Read an Excerpt
Knits Men Want
By Bruce Weinstein, Jared Flood, Liana Allday, Melanie Falick
ABRAMSCopyright © 2010 Bruce Weinstein
All rights reserved.
Men Can't Fake It
Men can't fake it. Not in bed or anywhere else. Take him to the ballet on the night of a championship basketball game and he won't even pretend to enjoy himself. Same story if you knit him a sweater he doesn't like—he may put it on once or twice to please you, but ultimately, it's destined for the back of the drawer or the charity pile.
Mary, a knitting instructor at my local yarn shop, learned her lesson the hard way. Her husband, Larry, doesn't like wearing anything bulky so she chose a thin yarn for a new sweater for him. Maybe it was her tension with the yarn—possibly even some subconscious tension she had with Larry—but she turned out a sweater that was so stiff, it nearly stood by itself on the floor without any visible means of support. Needless to say, Larry wasn't interested in the full body cast she had whipped up for him.
Mary acknowledged that she had missed on the gauge, but she was determined to try again. This time she would surprise Larry with "lots of fancy stitchery" in an alpaca-wool blend that was warm enough for him to wear without a coat.
"So how did it go over?" I asked, as she recounted the story to me one afternoon at the shop.
"He gave it to the Salvation Army." He thought it had too many cables, too much ornamentation, too much going on.
Mary was frustrated, but she didn't give up. For her next attempt, she brought Larry to the yarn shop (a wise move), where he chose a dark box-pattern pullover on display.
"Did you make it for him?" I said.
"Yes," Mary said. "It's gorgeous. Dressy."
"He wore it to rake leaves," Mary said with some disdain.
"It bothered you that he wore it?"
"It's too nice to wear raking leaves," she said. "He can rake the leaves in a crummy old sweater."
"Did you make him go inside and change?"
"No, I had to let him wear it. What else could I do?"
At this point, I told Mary the four words that might change her relationship with Larry forever—"What's it to you?"
If Larry—or any man—wants to rake leaves wearing cashmere, let him do it. If he wants to rake leaves wrapped in cellophane, let him do it. Knitting a sweater that a man wants to wear isn't an easy task, so take your successes where you can get them. In fact, rejoice in them.
Picking Men's Patterns: A Basic Playbook
Keep it simple. Most men want functional clothing—not works of art.
If a pattern calls for fringe, scallops, picot, or other fancy edgings or includes words like butterfly, popcorn, bobble, daisy, brocade, tulip, eyelet, or lace, take another look at the picture. Are you sure this is a man's pattern?
Stick to stitch patterns with words like stockinette, rib, chevron, and herringbone in them. But remember to keep chevrons small and in similar tones—no man wants to look like Charlie Brown.
Keep cables narrow. Most men think wide cables are feminine, but narrow cables are acceptable.
Beware of neck styles. Shawl collars can be too feminine for many men and rolled necks can work with younger guys but are not usually favored after a certain age. To be safe, stick to crewneck or V-neck styles.
Think under the rainbow—most men want to live in Kansas, not Oz. Choose subdued colors over brights. Guys usually prefer solid colors—two colors max.
Stick with finer, smooth yarns—about 4 stitches to the inch or more. Guys tend to like the machine-made look these yarns can offer.
Most men don't like anything heavy or bulky under their coats, so either pick lightweight yarns for sweaters or make heavier sweaters that can be worn on their own.
Check your pattern's schematic measurements and choose a size that fits his frame. Bulky, oversized garments sometimes suit lanky, young guys, but once a man has "filled out," they may just make him feel (and look) fat.
Buttons can make a statement, just be careful how strong a statement. Buy a few choices and show them to your guy before you sew them on.
For sweaters that require zippers, choose ones with an antiqued or matte finish, avoiding anything shiny.
Don't make matching outfits for men and their children or pets—ever.
Avoid costumes. If it looks like it could have come from a collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it's a pass.
This sweater is the softest and warmest garment in the collection. The baby alpaca will keep your guy comfortable on the slopes or shoveling the driveway without a coat. The sides are slightly tapered as the sweater descends, accentuating the chest and shoulders while minimizing the waist.
SKI SWEATER SHOWN IN IMAGES.
SIZE: Small; FINISHED MEASUREMENTS: 40" chest; YARN: Misti Alpaca Chunky (100% baby alpaca; 108 yards / 100 grams): 14 hanks #M321 Blue & Charcoal; NEEDLES: One pair straight needles size US 8 (5 mm), one 16" (40 cm) long circular (circ) needle size US 8 (5 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge. GAUGE: 18 sts and 16 rows = 4" (10 cm) in Half Fisherman's RibCHAPTER 2
Men Resist Change
BASIC PULLOVER AND VEST
It's a fundamental truth that men don't make over their wardrobes as often as women do. Therefore, even if your taste or knitting skills evolve, it does not mean that his taste in fashion will evolve at the same pace.
What you must remember is this: If he's over 15, he's probably got his style locked in—and he likes it. Men get into comfortable ruts and comfortable sweaters and don't want to get out of them. So if he knows what he likes, get used to it.
I noticed this rule in action one day as I sat with Mark at Le Gamin, a Parisian-style café in the heart of Chelsea, New York City's gallery district. It was late March and still snowing, but inside the café, with knitting on my lap, I felt warm and comfortable. I was working on a sweater for Mark. The cleaners had lost his favorite pullover and he had asked me for another one. Same style. Same color.
In the back corner sat Ethan Hawke and his young son, both drinking hot chocolate. I seemed to be the only one starstruck in the place. I couldn't even get Mark's head out of the manuscript he was editing to pay attention to my sighting.
But, finally, he did look up when I asked for an opinion on Ethan's sweater, which was light brown and so tight you could make out his internal organs.
"Make mine bigger," Mark said and then went back to his work.
I couldn't decide if Ethan's tight sweater was high fashion or simply an old favorite that he had outgrown years ago, but couldn't part with. Either way, I was making Mark's bigger, exactly like the one he had lost.
Between the two of us and the movie star sat our friend Jack and his "salon," a group of intellectuals who gathered each week to discuss the current woes of the city—how expensive parking had gotten in Chelsea, why co-op boards were always raising maintenance fees. Jack held court in a time warp where nothing changed, from his sermons on 1960s government conspiracies to his wardrobe, which that particular Friday featured the same sweater he'd worn for years: a thin merino crewneck in navy blue stockinette stitch, with a plain T-shirt underneath. I'd seen Jack in that sweater hundreds of times over the years.
Jack's wife, Kerry, was on her way to the café to knit with me but as usual she was late, probably taking the afternoon to rip out any mistakes from her previous evening's knitting group. Kerry believes that knitting is sacred and ripping, if it must be done, is a private matter—not to be undertaken in public. So I ordered a croissant, continued knitting the sweater at hand, and waited.
When Kerry finally arrived, she squeezed into the banquette beside me.
"How can you knit that same sweater over again?" she asked, reaching for a bite of my croissant. "You should knit Mark a Fair Isle or Aran sweater."
Mark looked up and told her that he liked what I was making.
"But aren't you bored with it?"
I love her dearly, but this is an ongoing debate between us. Kerry is not willing to knit anything that doesn't challenge her. I love a good challenge, but if I offer to make something for a friend and he or she picks a project that might be a little dull to knit, I'll do it anyway.
Kerry's tea arrived and she settled into the afternoon's task: weaving in the ends of a multicolored, striped alpaca turtleneck. It was very stylized, like something out of Italian Men's Vogue.
"Who's that for?" I asked.
I looked from the sweater in her hands to Jack in his favorite plain sweater and was dumbstruck. "That Jack," I wanted to say, but kept my mouth shut and pondered.
Finally, I turned to Kerry and said, "Slip it on. Let me see."
I saw Jack glance adoringly across the café at his wife as she tried on the ornate sweater she was knitting for him. And I thought to myself—how lucky it is that Kerry and Jack wear the same size.
BASIC PULLOVER AND VEST
This flexible pattern includes instructions for knitting a basic sweater at six different gauges, in six different sizes and with the choice of two necklines: crewneck and V-neck. It also includes instructions for a vest variation. So, no matter your man's preferences, you're covered. The sleeve is designed with a modified drop shoulder that is "set in" just slightly to offer your guy a flattering and comfortable fit. It's attractive on any man's physique as it makes the shoulders appear broad and the waist seem small.
PULLOVER SHOWN IN IMAGES.
SIZE: Large; FINISHED MEASUREMENTS: 48" chest; YARN: O-Wool Classic (100% organic merino; 198 yards / 100 grams): 9 hanks #4303 Evergreen; NEEDLES: One pair straight needles size US 8 (5 mm), one 16" (40 cm) long circular (circ) needle size US 8 (5 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge. GAUGE: 18 sts and 28 rows = 4" (10 cm) in Stockinette stitch (St st)
VEST SHOWN ABOVE.
SIZE: Large; FINISHED MEASUREMENTS: 48" chest; YARN: Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed (85% wool / 10% silk / 5% cashmere; 147 yards / 50 grams): 7 balls #408 Cedar; NEEDLES: One pair straight needles size US 8 (5 mm), one 16" (40 cm) long circular (circ) needle size US 8 (5 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge. GAUGE: 18 sts and 26 rows = 4" (10 cm) in Stockinette stitch (St st)CHAPTER 3
BASIC CARDIGAN TWO WAYS
For years I sang with choruses that performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The dress code for all concerts was black tie. I liked putting on a tux every few months for an evening on the town, that is, until I was blasted by the hot stage lights. By the middle of the program, I, along with the rest of the bass and tenor sections—the men—would be wet and pungent. We all brought dry shirts to change into during intermission.
I was always amazed that the altos and sopranos—the women—were never visibly sweating. Not once do I recall a woman wiping her brow during a performance or changing her shirt during intermission. Yet the lights were just as hot on their side of the stage.
