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.

 

Men’s knitting pattern roundup #2

Let’s check in again on the world of men’s knitting patterns.

(If you missed the first men’s knitting pattern roundup, you can find it here, along with an explanation of what these roundups are about.)

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Interweave Press just released a delicious magazine of Harry Potter-themed knits, a full third of which are suitable for men. My favorite of the bunch is Hagrid’s Sweater by Anne Podlesak. Like the other two men’s garments in this collection, this one is beautifully cabled and comes in a good range of sizes (34.5-50.5″ finished chest in this case).

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Such a thoughtful use of cabling, including some strategic yarnovers that will keep this pullover from getting pulled off an over-heated body.

But what really sells this for me is the fact that it’s modeled by a bearded, handsome bear of a man. You know how excited we plus-sized women get when we see actual, plus-sized models? Same applies here. Big men like sweaters, too, and it’s great for a change to see how the finished garment would actually look on said big men.

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While we’re on the subject of magazines, the new Cast On (Aug-Oct 2013) focuses on men’s designs — 11 patterns in all, including sweaters, vests, socks, hats, and scarves. (Not all of them are listed in Ravelry yet.) I’m particularly fond of this scarf by Jennifer Donze.

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Finally, the supremely talented Veera Välimäki (the genius behind the Color Affection Shawl) just published in Finnish the pattern for this well-tailored men’s sweater. In this garment, Veera does what she always does best: takes a few simple elements (basic knit and purl stitches in this case) and combines them in a new, stylish way that is utterly appealing. That neckline is not quite cowl and not quite yoke. And those buttons! An infectious shot of color on what is already a gorgeous neutral backdrop. Those patches of reverse stockinette complement the texture of the hand-dyed yarn. Gorgeous.

Veera’s Ravelry page promises an English translation at a future date.

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Oh, and not that he needs any help from me, but in case you haven’t heard, Brooklyn Tweed has recently issued a men’s collection as well. It’s classic and beautiful in the way that all Brooklyn Tweed productions are.

Men’s knitting pattern roundup #1

If you’ve stumbled across my blog, then it’s no doubt because you are searching for men’s knitting patterns — and you’ve probably also noticed that they can be hard to find.

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you know I sympathize … and that I frequently write knitting patterns for men myself.

The patterns are out there, so I thought it might be time to do a little curating of my own — bringing you weekly roundups of some of my favorite patterns for men that I’ve found around the interwebs.

I’ll favor new patterns, but will probably include some older patterns each time as well. Your tastes may not be the same as mine, and my reach is not perfect, so please feel free to share your own favorites in the comments.

(I’ll also start doing a weekly boys’ pattern roundup — stay tuned for that in a few days.)

Let’s get started, shall we?

First up are the fabulous Rock Strata fingerless mitts by young, up-and-coming designer Josh Ryks ($6 on Ravelry):

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The unusual shaping in these great-looking mitts is created modularly — easy to execute but much more fun than your average brown mitt. I always say that the biggest challenge with designing men’s knitwear is to create something wearable while still providing the knitter with something fun to make. Josh’s design hits that sweet spot perfectly.

If you’re looking for more graphic accessories for men like this, check out Josh’s other designs as well.

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If you’re looking to get a headstart on sweater season, check out this beauty from Kirsten Johnstone:

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This design, Sankai Man ($8 on Kirsten’s website), is worked in the luscious yarn Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. The designer’s architectural training shows itself in this sweater’s impeccable construction. Don’t you just love that yoke? (The pattern also comes in boys’ and women’s versions.)

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And finally for this week, I can’t resist including a shawl. We largely have popular knitwear designer Stephen West to thank for making the geometric shawl a cool menswear piece. So while the Nangou shawl by Melanie Berg (€3.90 or about $5 on Ravelry) may be modeled by a woman in the photos, I can readily picture this on a man as well, especially worn scarf-like as it is in the photographs. These simple, classic knits can be a real pleasure.

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Yarn support: that’s the way to do it

ImageRarely have I encountered a business relationship that’s as kind and respectful as that between knitting designer and yarn company. When you design a sweater, yarn companies typically provide gratis the yarn that you need to knit the sample – which in and of itself is a pretty sweet deal. But on top of that, I have had universally good experiences dealing with yarn companies, from Malabrigo to Cascade to Berroco to KnitPicks. (Stacey, who runs KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program, is a particular standout.) All have responded quickly and courteously and have even offered great ideas.

