Enter Knitting for Him: 27 Classic Projects to Keep Him Warm, by Martin Storey (Taunton 2007) (MSRP $24.95; available for $16.47 by clicking the link at the time of this writing) (oh how I love thy designs, Martin) and Wendy Baker. In their introduction, they put their finger on exactly this dilemma:
And better yet, they manage to solve the dilemma by stylishly bridging the gap between what men want to wear and what knitters want to knit.
When we were asked to design a collection of hand knits for men for Rowan,we realized that most men prefer garments that are comfortable, above all, andprefer colors that are not too “gaudy.” However, in the main, it will be their womenfolk who will knit the patterns in this book, and knitters like interesting stitch and color combinations to work with.
Okay, you know the drill: let’s start with the basics. Knitting for Him is a paperback, 136 pages, full color, with those fold-out inside covers that I like – they don’t get bent as easily as those without the fold-in. The book is packed with luscious photography of hot dudes artfully taken by John Heseltine. There are 27 projects, mainly sweaters, along with a pair of mittens, three scarves, a beanie, and a pair of socks. The sweaters include vests, pullovers and cardigans/jackets.
I like the book's no-nonsense approach: it simply presents these gorgeous patterns, followed by a very brief section of background information (e.g. notes on sizing, how to use the charts, fair isle techniques and abbreviations). No how-to-knit section eating up precious pages. I especially want to give kudos to Rowan/Taunton for including a page with detailed information about each yarn used, including fiber content, stitch and row gauge, and yardage. If money were not an issue, there’d be no reason why you wouldn’t want to use the gorgeous Rowan and RYC yarns specified in the book (e.g. Scottish Tweed, Wool-Cotton, Cashsoft Aran), but including that information is especially helpful if you’ll need to make substitutions. (And given that even great yarns get discontinued by the makers, this information may be helpful in a few years if, God forbid, any of these yarns are no longer produced.) It's nice not to have to do a separate search to find the yarn requirements.
The breakdown of patterns is as follows:
- 2 vests
- 2 cardigans
- 6 jackets (not sure exactly what the distinction is, except that the jackets seem to be heavier, perhaps for outside wear?)
- 8 pullovers
- 3 gansey-style pullovers
- 3 scarves
- 1 pair of mittens and 1 pair of socks
Which brings me to another point: I'm really, really glad that Storey and Baker didn't include silly items like I-pod covers or condom cozies or whatever else passes for whimsical accessories these days. Nope, they keep it straightforward and to-the-point: sweaters, lots of sweaters, with a handful of accessories. Well done.
- Cablework: 7 projects
- Stranded colorwork: 4 projects plus cuffs of socks
- Texture (knit/purl stitch patterns): 3 projects
- Intarsia: 3 projects
- Nonstranded, nonintarsia colorwork (e.g. slipped stitches, stripes): 5 projects\Predominantly stockinette st: 4 projects (2 of which have bands in contrasting colors)
You can see that this presents the knitter with a nice variety of techniques and difficulty levels. Even a relatively inexperienced knitter wouldn’t have trouble with the stockinette projects, while the cablework and colorwork provide more challenging projects for those who are up for them. Hurrah for Rowan for giving us these lovely, not-dumbed-down patterns.
Looking at yarn gauge, you’ll see that the majority of the designs (16) are knit in versatile DK-weight yarns; 2 in fingering weight; 7 in aran weight; and 2 in chunky weight yarns. Again, a nice variety that should enable those in different climates and with different tastes in yarns to find something they’ll like.
Last, looking at sleeve styles, you’ll find 3 raglan style, 2 drop shoulder, 5 modified drop shoulder, and an impressive 9 using set-in sleeves (some have shallower sleeve caps than others but I've lumped all the ones with caps together). Another hurrah for recognizing that men don’t always want drop shouldered sweaters, even if they have nice broad shoulders and muscular chests. And mad props to the designers for the sheer number of choices with set-in sleeves, which you don’t necessarily find in a men’s pattern book.
Sizing for the sweaters is generous: the sizes go by two-inch increments from 40 through 48 inches actual chest size, with the finished garment sizes going from around 48 or so inches to 56 or so inches (lots of ease and lots of choices). All the accessories are one size fits most.
From a sensibility standpoint, this is classic Rowan style: beautiful shots of the green countryside and misty ocean views, handsome men, a lovely palette, high-quality natural fiber yarns, a nice mix of artsy shots, close-ups of garment details, and larger views that show the entire garment. The paper is high quality, too. There are schematics for all the garments, and plenty of charts (the charts are black-and-white, unlike the charts in the Rowan magazine).
Well, either the knitting books are getting way better, or I’m getting way less cranky in my old age, because this is yet another book I absolutely love. I am going to have Tom pick out his favorites and add them to my Ravelry queue. In the meantime, let’s reward Rowan and Taunton for giving the discerning knitter what (s)he wants in a men’s pattern book, and add this title to your bookshelf. If there’s a man you’d love to knit for, or if you're a male knitter looking to knit some beautiful sweaters for yourself, you won’t be sorry.