Curious to know why men sweat more than women do, I did some research at The National Library of Medicine website. I learned that humans have all sorts of sweat glands, but surprisingly, women have more of the basic sweat glands than men. Despite that fact, women still sweat less, in part, because they use these sweat glands more efficiently than men do.
Adding to the problem for men is the fact that they have larger apocrine sweat glands. Apocrines are triggered by emotional stimuli as well as heat, and they produce the kind of sweat that stinks.
So what gets a man so nervous he sweats? Well, many men worry about sweating too much in the first place, which might explain why some men avoid sweaters altogether or don't seem quite as appreciative as one would think they ought to be when gifted with one. (Think about it—even the name of this garment evokes the problem.)
The flip side to all this is androstenol, a pheromone men secrete in their sweat. Women are attracted to this pheromone while most men are repelled by it. So perhaps women knit men extra-warm sweaters subconciously hoping to get a whiff of this pheromone. And maybe men agree to wear these sweaters, despite their overactive sweat glands, because it helps them attract more women. And maybe, just maybe, that explains the so-called "boyfriend curse"—that's when a man breaks up with his girlfriend as soon as she knits him a sweater. That warmth gets his androstenol flowing and soon other women are flocking to him like moths to a flame.
All of this is to say that if you're a knitter wanting to make a sweater for a guy with a sweat issue, take time to choose your yarn wisely. If he is the type of guy who sweats at the mere thought of dinner with your parents, a lightweight cotton may be in order. For a guy who doesn't overheat too easily, a blend of wool and another fiber that doesn't trap heat, such as cotton or linen, would be a good choice. And any man, no matter how much he sweats, has an appreciation for cardigans since he can always wear them open and let the air rush in—all in a civilized, non-"Hulk"-like fashion.
Yarns to Keep Him Cool
Yarns made from cellulose fibers, such as cotton, hemp, and linen, are ideal for men who overheat since these fibers actually pull heat away from the body. Unmercerized cotton is especially suited for men as it has a matte finish (unlike the natural sheen of hemp and linen). Bear in mind, though, that cellulose fibers can be dense and heavy, so avoid bulky cotton yarns and elaborate yarn-gobbling stitchwork or else you'll have a weight issue with which to contend.
Though some may think that wool is too hot for men to wear, wool actually has an amazing ability to absorb and release moisture, which prevents heat and moisture from being trapped against the wearer's body. Yarns like this are often referred to as "breathable." Merino wool is amongst the softest and most breathable yarns available.
Blends made from cotton and wool combine the best of both worlds: Cotton allows air to circulate between his skin and the outside world, while wool, which is naturally more lightweight and elastic, adds a bit of stretch and structure and will keep the garment from getting too heavy.
Pure cashmere is eight times warmer than wool, so it is likely to be too hot for most guys if used on its own. Instead, look for a blend that contains a small amount of cashmere for a little softness and warmth, along with a breathable fiber like cotton or merino.
Although not as warm as cashmere, alpaca is still several times warmer than wool. If you simply love working with alpaca, try using it in a blend when knitting for your man.
Synthetic fibers do not breathe like wool and cellulose fibers, so a sweater made from them can be uncomfortable for people who easily overheat. Consider synthetic-natural fiber blends as an alternative.
BASIC CARDIGAN TWO WAYS
Here's a tailored cardigan in two casual styles: one with buttons in a lightweight wool blend, and the other with a zipper in a cotton yarn. The pattern is simple butclassic, with wide vertical stripes created from alternating bands of stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette stitch. The shoulders are tailored to sit up high, bringing the sleeves with them. Check the measurements on the schematic against your guy's arm measurements, then adjust the length if necessary.
BUTTON CARDIGAN SHOWN ABOVE.
SIZE: Medium; FINISHED MEASUREMENTS: 44" chest; YARN: Classic Elite Yarns Portland Tweed (50% virgin wool / 25% alpaca / 25% viscose; 120 yards / 50 grams): 11 balls #5038 Major Brown; NEEDLES: One pair straight needles size US 7 (4.5 mm), one 16" (40 cm) long circular (circ) needle size US 7 (4.5 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge. GAUGE: 18 sts and 26 rows = 4" (10 cm) in Stockinette stitch (St st)
Men aren't dainty. Therefore, they need manly buttonholes, which are stronger than standard buttonholes and able to withstand some bullish abuse. This method gives extra strength at the edges to hold up to years of rough handling.
Note that these buttonholes are designed for ?" buttons. If your buttonholes appear to be too small, repeat Step 3 three times instead of twice when working Step 4. If you are using buttons smaller than ?" you may want to make the holes smaller by skipping Step 3. Buttons larger than ?" are too feminine for most men.
Excerpted from Knits Men Want by Bruce Weinstein, Jared Flood, Liana Allday, Melanie Falick. Copyright © 2010 Bruce Weinstein. Excerpted by permission of ABRAMS.
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