Boys’ knitting pattern roundup #1

As someone who enjoys designing knits for men and boys, I’m beginning to do regular roundups of patterns for the guys. Here’s my first roundup for men, if you missed it.

Today, we’re going to see what’s available for the younger dudes. In the roundups for boys, I’m going to focus on patterns for school-aged kids (around sizes 6-14). It’s not that I don’t love your chubby thighs, baby boys, but you get more than your fair share of attention in the knitting pattern arena. It’s the older boys that have slimmer pickings, so these roundups are for you — and the lovely people who knit for you.

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First up this month: a gorgeous colorwork sweater in sizes 3-10 from Rowan designer Marie Wallin. Called Eton Mess, this pullover design makes brilliant use of color. (Just because a kid is done wearing dinosaur and truck sweaters doesn’t mean he’s done with color.) The pattern appears in “Little Star,” new Rowan booklet of 20 kids’ designs — about one-third of which will work for boys.

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What about even older boys? Teenaged boys unfortunately have the fewest options when it comes to garment knitting patterns, but the steady trickle has recently brought us this great-looking cardigan, called Bloch Ness, by Anne Hanson of Knitspot.

Anne has a wonderful talent for taking classic shapes and updating them just perfectly. I love how the shawl collar rests snugly against the shoulders and chest, and how the oversized fit still fits well around a narrow waist and hips — all great details for a guy who’s eating half the refrigerator and growing 3″ every night.

The pattern has a very expansive range of sizes from 34.25-62.75″ finished chest. Designed to fit with 4-6″ of positive ease, this will easily fit most guys aged 12 and up.
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Looking for a quicker fix? I just released the Cattywampus Hat pattern, which is sized to fit anyone from babies to adults. (If the boy in question is enormous-of-noggin like mine is, the largest size will fit.)

The great thing about knitting this hat for boys is that you can start with a very sedately colored yarn (like this lovely, subtle worsted from Hiwassee Creek Dyeworks), and finish with a classic, wearable hat — but in between, while you’re knitting, you have the fun of working an unusual-but-simple short-row construction. Try adding a stripe of a different-colored yarn in there, and it will swirl surf-like around and up the hat.
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And finally, don’t forget Katya Frankel’s entire book of boys’ sweater patterns (for sizes 4-14)! It’s an oasis in the desert.

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!

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.

A modeling career begins

Look who I found grinning at me when I opened the October KnitPicks catalog:

The cute little guy in yellow is my son, Liam, modeling a sweater that I designed for KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program. I was thrilled to see that they featured the design in the catalog.

I still need to write to you all about Fiber College, an absolutely gorgeous event in Maine that I attended two weekends ago. Soon, my sweets, soon. Meanwhile, a girl’s gotta grade.

Finally, I can show you one!

After much (by necessity) secretive knitting, I can finally show you a completed design. A few days ago, KnitPicks posted my pattern –called Dawson — for a men’s shawl-collared pullover knit from their new merino-cashmere blend.

There’s my dear boy modeling it on a typical, blistering summer day here in Austin. Impressive how he’s not even breaking a sweat, isn’t it? I had to arrange the shots carefully so as not to show in the background the 20-somethings in bathing suits diving off their boats into the river and the 30- and 40-somethings on shore who were dripping sweat into their iced coffees.

I’m really proud of this design, mainly because I calculated all the measurements completely from scratch. That is, I took the standard measurements for men of different sizes and calculated how that would translate into directions for each size. This was a bit of a nightmare when it came to the set-in sleeves because the shaping on that kind of sleeve is complex.

I’m also really happy with how well the stitch pattern married up with the yarn. Capra, the yarn used in this design, develops a slight halo after being knit and worn, so you need a stitch pattern with some sharpness to it. But then, most sharply defined stitch patterns are either ribs or cables — totally expected for a men’s sweater, yawn — or a bit too femme. After much swatching with different stitches, this simple combination of knits and purls fit the bill.

I loved working with this yarn. It provides rather affordable access to cashmere. While $90 for a size small might seem like a lot, it is a cashmere blend, and that is a men’s small we’re talking about.

I’d be grateful for any feedback you are willing to offer.  Also, let me know what patterns for boys and men you wish were available. I’m in the market for new ideas to pursue!

A honey of a sweater

I’m so excited! This Thursday, my latest knitwear design — the sweater you see above — will be posted onto the KnitPicks web site. KnitPicks, one of the major U.S. yarn companies, has a new Independent Designer Program through which independent designers can sell patterns that are made in the company’s yarns.

I approached them with this idea and they liked it. Earlier this week, the completed pattern was officially approved. This is exciting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that KnitPicks gets hundreds of thousands of hits. For a novice designer like me, this kind of exposure is invaluable.

KnitPicks also lets designers sell their patterns elsewhere simultaneously, so I’ve already posted the pattern to Ravelry. In the six hours since I posted the pattern, it has already received more love than either of the first two patterns that I posted. I feel like I’ve finally hit it this time.

The design is just what I usually shoot for — something that looks more complicated than it is. The honeycomb stitch pattern is actually just a simple combination of knit, purl, and slipped stitches. The sweater is also worked together in one piece so that little sewing is required at the end.

I’ve named it Langstroth after the man who developed some of the modern techniques used in beekeeping. Get it? Honeycomb? Beekeeping? Yuk yuk yuk.

Going for the gold

In case you have been living under a rock — or in case you have other things to think about — at 7:45 tonight (central time), the Winter Olympics begin. For knitters and crocheters, this is not just a chance to watch other people perform great bodily feats — no, this is also our annual chance to perform great feats of yarn.

Are you ready to geek out? I said, ARE YOU READY? OK!

Ravelry, a website for we yarn crafters, hosts the Ravelympics every year. The goal is to complete a project that is challenging for you — a project that you begin at the start of the opening ceremonies and complete at the end of the closing ceremonies.

What’s that you ask? Are there actual “sporting” events that you can enter? Why yes! There’s Downhill Dyeing, Lace Luge, Sweaterboard Cross, Sock Hockey, and so much more. I personally am competing in the Designer Biathlon, which means that I am attempting to write up a knitting design and complete the sample during the Olympics. I have my speed-enhanced Lycra racing suit all ready to go.

The yarn you see here was comped to me (!!) by KnitPicks because I’m designing a boys’ pullover for them. I’m very excited about this project.

Now, off to stretch my hamstrings….