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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

 

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.)

New hat pattern! or, another way to cable without a cable needle

There are some great tutorials out there about how to make knitted cables without using a cable needle. The hat above represents a completely different way of thinking beyond the cable needle: use colorwork to create a faux cable. The next photo shows the effect even more clearly:

See how the sage green sections look like cables crossing over each other? I think it would be lovely on socks, too. If you have Luise Roberts’ wonderful little colorwork stitch dictionary called 1000 Great Knitting Motifs, you will find this stitch pattern on p. 105.

I just made this hat pattern available on Ravelry, and it will soon be up on the KnitPicks web site as well. It’s a quick knit, so if you’re looking for something last-minute for the holidays, this might just be the ticket.

On an unrelated note, I would just like to note that we here in the Land of the Large Eyebrows do not believe in trimming our eyebrow hair. No, we do not.

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.

Those who can do also teach, and sometimes they teach teachers

Today, I am launching a new project that I am really excited about: I’m designing a series of teaching modules for knitting teachers. Each module gives detailed instructions about how to prepare for and teach a knitting class on a specific technique.

My first release is a module on how to teach stranded knitting. The module is a PDF that includes six pages of detailed instructions about how to prepare for the class, what materials the teacher and students need to bring, a step-by-step schedule of what to do in class, and how to explain and demonstrate different techniques. Also included are a one-page handout to give to students and a two-page pattern for the fingerless mitts pictured above.

I am really excited about this. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I can contribute to the knitting world, and it suddenly dawned on me not too long ago that — hey — I have a lot of teaching experience. Perhaps I could do something with this besides simply teaching classes myself — which I also love doing.

A few months ago a history department at another small college paid me handsomely as a consultant to develop a Science in World History teaching module. At the time, I was so shocked that anyone would pay that much for my syllabus and teaching notes. (Audra, I know you’re shaking your head right now at my naivete. I’m learning. I’m learning.) But then I realized — well — why not? It took a hell of a lot of work to develop those materials and I do teach an innovative class, if I do say so myself. Maybe that’s a niche for me.

So I thought I’d try it with knitting. And guess what? In the time it has taken me to write this post, I’ve sold two copies of the module. Woot! Chalk one up for the freelancer!

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!