Once again, we foray into the wonderful world of knitting men, and knitting for men. Wednesday, we talked about key areas for a good fit in men's sweaters. Today, I'm going to talk about The Challenge Areas: muscular shoulders, fat rolls on the back, slender chests, long arms, the whole shebang. We have to toss out our prejudices that shaping and darts are only for the feminine amongst us. Good fit is gender-free, my friends. Darts are just increases and decreases; shaping is simply a way to sculpt your garments so they fit you instead of fight you.
(Again, I will use pronouns that assume the knitter is a woman, and the person she is knitting for is a man. I ask the patience and tolerance of my brothers-in-needles as I struggle with the limitations of our glorious grammatical puzzle of a language.)
Six Common Manly Fit Challenges
"Beer bellies": Ah, that lovely brew and all its yummy calories. Here's a few ways to add needed space, whether for big muscles or big bellies: increases at the side seams (think "waist/hip shaping," but here it is for fit rather than for fashion); vents (why not?); a side "gusset" (additional vertical side panel) in a textured stitch that compliments the main design; or short rows. You can even add discreet darts over the belly. And do your favorite beer belly a favor: Loosen up the ribbing at the hem (or leave it out altogether). Work the ribbing on a larger needle, or add extra stitches. Clingy hems make those bellies look bigger. (Have a largish behind? All of the above applies.)
Sweater pulls up so that the front is shorter than the back (or vice versa): Short rows are a good way to add extra length to the shorter piece. However, it can be tough to add short rows to the patterned section of a sweater. One trick I have seen used is to knit the entire shorter piece longer to compensate (so that you actually have two non-matching pieces), and then, when you are sewing the side seams, leave about four inches of vent open at each side. The idea here is that you don't want to try and match these seams when one is longer than the other; leaving them open at the ends avoids that problem. When the sweater is worn, the difference in length will not be so noticeable, as one piece will still pull up more than the other.
Extra muscle or fat in the upper back: Darts. Again: Why not? Or short rows. It's the same idea as adding bust darts (which are nothing but a bit of extra girly flesh, if you think about it) or darts for a generous belly. Another idea: In a plain sweater, you could add two panels of gentle ribbing, one on each side of the back panel, from shoulder seam down over the shoulder blades to the hem. Stretchiness over the "bumps in back" where he needs extra room, plus a bit of style that a guy can live with. Echo the ribbing at cuff and neck, and voila.
Extra long arms: Avoid Gorilla Syndrome. Always, always, ALWAYS check your row gauge if you are adding extra length to sleeves. Don't just rely on your calculator. Check. Your. Actual. Knitting. (Ask me how I know this. No, wait--don't. It's too embarrassing.)
Front bigger than the back (or vice versa): Consider making a larger size for the front than for the back. Seriously. It's just fabric. It's just stitches. Use more stitches (larger size) where his manly form is larger and fewer stitches (smaller size) where it's smaller. Caveat: Make sure your row counts for both pieces match so the vertical seams match (unless you are doing the vent trick above). Ditto for the stitch counts at the shoulder seams. Use the armhole shaping for only ONE size on both front and back, and make the sleeves to match that size.
Armhole depth: Measure a favorite sweater or shirt and use that as a guide. OK, wait. I said that yesterday and folks thought it wasn't so helpful. All right, how about this: Get the gent to put on a sweater, any sweater. Are the armholes too big or too small? Too low or too high? See if you can experiment with his clothes to find something with a good armhole depth. Or, you can do what I do: Consult our book Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. No, this is not cheating, it's just getting a good benchmark to work with. Look at Ann's schematics for the various sorts of sweaters in that book; notice the armhole depth for a gent the size of your gent. Start there. (Ann's a whiz at sweater math, so I trust her numbers as a really good starting place.)
Oh, wait...SaraB asked where she could find the schematic. Excellent question! The schematic is right there in your pattern--the little grey drawings showing the shapes of the knitted pieces with their measurements in each size.
Now, let's go forth and knit up some really amazing sweaters for all our handsome guys out there.
Want more help knitting for the male of the species?
In her book Men In Knits, Tara Jon Manning has an entire thirty-six pages of tips for fitting and flattering Mr. Handsome. She even has worksheets you can copy and fill out to help you find exactly the right fit. Tara takes you through things like discovering a guy's personal style and determining his body type; she then gives suggestions for which sweater styles are most flattering to each type. The second part of the book has more than 20 classic sweater patterns to choose from! Learn more.
What's on Sandi's needles? Remember that "interesting adjustment issue" with the Camisa? It turns out I have to Rip. OhNOOooo! Just a little ripping, nothing too major, but I have to undo the shoulder seams...so. Again. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I am consoling myself with a pair of Nancy Bush socks: Denmark from Knitting on the Road. (Comfort knitting!)
Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets: alpacasandi.
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