Last year, browsing the crafting section of a bookstore, a handsome needlework book of men’s garments, Bruce Weinstein’s “Knits Men Want,” caught my attention. I was so impressed by the quality of the designs in it that I couldn’t stop reading until I had read the whole thing while standing there in the isle! Every item inside was something I could see myself or just about any guy wearing down the street or to the office. Even the colors were perfect for typical men’s tastes. However, the book had one problem – it was for men’s knitwear. “But I’m a crocheter!”
We need a book of this caliber for men’s crochetwear! Sure, attempts to design men’s sweaters have been made, but most haven’t been so great. Many crocheters have noted the puny number of patterns for men’s garments and few of those have any real appeal for Joe Blow. Some say men just won’t wear crocheted garments. This male crocheter believes that the problem isn’t that American men won’t wear crochet, but that the designs have missed the mark on what they want. My advice? I’ll start with some general things to keep in mind when making things for the men in your life (1). Then we’ll move on to a few crochet-specific challenges.
Guys tend to like more muted tones. They shy away from bright colors that “pop” or dazzle. They don’t want pastels or baby colors in their closets either! Every guy will wear shades of black, grey and brown. Blue is usually safe too. Just make sure it’s not powder or sky blue. Go darker! Approach other colors with caution! Reds, greens, and yellows can be used, but they need to be medium to dark tones. Think maroon, hunter, and dark mustard.
Warning: Some guys will not wear reds or yellows at all — no matter what shade it is. If you don’t see the guy you are crocheting for wearing those colors, it’s a safe bet you shouldn’t make anything in those colors.
Your lovingly completed handiwork has more of a chance of being liked by a guy if it is made in a solid color. Use more than two colors and you run the risk of presenting something he will dislike.
The wrong neck opening will turn a sweater into a disaster for a guy. Go with crew and “V” necks. (The V-neck is a better choice if your guy has a short neck or a little extra ‘chinnage’. You know what I mean.) No straight across the neck, square or wide “U” shaped necklines please! Do you see them on men’s sweaters in stores? Nope!
Necks don’t need condoms! Men think turtlenecks are outdated and uncomfortable. Make him a scarf instead that he can remove for comfort. Shawl collars are too feminine for most guys. Young slender guys can get away with roll necks, but older men who have filled out – not so much! If you’re making a guy a pullover, make sure the neck is large enough for his head to fit through. If he has to fight to get it on and off, he won’t be apt wear it and all your work will go to waste.
To be safe, choose zippers over buttons. The zipper should have a matte or antique finish in a dark color. Avoid anything shiny or bright. If you want to use buttons, choose simple non-ornate buttons. Don’t go large with buttons. He won’t like it! If the guy doesn’t already wear similar items with buttons, don’t use them at all. If he is an older man who has lost finger dexterity, buttons can just be frustrating to fasten.
Stay away from sweaters that are too flimsy (drapey). We like sweaters with a bit more structure to them. Definite seams are great, even if they are faux seams. Make sure they form crisp, clean lines. (We like that!) If the sweater is so drapey it shows the outline of our man-boobs,…uhhh…just don’t do it! Round yokes are also a no-no. They lack structure and look feminine to us. If you like working in the round, go with raglan shaping that has visible raglan points forming straight lines.
Don’t make your guy something in a fussy, expensive, tender yarn. That great sweater you made for him may find itself on the floor after a day’s work. When you ask him to pick it up off the floor, he may kick it up to his hands and toss it in the hamper or kick it across the room onto that clothes pile that never seems to completely go away. (“Oh the horror!”) He’s not likely to want anything that requires special care. If he’s like most guys, he wants to be able to throw it in the washer/dryer and hang it up in his closet with the rest of his sweaters and shirts. So, be careful to choose yarn appropriate for that kind of treatment.
Men typically like classic styles. A trendy design won’t get much use over time and you’ll end up feeling like your handiwork is underappreciated. Men like to blend in and don’t want their clothing to stand out. So, think functional garments — not works of art. You must resist the urge to get ‘creative’ with a man’s garment. The only thing pretty he wants on his body is you!
Skip surface textures like bobbles and popcorns. Forget edgings, fringe, eyelets and lace. (I don’t care what the pattern says. You don’t really think that stuff is masculine, do you?) Stick with smooth yarns. Men don’t like fuzzy or furry textures. Many cables and chevrons in a sweater look feminine to us. So, use them sparingly. Make chevrons small and cables narrow. Wide cables scream “feminine”. You’ll do better with designs that use straight lines instead of curves.
What else he doesn’t like:
Men do not want bulky sweaters made in thick yarn. We don’t want to look like Eskimos walking down Main Street. Nor do we want to feel like sweaty mammals under the weight of all that hot yarn.
We don’t like fittings. If you need to have your guy try on something for size, do it only once and take careful notes of measurements for future projects. You can also use measurements from sweaters he wears.
Stop asking him what he likes! Nothing annoys a guy more than being forced to talk about his feelings — including his tastes in clothing. So how are you to know what he likes? That’s easy! There’s no mystery to it. He wears what he likes. So, make something that looks like what he already wears and it will get a good reception.
A guy usually won’t wear something he doesn’t like even if you spent 100 hours on it…although he might wear it once or twice just to “shut you up” if he thinks you’re going to bend his ear about it. So, if your guy has worn the item more than a few times, be happy. He likes it! Wearing your work is the greatest compliment he can give it.
