW’s owner, Suzanne Middlebrooks. The whole pattern line is gorgeous — and gorgeously photographed.

c Meg Rice 2010

This men’s pullover, called Modern Tartan, looks complicated, but is actually quite simple to knit. Not just simple, but also fun, since you start at the top and knit down, leaving very little seaming. You do have to cut a little — that zippered neck there comes from a steek that you cut down from the collar. But do not fear the steek, dear knitter — especially when the steek is to be cut into such a lovely, sticky wool like this one. This yarn wants to hang onto itself like so much velcro.

There is another way that the yarn and design marry well together: Shelter is so lofty in its construction that the sweater stays quite light — a good feature for the average hot-blooded male.

Design-wise, the trickiest thing to figure out on this sweater was how to make the raglan increases play nicely with the stranded color work. I finally landed on an easy explanation for how to do the increases that I think makes the final product look much more polished.

c Meg Kelly 2010

If a men’s sweater in five different colors of Shelter is too spendy for you, there are certainly viable alternatives. The wool you use needs to be worsted-weight, pretty sheepy (no super-softy, drapey wools), and relatively light. Berroco’s Blackstone Tweed or – even cheaper – Shepherd’s Wool from Stonehedge Fiber Mill would be great alternate choices.

Really, most classic worsted-weight wools would work — like Cascade 220 (ooh, I’d love to see this in a bunch of their tweed colors) — but just be advised that those heavier wools would make a warmer sweater. Seriously warm and toasty might be just the sort of thing you’re looking for right now.

Merry Christmas, and warmest wishes to everyone, whether this is your holiday or no.

Color palette generators

Oh boy, has the beginning of the school year kicked my butt with a vengeance. My first-year seminar began last Monday; regular classes began today; and I just taught my first knitting class at the Knitting Nest. Then I have at least five patterns to write between now and mid-October. Not to mention my two classes at Fiber College in a couple of weeks….

All of those knitting classes are new classes, by the way. Classes that I have never taught before and that therefore need planning.

Ha ha. Ha hahahahahahaha.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…. KABLOOEY! (Splat.)

That was the sound of my brain exploding approximately two minutes from now. Could somebody please grab a mop?

But enough about my organ failure. Let’s get back to design tips and tools!

The tool that I’m going to discuss today, I found a couple of years ago. And then promptly forgot about it until just recently. I’m talking about color palette generators. These are free programs online that will take one of your favorite photographs (which you either upload or link to its web address) and generate a palette of colors from it. In other words, it pulls colors out of the photograph, spreads them out in distinct color swatches, and sometimes even gives you the Pantone number for it.

As an example, here is a photo that I took in March of some crocuses peeking out of the North Carolina woods, along with the palette the site generated:

There are many uses for this device, but among them is designing color work for knitting. Many people complain that they have trouble putting together different colored yarns for color work such as fair isle. This helps you out of the jam. You know you like this photograph. Now you can distill some of what works about this photograph to a palette that you can then use in a sweater or other garment.

Now go play!

Oh, HGTV, I love you

Summer always seems to bring on some mild insomnia for me. For teachers, I think there is something very disconcerting about having to keep your brain and your theatrical performance gears going non-stop for nine months, and then — somewhere in the middle of May — the vast expanse of summer.

I don’t know about you other teachers out there, but for me, this opening up of space in my head lets all those neglected worries and future plans rush to the forefront. I find that for about three weeks after the semester ends, I almost completely useless. I need time to let all of those neglected thoughts percolate.

Time to knit. Time to spin. Time to check back in with HGTV.

Ever since I was on family leave with my constantly nursing baby boy, I have had a soft spot in my heart and a glint in my eye for the Home and Garden Television channel. Some of it is absolutely terrible, especially the real estate shows. (Come watch this dimwitted, privileged couple whine about how they can’t fit into their 3,500 square foot house because they have TWO children now. All that and more coming up on “Twits on Parade!”)

But I love the design shows. As someone who is just learning to design knitwear, it is especially interesting to see the designers translate the homeowners’ personalities and vaguely expressed desires into actual things arranged in space.

Color Splash is the best of these shows. The designer, David Bromstad, knows just how to noodge people a bit too far past their comfort zones and love it anyway. And he and his crew do an excellent job of explaining their thought process. They take such joy and humor out of their work, too.

The show has encouraged me to think differently about my own designing. The yarn company Sanguine Gryphon, who make a luscious yarn, put out a call recently for steampunk designs. I set myself the challenge of designing a sweater for men, which is a challenge for a number of reasons:

  1. Most steampunk fashion — like most fashion in general — is for women.
  2. Sweaters weren’t high style in the Victorian period, so I can’t directly mimick a vintage style.
  3. Any design is probably going to have to appeal to a wider range of men than those who want to dress steampunk.

So, like the Color Splash crew, I needed to take some abstract inspirations and translate them into a concrete object. I can’t show you the design I’ve developed because it’s still under consideration, but here are a couple of my inspiration images:

Great moments in humility

My apologies for the long silence. You know how it is.

Here’s how I earned my genius points yesterday:

1. A local yarn store asked for five printed copies of my Rodeo Kid pattern. Woo hoo! I couldn’t get my own printer to work yesterday, so I loaded the file onto a zip drive and skipped off to the local copy shop.

“Ten color copies, please!,” I say, thinking I’ll keep a few for later.

[Whirring of copier.] “That’ll be $26.50.”

Gulp. That meant that I had just spent as much to print the pattern as I was going to make selling it wholesale to the LYS.

GENIUS!

2. Then I drove to another LYS to buy some yarn so that I could swatch a design. (It’s for Classic Elite, who put out a call recently for designs for their spring 2010 collection.)

I poured over Classic Elite’s various scrumptious yarns, and settled on Cotton Bamboo. I’m designing a men’s sweater, so choosing colors was a little trickier than usual. In the end, I felt very pleased about the combination I put together: just within but stretching the usual man palette.

I took this photo on the tile in my bathroom, and then turned around and saw this – the shower curtain that’s been hanging there for at least five years.

GENIUS!