Even so, few can compare to Yarns of Italy, a relatively new yarn distributor that develops and purchases yarns in Italy and then sells them in the US for great prices. They have been selling on Etsy for a while, but more recently decided to go more big time. If you have been to TNNA in the last year or so, you have probably seen them.

In fact, to fill out their TNNA booth, the company held a design competition not long ago, asking designers to create something with each of their yarn lines. I was lucky enough to get to do the design for their Volute line, a gorgeous cotton-acrylic blend. (And let me tell you: gorgeous and cotton-acrylic blend are not phrases I typically put together.) The zippered cardigan above, called Velluto, is what I came up with.

All along the way, Kim (one of YOI’s owners, and the creative director) was a delight to work with. She has a whip-smart sense of humor and an easy manner, but is also very professional at all those times where that’s needed.

During the most recent TNNA, Kim even posted a photo of their friend, a handsome Sicilian gentleman, wearing my sweater. In all, I got the overwhelming message that these people love good design and want to do whatever they can to support it.

And then yesterday, I was looking at their just-launched web site, and saw that they had named one of the colorways in their Innamorata line after me! Innamorata is a luscious merino that comes in two weights and a gorgeous palette. Each color is named for a woman that the YOI owners like, and I got to be on the list! In fact, I’m light gray, since that’s the color of the sweater I designed for them. It is such a lovely and generous gesture. (My mother immediately ordered a sweater’s worth, of course. 🙂 )

You’ll definitely see me designing more with their yarns….

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.

Sizing up

As a designer, you never really know which of your creations are going to grab the most attention. In my case, one of my earliest designs is also one of my most popular: this kids’ pullover called Langstroth, as worn by our resident cutie pants.

The sweater has a really simple construction — easy stitch pattern, raglan shaping, all in the round. I knew I had to eventually add some men’s sizes, too.

Et voila, Langstroth Sr, as worn by Cutie Pants Sr.:

(Gorgeous photo taken by my brother-in-law, Danny DeAngelis.)

One of the many pleasures of working up this new version of the design was working with the test knitters (ComradeYarnman, AntBee, and amhart on Ravelry). Their ages ranged from teenager to middle aged, and both men and women were represented. Each handled the job so conscientiously and each gave me great suggestions for clarifying the pattern. I really appreciate their help.

I’ve got more in the works, including a kids’ scarf and a men’s cardigan – stay tuned!

I know what boys like… I think

Boys. Why are they so hard to knit for?

Several years ago, I set foot into the thickets of knitwear design, armed only with this Machete of Truthiness: namely, my belief that boys have more adventurous, unexplored tastes in knitwear than we give them credit for.

Now that my Machete of Truthiness has been blunted on the Cruel Realities of the Marketplace, I can feel my confidence waning. Patterns for boys — and for men — just don’t sell very well. I could assume that it’s just my own patterns that don’t do very well, but I know from talking to more established designers that I’m not alone.

Here’s my latest boys’ sweater pattern, Baird, made for KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program and also available on Ravelry. My lovely test knitter gushed about the pattern in a most ingratiating way and I was so pleased with myself.

Aaaaaand… a month after the pattern’s release I have sold precisely zero copies.

See that fake smile my son has on his face? This is right after telling me, “I actually like this one, Mom,” and right before never wearing it again.

I tell you all of this not to initiate a pity party, but because experiences like this have taught me a lesson. Maybe I have been going about this the wrong way. Maybe the key to designing knits for boys is not to figure out how to “trick” them into wearing kid versions of the garments that we adults like to knit and wear. Maybe the key is to remember that boys are people with their own child interests that overlap very little with the concerns of adult fashion.

What if, in other words, I thought about what boys want — want to play with, want to have in their hands, want in their lives — and figure out how to knit it?

Grown women — and many girls — have been taught to obsess about their clothes. But most boys and men have not. In fact, they are taught to feign as little interest in clothing as possible. This means that those of us who knit and design for men and boys have largely taken the safe route of providing utilitarian clothing. Because guys still need to dress — it’s just that many of them don’t want to have to think about it too hard.*

But clothes are just one corner of the world that knitting can produce. Knitting can make costumes and toys and hiding places and modes of transportation.

It’s time for a big think. And then some sketching.

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* Of course I know that not all men are this way, and I loves me some fashion maven man. But most men are not that, and if you’re designing you have to take that into account.