Today, I was going to talk about measuring men, but after what Franklin said on Monday, I'm a little hesitant to just jump right in getting you gents to measure your biceps for me. I mean, we've barely met. But hey. It's what I do. And you manly folk deserve to have great-fitting sweaters, too, right? Yup. So shake hands and let's get down to business.
Recently, a young man approached me at a yarn shop and asked for help "upsizing" and fitting a pullover. He was a big dude (and handsome, with a charming southern accent, and yes in fact, I am married so nevermind), and took great pride in knitting–and wearing–his own handknit garments. But he had some "challenge areas" in terms of sweater fit: He had extra weight across his upper back; he was large in the belly, but not in the chest. If he made the sweater to fit his chest measurement, it hung loose over his chest, stretched tightly across his back, and clung uncomfortably to his belly and hips.
Sound familiar? No mystery here. Men have bust measurements too, although knitting patterns refer to these as "chest" measurements. They have hips and waists. And sometimes, men need shaping to help their garments fit over generous bellies, buff chests, and other wild, untamed bits of manly landscape.
The key difference between men's fashions and women's fashions is: Women's fashions are designed for curves, and men's are designed for straight lines. (In General, folks. I just covered seven thousand years of fashion history in those thirteen words, so there's gonna be some wiggle room, particularly around the Renaissance period.) Either way, curved or straight, male or female, the lines of a given knitting pattern may not match YOUR lines, and that is where careful measuring and comparison to the schematic is useful.
When knitting for men, there are seven key areas of fit to consider:
(For grammatical sanity purposes I am speaking as though the knitter is a woman measuring a man; those of you knitters who are men knitting for yourself please forgive the limitations of the language and translate appropriately. I know you are out there, Brother Knitters, I just have to pick a pronoun and stick with it!)
Sleeve length: Measure from shoulder seam to wrist. Some folks like to do this one with his arm outstretched; I prefer to do it with the arm down at his side, so that the muscular curve over the top of his shoulder gets accounted for.
Armhole to neck opening: This is the place where you find out how broad or narrow his shoulders are. Measure across the top of the shoulder, where the shoulder seam goes.
Neck opening: No dude likes to wear something that chokes him–or makes him look like a chicken neck! Measure a favorite sweatshirt of his and compare to the schematic.
Armhole depth: Give those biceps and triceps some room! But not too much room, or it will just add bulk at his upper chest (unless that is something he needs). Again, a favorite sweater or sweatshirt of his will give you some help here.
Hip circumference: Also known as "the widest part of the lower torso." This includes his belly and backside. If the gent's widest bit isn't technically at his hips, but a bit higher or lower, measure the widest part so you know how big to make the biggest part of his sweater.
Chest circumference: This is the base measurement for most sweater patterns. For guys, this is measured exactly like for the gals: Over the fullest part of his chest. If it isn't clear just where this is, then wrap the tape measure around his chest loosely, and slide it up and down his chest a bit until the numbers tell the tale. Oh, and tell Mr. Handsome to breathe normally when you measure: there's no point in holding his breath! He wouldn't want a sweater that tight anyways.
Total length: Too short, and a perfectly good sweater can make any guy look silly instead of svelte; too long, and it can make him look sloppy instead of suave. Start by considering a length that hits him a couple of inches above the crotch and then adjust for his own physique.
There is nothing more charming, nor more breathtakingly handsome, than the sight of a man in a well-fitting handknit sweater.
Friday: What to do with those "areas of challenge" in manly sweaters.
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? Hm. I have run into an interesting adjustment issue in the Camisa…I am puzzling it out and will report shortly. Meanwhile, I finished a pair of socks for myself. I love socks. And I'm going to need lots of them here!
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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