If he doesn’t already wear wool, alpaca or cashmere sweaters, don’t make him one — even if you make it with expensive high quality animal fiber. If he finds something the slightest bit scratchy, he won’t wear it and you will have wasted time and money.
Don’t try and change a man’s tastes. He likes what he likes and hates it when you try to change him. (You already know that.) Crocheting for others is about showing love. Don’t turn it into a battle of wills. Make him something that will get an easy reception and both of you will have a warm feeling in your hearts. When you hear him tell someone you made the sweater he likes to wear, you won’t be able to stop smiling!
Most men think the curviness of double (2) and treble crochets look feminine. We also don’t like the natural spaces occurring between these stitches. (If there is any “see-through”, that’s bad!) For a man’s garment, single crochet is better. Depending on the application, half-double crochets also fit the bill. Large half-double crochets can have spaces in between stitches too and can make the curviness of the stitches more apparent. So the key for menswear is to keep crochet stitches small and the fabric solid. (That means getting used to using DK/sport weight yarn or lighter for most crochet techniques.) This also helps to eliminate the bulkiness commonly seen in many menswear designs.
Men really like the “blank” almost textureless, flat and orderly look of knit stockinet. The naturally textural quality of the crochet stitches most crocheters are used to working with make creating a similar kind of look a challenge. Working in single crochet helps with that. However, crocheting by turning your work after each row produces textural horizontal stripes that don’t look particularly appealing for sweaters, especially on guys who aren’t skinny. Working in the round mostly eliminates that striping and makes the eyes follow diagonal lines. If the stitches are small enough, they give the impression of “blankness”. Couple that with darker tones and you get a very masculine looking fabric!
Tunisian Crochet can help greatly with creating a more blank textural look that guys like. You can make a sweater entirely in Tunisian knit or full stitches to create an excellent blank palate. Use an accent color to give the sweater a bit of interest. (Of course, you can imitate knit designs by simply using Tunisian knit and purl stitches.) Tunisian simple stitch gives a woven look — another look guys like. It looks really good when working vertically (sideways) as it does have a little horizontal striping (3).
Slip Stitch Crochet (4) is another technique that gives you more choices for crochet menswear. Working in front loop slip stitch in the round makes a pattern the eye can’t readily tell is horizontal or diagonal. This fools the eye into seeing a more blank texture with a masculine feel, but with less bulk. Slip stitching is also excellent for making ribbed garments. Slip stitch ribbing functions much like knit ribbing and can be used for cuffs, necks and sweater bottoms. You can even make fabric that looks like knit stockinet with this technique. For more on this technique, see this link: http://ayarnifiedlife.wordpress.com/slip-stitch-crochet/
One final crochet challenge is that most crocheters are hooked on fast projects. Speed is why many choose crochet over other yarn work. Making a man’s sweater is going to take more time than making a scarf, hat or baby blanket with big or lacy stitches. It will take more time to make him a sweater than it will take to make one for yourself if he is larger than you. It’s just an inescapable fact.
Crochet isn’t a race — it’s supposed to be fun! Take several months if you need to. One good way to approach it might be to break the project into parts. Make the front…work on a fast project…make the back…work on another fast project…continuing until you have completed the piece. Release yourself from the pressure of having to make the sweater in a short time and have fun with it. If you have ADHD and can’t focus for that long (like yours truly) or you only have a few minutes of crochet time here and there, sweaters might not be your thing. That’s okay! Make hats, scarves and gloves! Keep your crochet for your guy fun by sticking to things he likes and you’ll find lots of pleasure in crafting for him.
1. Not every guy is like Joe Blow. If the guy you’re crocheting for is trendy or metrosexual, you will have more creative license when making items for him. If you make him something in the colors, styles, textures, fibers, etc. you see him actually wearing, and he will like it.
2. One way of using dc in men’s garments is to alternate dc and sc across the row. Then, on the next row, dc into each sc and sc into each dc. If you work with two colors, alternating colors every row, you end up with a sort of houndstooth pattern. A sweater can look too busy done entirely in this stitch pattern, but you can make areas of the sweater like this. Perhaps crochet houndstooth panels for the front and back with solid color panels for the sides and sleeves. Or make the sweater front with in a large checkerboard pattern alternating solid color and houndstooth blocks. Or make the sweater in a solid color with a strip of houndstooth at the bottom and cuffs. Maybe make the sweater a solid color sweater with a houndstooth block in the center of the upper chest and back, or at the sides of the shoulders (to accent those shoulder muscles). This is a way to include some acceptable creativity in a man’s sweater and make it more fun for you to crochet.
3. If you want to work horizontally, try going into the front vertical thread (as if for Tunisian simple stitch) AND the top thread of the horizontal bar. This stitch has woven look with reduced horizontal striping.
4. The ‘flat stitch’ pattern (alternating rows of front loop and inverse back loop slip stitches turning after each row) makes a fairly blank slate on one side if your tension is even. The opposite side has a look many think looks similar to knit purls. Turn it on its side and you have a look that can make a handsome garment with vertical lines. (For more information see the Slip Stitch Crochet group on Ravelry.)
David is forever grateful to his sister-in-law who taught him how to crochet when he was 12. He describes crochet as “one of the best antidepressants around”. He dreams of owning a crochet gallery exhibiting modern crochet for art and fashion.