Boys’ knitting roundup #8

Let’s check in on the world of knitting patterns for boys! Some months the well seems pretty dry, but this time we’re spoiled for choice….

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The big news in boys’ knits this month is that Kate Oates, the designer behind the Tot Toppers line, has released an entire book of knitwear for boys, and not surprisingly it’s fabulous. Knits for Boys includes …

29 patterns for sweaters, tops, vests, hoodies, mittens, hats, and more that boys will want to wear sized from 4-12. It also features an incredible reference section on how to knit for kids: choosing colors and styles, sizing, how to make a sweater “grow with” your child, how to find a comfortable fit, and even tutorials on simple additions to any design like hoods and installing zippers.

I have always found Kate’s patterns for boys to be clear, practical, and well-illustrated, and the range of projects in this collection will serve well anyone who knits for boys. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Knitted long johns! How cute and snuggly are these? You may be thinking it would be crazy to knit these, but I can tell you: having seen how much my son wore the knitted pants I made for him a few years ago, I can say that this is a more practical project than you might initially think…

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Most of the designs in the book are sweaters, and my favorite of the bunch is the Twisty Crew. It is worked in a bulky-weight yarn and features some smart, unfussy details on a raglan pullover design, a style that I think always looks especially great on older boys.

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You can purchase an autographed copy directly from Kate via her website, and the book is also available on Amazon—or perhaps you could encourage your LYS to carry it!


My favorite thing about this next new sweater design is that it starts from the assumption that brilliant, hand-dyed color might just be great in a boys’ garment, too—and wow, is it ever.

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The Lennix jacket by Rebecca Newman is incredibly versatile: it includes 14 sizes ranging from 3 months to 12 years; has instructions for sport-, DK- and worsted-weight gauges; can be worked with either a collar or a hood (as shown here); and suits boys and girls both. Now that’s a pattern you can get a lot of use out of!


You can always count on English designer Woolly Wormhead for a great twist on a classic design. Her new Headcase pattern looks great in the self-striping Zauberball yarn. And since this is Woolly, you know there will be some interesting shaping in there to sink your needles into….

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Finally, I love this sweet cowl called Ag Sugradh sa Sneachta by Irish designer Ciara Ní Reachtnín. (OK, all you non-Gaelic speakers: say that ten times fast.) Worked in a fingering-weight yarn, the cowl has puppies running around its circumference.

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Men’s knitting roundup #5

It’s hotter than blazes here in central Texas, and it will be for a while. Still, we knitters have to knit into the future, don’t we? This year, I’d really like to be that knitter who has made the mittens before they’re needed.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the newer men’s sweater patterns for this fall….


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Ann Budd is a master of the classic design, and her new Goat Herder Pullover showcases that talent perfectly. There’s just enough texture here to please the knitter, while still maintaining an unfussy look that will appeal to many men.

I also appreciate how well fitted this sweater appears to be around the shoulders. (On both men and women, sweaters are much more flattering if they fit snugly but not tightly across the shoulders.)

This is originally worked in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, but you could readily substitute a less costly worsted-weight wool if you wished.

Plus: hello, adorable floppy mohawk. Good to see some variety in the modeling.


Speaking of a well-fitted garment: look at what happens when you make the ease on a men’s sweater 1″ instead of the standard 4″ …

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Meow, that’s what. This is Ann Weaver’s James Dean Verdant Pullover, published in the recent collection Silver Screen Knits: Volume Two, edited by Kathleen Lawton-Trask. The book includes 11 other luscious designs—two more for men and nine for women—all inspired by classic film stars.

The genius of Ann’s pullover is all in the details. The shaping is impeccable, with an emphasis on PEC. If you’re knitting for someone with a muscular chest—perhaps it’s yourself?—this will look fantastic. The fitted sleeves and not-too-deep V-neck also emphasize a muscular shape. Some nice twisted ribbing details at the cuff and hem elevate the design further. You’d want to take the wearer’s measurements carefully before knitting this, because fit is everything here.


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I have a new sweater pattern for men out as well! This one, called the Colonel Henley (Ravelry link), was commissioned by the lovely people at Spud & Chloe, and designed with Sweater, a cozy blend of wool and cotton that’s perfect both for transitional weather and for the warmer internal temperatures that men often have.

I’m especially proud of the construction on this garment: it starts at the neck, building out the saddle shoulders and working down from there in one piece. The instructions include some waist shaping, and the overall effect is slimming. I was going for a kind of “updated retro” look. Finished chest sizes range from 35–55.5 inches.

Vintage men’s patterns? Hilarious!

Many knitting magazines send out their calls for designs with “inspiration boards” or “mood boards.” (For example, you can see the inspiration board for the spring 2011 issue of Interweave Knits here.) These documents give designers some themes, images, and other gentle shoves to get the creative juices flowing — and to ensure that many of the submitted designs will work together.

As a college instructor, I can appreciate the wisdom in this. If you give a student this as a writing assignment — “Write a paper about anything under the sun.” — most of the time you’re going to get a whole lotta crapola on a stick. Give students a starting line and a direction and they can run a lot farther.

So, the stupendous new online knitting magazine called Twist Collective recently put out its call for winter 2010 designs. If you follow that last link, you will see that this issue’s three themes are vintage ice-skating gear, 1940s glam, and something to do with sari colors (couldn’t quite figure out that last one — I think it was mainly a color inspiration mixed with a push toward fantasy).

The first theme gripped me. As you have seen, I have been trying to carve out a niche as a designer of boys’ and men’s knitwear, so I immediately started to think about vintage-inspired garments of the type that men would have worn ice skating once upon a time. I soon found Truman Capote looking rather dashing:

There are two problems here: first, most American men would no longer be caught dead in a fair-isle sweater of this boldness. The standard-issue heterosexual man might dabble with the metrosexual look by daring to have Shoes with no Laces fer Crying Out Loud. But let this heterosexual man and his overblown sense of fashion adventure suffer no delusions: Truman Capote can still skate circles around him.

Second, the pullover shown above is about as good as it gets: most knits that men wore back in the heyday of ice skating at Rockefeller Center are nothing short of hideous. (If you want a good 20 minutes of rolling on the floor laughing, check these out. I especially love the dudes using pipes and books as props. Cables make me smart and peppy!)

The challenge, as always, with designing menswear is to hit that sweet spot between “I’ve seen that a million times before” and “You couldn’t get me to wear that if you were my dying mother and you knit that for me with your gnarled fingers.” With women, older girls and young children, there’s a pretty wide margin between those two points. With older boys and men, the margin is about as wide as my tolerance for BP Oil.

This designer, Jared Flood, seems to have mastered that fine art. What makes his designs so wildly popular with men? I think it’s the careful pairing of just the right semi-luxurious yarn with expert but simple shaping. OK, the guy is also a brilliant photographer, which doesn’t hurt.

So now I’m off to try to pull off something like that. Here are some more of my inspiration images: