Issues with patterns/books

Hey all,

I have a random question about your experiences with patterns and knitting books for men. A friend and I have been discussing how frustrated we are with knitting books for men and the lack of practical information and techniques found in many of them. We're thinking about starting a blog specifically on how to design knitwear for men and the issues men's bodies present for a knitter (broad shoulder, large biceps, a distinguished man gut, etc.) and techniques that can be used to adjust patterns for certain body types (not all men are rectangles) or create your own design. I know most male knitters (and those who have knitted for men) have needed to adjust patterns, but there seems to be no one place to find these techniques (unless I'm missing something, then feel free to point me in the right direction :))

For example: we talked about how the hem you chose for the body of a sweater can make a belly look bigger, ride up the body, and even make the shoulders look abnormally large. And how the broadness of the shoulders effects how certain sleeves will look. We know this information is in places, but we want to really go in-depth and tailor the information for men's needs.

I'm wondering what experiences you've had with knitting books for men, and what issues you think really need to be addressed when it comes to designing knitwear for a man's bod?. Also, what information for men's design is missing from the literature on men's knitting?

ronhuber's picture

Go for it. I am not good at reading patterns and have never knit a sweater using a pattern, although I knit 3 or 4 sweaters a year. I think a place where we could go for information would be wonderful.

JRob's picture

I agree - go for it. I am not sure however that the problem is one of men only. Patterns are written for "ideal" body types in several sizes. The problem becomes wether male or female very few of us have ideal bodies therefore mastering the art of measurements and knitting to them is critical if you want your finished garment to fit correctly. Might I recommend a good book to help in this regard. It is "The Knitter's Guide to Sweater Design" by Carmen Michelson (currently out of print). Amazon has several used copies currently for purchase. Another book that was recommended to me was "Knitwear Design Workshop" by Shirley Paden. I think the guys on this sight would find them both useful.

Happy New Year's Eve All,


raydio's picture

I think you've hit on something JRob. The need is for how to handle designing or adapting patterns to suit "special needs" bodies (for lack of a better phrase).

How do they handle this issue in design schools?

My problem with men's patterns is how few make the pages of my favorite magazines, unless it's a "special men's issue". Please.

AKQGuy's picture

Maybe "real world" bodies is a better term.

AKQGuy's picture

Maybe "real world" bodies is a better term.

raydio's picture

That might be better, more apt.

That's what the design world (and the world at large?) may need: redefining real world bodies, perhaps a clarification of their intent.

It's the fashion *business*, right? If there is a consumer need that will result in profits, it would seem that the industry will provide the product.

Can you, for a start, be the change you seek? Can you design the garments that are not in the marketplace?

Is that what your group would seek to do, or is it more to change "the industry"? I may not be understanding what you want to do.

But I don't have to understand, do I? :-)

You have the concept and purpose and I hope your group becomes a real force for the better.

CLABBERS's picture

I agree. I have knit one sweater for my son, but he has no gut, so the sweater hung relatively in a rectangle. He requested a simple sweater, so he got one. When I tried it on, however, being 29 years older than he, the gentle paunch that I inherited from my certainly is no fault of mine!...became more prominent. I was thinking that simply increasing a few stitches on each side under the sleeves (raglan sweater), might make things hang a bit less clingy. then I would decrease the stitches maybe at the bottom hem, or use a stitch that would pull things in, such as a k3p2 rib. I have decided that a bit of a robust waistline on men is quite endearing, so unless the P90X exercise gods have an extra body they would like to bestow on me, I will regard the extra body mass as a bit more to love. :)

I would, however, be interested in reading what you come up as solutions to the issue you raised. Keep me in the loop.

Kerry's picture

Elizabeth Zimmermann, I think, recommends some short row shaping in the back of a sweater to make it a little longer at back to prevent "ride up", perhaps the same principle would work for the gut area.

Faulknerfreak's picture

These comments are great! I know women have the same issue, but in a lot of design books there are sections explaining how to adapt patterns for breast size and hips, and a lot of these techniques will work for men but it takes a few extra steps to adapt them. We thought a blog that addresses issues and concerns about men's knitwear would be a good resource. The "real bodies" issue is our main focus. We're both male knitters who've only made sweaters for ourselves and other male friends so we have a better understanding of men's bodies and designs. This came up as an idea out of our mutual frustration over knitting books for men that spend a lot of time focusing things like picking the right color or dating advice for women.

hsfg's picture

Sorry about the spelling, English is not my native tongue.
I retired from the "rag trade" some time ago. I did everything, and on occation even swept the floor.... I was a pattern maker for many "houses" you prob know well, both here and Europe, and have long wrestled with these particular short commings in hand knitwear.
The consepts in pattern design are more than math. The hand knit world is sadly lacking in concepts needed to exicute designs. We have a vast Stitch Language. Book upon book have been made available. But, that gives us a "textile", not a design. That particular universe continues to dream up rectangles... and hopes for shape as a result of characteristics in the fabric alone. Color, design and form have been relagated to shaping manipulation of the seams and edges . "Common, average knitting ability" is what dictates so much of what is in the market. DO NOT MAKE IT TOO DIFFICULT... is what we hear from publishers ! You must choose your particular audience carefully. Design for the intended knitter's ability.
Much of this is a "dumming down of the art" to producing expanses of neatly formed stitrches. Shape and form are a matter of technique, while design is a matter of taste and proportion. Yet, all this in a world of beautiful stitches. We, as pattern writers, are sometimes limited in the verbage we have at hand.
Remember form follows function . Function is an answer to need....this is where knitwear was born.
Technique gives you options ... design realization, well that is another discussion.
Generic froms for a general public, with medium ability, and who do not want too much challange. This is the world we live in.
Although, this sight draws more than average ability, if you will look at the work that is shown here every day ! You have chosen well to vent here.... you have a large group of like-minded souls.

Bill's picture

I agree!
I'm teaching a class in "cutting up your knitting" at the Madrona conference in Tacoma, mid involves tailoring with knitted fabric.

New York Built's picture


What you have said here is more articulate, insightfull and wiser than most. I agree with you.

I want to make those words real and actionable.

I feel the need to write again...and speak to the audience you acknowledge and respect.

Hear, hear!


Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

hsfg's picture

Hi New York built... Good to see you in here again ! As you can read, I am alive and kicking ( rather challenging while working a complex lace pattern (ha, ha)! There is so much about this particular topic and I just could not help it !