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…


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.



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.

Men’s knitting roundup #3

Time for our regular check-in with men’s knitwear patterns…

First up: one of those patterns that make you blink twice and say to yourself, “Is this pattern really free?!” The Simply Harika hat and mitten set by Renee Burton is a stunning piece of colorwork in a fascinating Turkish-meets-Estonian style.


The pattern page on Ravelry includes so many wonderful color combinations that you could easily find an idea to suit the wearer. The pattern includes many other options for customizing your hat, including instructions for two different weights of yarn (fingering and sport). If you’re inclined to start holiday gift knitting early, this would make an excellent candidate.


For the man of more subdued tastes, the Lakewood scarf by Katy Osterwald would make an excellent choice. The combination of subtly variegated yarn and stitch pattern here is so richly handsome. And knit up in the lush superwash Malabrigo Rios, this would be a garment that is both easy to care for and luscious to wear.



And finally, holy guacamole do I love this new sweater, Inge, from Italian designer Silvia Mancin-Stranalana. (The pattern is available in English and Italian.)



Knit up in Cascade Ecological Wool (which usually works up somewhere between an Aran and a bulky gauge), this would make a relatively fast project, even with the men’s sizing and turtleneck. If I lived in a colder climate, I would be casting this on RIGHT NOW. The shape and styling of this pullover would be flattering on many different body shapes and sizes.


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.

Been caught stealin’, once when I was 5 **

We here at Dark Matter Knits design studios like to encourage delinquency in our youngest members of society, and so I have created the Better Pocket Scarf, just right for tucking sticky, sticky candy into.

This is all part of my campaign to come up with better knits for boys. The idea is simple: if we start from what they want — instead of what we want them to want — and figure out how to knit that, maybe they’ll actually use what we knit for them.

And what my son wants is POCKETS. Big, deep pockets on every piece of clothing. Pockets into which he can cram all manner of things and then promptly forget about them so that in the washing machine several days later they turn the family laundry into an ink-stained, gum-fused monstrosity. Pockets that can withstand 80 interesting rocks from a hike, an uncapped pen, a half-chewed piece of fruit leather, a gnawing reptile of some sort, and a small explosive device.

If this is the tall order, knitted fabric does not seem to be the ideal metier, but we are knitters, by gum, and we can make ANYTHING WITH YARN. With, in this case, a little bit of plastic thrown in for good measure. So this scarf’s pockets each have hidden inside a plastic CD sleeve so that no matter what gets tucked into those pockets, the yarn blissfully goes on thinking it is being worn by a middle-aged shut-in with manicured nails.

Oh, and also, the scarf has cool shaping (the pockets are knit like hats so that you can knit all the lovely color work in the round) and a fun color scheme courtesy of the affordable Berroco Vintage.

the obligatory Twilight reference

The scarf appears in the just-released Winter 2012 issue of Petite Purls, which is a beautifully produced online magazine of free knitting, crochet, and sewing patterns for children. This issue focuses on accessories, and — I’m warning you — you just might collapse from how sweet they are. I’m especially partial to Alison Stewart-Guinee’s mittens made to look like the Fantastic Mr. Fox. And I want to bottle her kid’s geeky cuteness.

All right, now, get back to work! I’ve got to go get my teeth cleaned, which is so much more fun than anything else I could be doing right now.

** Bonus points to you if you know the song from the title. (It’s one of my favorites — one of the best song bridges ever — though the video creeps me out.)

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.