Knitting for men

By this I mean knitting an item for a man to wear.  Recently I have been thinking about what I have learned about knitting for men.  I don’t have any clear recollections of my mum knitting for my dad, although I am sure she must have done so.  My best memories are of his delight in fair-isle all-overs purchased when in Shetland.  His love for all-overs began at the Cunningsburgh Show when he spied a first prize winning jumper knitted by Barbara Isbister.  It was love at first sight and began the purchase of a series of gorgeous jumpers over several years.  These were worn everywhere and could not be beaten for wearing at almost any time of the year.  Some of his prized jumpers have found new homes and have been equally valued by their new owners.  I have the original jumper that began the love affair and it is a delight.

Over the years, a sign of how much a family member was loved was when a fair isle all-over was purchased as a gift for that person.  I can remember clearly the day it was proposed to order one for my then boyfriend, now husband!  Again, it had to come from Barbara Isbister and is a beauty.

The first jumper I knitted for a man was for that same boyfriend.  I don’t know if he experienced any conflict of interest there when he was deciding which to wear! I do remember thinking that starting to knit for a man was a significant thing.  Significant in the amount of yarn, number of stitches and length of time spent knitting.  Not to mention the significance of the act of creating a garment – suggesting that this relationship would outlast the knitting of the garment and would survive the wearing of it too. I am sure I checked whether he liked the pattern. I don’t think I would have started it without being sure he would wear it.  His mum did like it – I heard that she sneaked it out of his room to show it off to his aunt.  I wasn’t privy to the comments it received!  I can’t remember the source of the pattern, but I think it was knitted in Jaeger Matchmaker yarn – now there’s a not so subliminal message if there ever was one!

Over the years since I have knitted two more jumpers for my husband.  The first one, a cabled jumper knitted in Cashsoft DK, he agreed to, said he liked the pattern and the colour and then never wore.  I quietly ripped it out and re-purposed it into something for myself, which, interestingly, I have never worn either.  The second he also agreed to, said he liked the pattern and the colour and has worn frequently and re-requested.  It was Charley from Rowan 37, knitted in All Seasons Cotton. Maybe it was a better colour and style. 

Every time I have seen a pattern for a knitted garment for a man I have shown it to John asking for his feedback on it. Invariably the response has been either – ‘No way!’ or ‘It’s OK, but could you change the sleeves, neck, body or make it a jumper instead?’.  So I gradually gave up and left him to get his knitted warmth elsewhere.

Interestingly, the most successful knitted items that I have given to men have been small things like scarves, hats and socks.  Socks.  Sometimes I have been asked to knit them (and knit them knee high!) and others I have given as a gift.  In almost every case I have had to knit a second pair to allow the first pair to be washed (!).  Indeed the way to a man’s heart would seem to be to keep his feet warm.  I just wish my dad was still here so I could knit socks for him. I know he would love them, but they would have to be knee high as well.  That would be a true labour of love that would have given me a lot of pleasure.
These experiences have taught me that it is safer and kinder to my knitter’s heart to knit small things for my men.  It helps that I love knitting socks and hats and scarves. There is almost instant gratification and almost no finishing or seaming.

Until now. 

Until I bought some discontinued Rowan Scottish Tweed yarn and proposed knitting a Scandinavian inspired jumper for John for Christmas. Little did I know that the ubiquitous Christmas jumper would be making such a huge comeback! So far it has been a great success – judge for yourselves:

And until I showed John the new look book of patterns for men from Brooklyn Tweed.  A look through that sparked an entirely different response – ‘I like that…and that…maybe a different colour…’.  I can live with changing the colour, so am bracing myself to engage again with the significance of knitting for a man.  No doubt you will hear how I am getting on.

Go over and have a look at the patterns from Brooklyn Tweed – you will be inspired, and if you need to get a man inspired about having a garment knitted for him – this is the best chance you might have!