Knitting for Men: Modifying the Brick Pullover

TJ in Brick Pullover
Kathy Zimmerman's Brick Pullover on T.J.

You folks are such a hoot. All day yesterday, folks around the office were quoting your comments on Monday's Men of Interweave Gallery to each other. I am pleased to announce that the comments included our very first Knitting Daily proposal of marriage (an arranged marriage, but still); and many, many exclamations of admiration for our four male models.

I must say, there was quite a lot of giggling here.

Modifications for the Brick Pullover

Now, down to serious business. You asked some great questions about modifying the Brick Pullover from the Summer 2008 issue of Knits, so let me try to give you some hopefully great answers!

Can you show us a photo of this sweater on a woman? Sure. I've added a photo of me-wearing-The-Brick, plus the usual commentary, to the Brick Pullover Gallery.

The neck looks as though it is being pulled down too low in the back. Adrienne B. and Terrie R. both asked if it would be possible to add some short-row shaping (a la Elizabeth Zimmermann) in the back to remedy this.

On this particular sweater, you cannot add short-rows horizontally across the back "yoke," as each shoulder/yoke section is worked from side to center, as an extension of the sleeves, not from the bottom up or top down. (Read through the construction notes at the top of the Gallery page; you will see that there is a vertical seam connecting both shoulder pieces at center back.)

You could, however, work fewer bind-off rows when shaping the back neck. So for example, in the pattern, at Shape Back Neck, work to the point where it tells you to "bind-off 2 sts at back neck edge three times." If you "bind off 2 sts at neck edge" only twice, then you have two additional columns of stitches that run the full length across the back neck, raising the back neck by the width of two stitches.

The back neck section

And Now: The Question of Beer Bellies

Sharon H. asks: "My husband has a rather large belly. I know what to do for women's shaping, but I can never find anything about different men's shapes. Any hints?"

Well, men are just human beings, after all. Bodies are just bodies, right? And a beer belly is just one sort of curve, yes? All right then. Although shaping for men is non-traditional, perhaps this is one tradition it is time to let go of, in the interests of better-fitting clothing for all you wonderful men out there, knitters or no.

If you were knitting for a woman with a large belly, you'd add short rows, or increase/decrease to give some waist shaping, for example. However, for a sweater like this one with a distinct pattern over the belly, you can't really add short-rows (regardless of whether you were knitting it for a man or for a woman). The pattern stitch is "in the way," so to speak; the short-rows would show. You cannot add "belly darts" here for the same reason.

Since the Brick Pullover is worked hem upwards, what about casting on the number of stitches corresponding to beer-belly-plus-ease, then working decreases on the way up (at the sides, where they won't show), so that when you get to the chest area, the stitch count is closer to manly-chest-plus-ease?

Bertha says rust is not her color…

Yes, this is the same sort of math one does for waist shaping, so you could even use the Waist Shaping Calculator, I suppose. Differences: You aren't working an hourglass; you'd want the shaping to be gradual and subtle; the narrowest part isn't necessarily the waist; and you (probably…) won't be increasing back up to accommodate a "bust." Other than that: It's Just Math. We've talked about fearlessly using our shaping skills for women's sweaters; why shouldn't we use our knitterly math skills to make men's sweaters more comfortable and flattering, too?

And finally, my favorite comment:

What, no Bert? Bertha must be lonely! (Laura S.)

Welll..Bertha really wants to focus on her career right now, so I'm not sure she's ready for a boyfriend. However, I have been thinking about getting Bertha a "big sister" once the budget allows…

Do you have any questions or suggestions about adjusting this sweater to fit yourself or someone you love? Leave a comment!

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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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50 thoughts on “Knitting for Men: Modifying the Brick Pullover

  1. So … why a visible seam in the back of the Brick? Couldn’t it be joined with a Kitchener row instead? (I love 3 needle bind offs as much as anyone, and usually use one rather than a traditional seam on shoulders, but invisible here would be neater!)

    OH, and FINALLY something I can make for my ‘built in heater’ AKA husband!! He owns tons of sweaters he doesn’t wear because they’re too heavy/warm – this one seems light weight, and made large enough to put something thin under, it should be perfect. THANKS 🙂


  2. I just love to get my knitting daily email – my day does not really start until I hear from you. You gals and guys are just great – you all make knitting so much fun. Thank you for all your hard work – behind all the “giggling” and laughing, it takes a lot of work behind the scenes. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Di

  3. I’ve been reading EZ this weekend, and another possibility for increasing the back neck would be to do short rows across the back neck of the ribbed collar—say 6 rows, then continue the ribbing around as usual. This would raise the back neck just a bit, and perhaps allow some ease across the shoulders.

  4. my husband is 6’8″, but skinny as a bean pole. how do i adjust the sleeves so that the shaping is proportionate to his long arms? (i’ve tried adjusting a regular pattern, and the sleeves looked like crap). and yes, his wingspan is longer than his actual height (it’s about 7′!). the other problem is while his shoulders run around a large/xlarge, his chest ismore like a medium. HELP! i’ve yet to make a successful sweater for him because he’s so long!

  5. Sandi, your Knitting Daily posts are such a delight! You never fail to educate & amuse at the same time. You seem to know instinctively what an educator once told me: people listen and learn best when they are relaxed and laughing. I’m a lifelong knitter who’s learning a lot from you!

  6. If you do get a big sister for Bertha, consider getting a Uniquely You dress form in a size medium or large. I was amazed at the cup size of this form, somewhere like a large C to DD depending on how much you compress the fitting shell around it.

  7. Sandi, I disagree with your opinion on how the line on the sweater looks on you. *smile* I think it would look even more “attention-grabbing” to have the line just under the bust (kind of reminiscent of an empire bustline, I think….).

    Perhaps the V-opening could be squared off and touch the top of the pattern line arcross a couple or so inches? (I have *no* clue how this might be accomplished!)

    BTW, I got my final issue of IK in the mail this week….and there’s actually a pattern I’m thinking of knitting! Yay!


  8. It’s interesting that the first thing I noticed on all the men in the pictures is that the V-neck pulls up and distorts the seamline, but on Sandi and her girls the seamline is straight across. Why do you think that is?

  9. I just wanted to say thank you, with all my heart. I learn so much from these articles. I’m so glad I found you by chance… I will be a better knitter thanks to you.

  10. Sandi, would you consider doing a post on short rows some day, like the one you did on bust darts?
    I can do short rows if a pattern calls for them, but have no idea how (and especially where) to put them if I have to do my own modifications.

    Thanks and cheers from Israel, Galia.

  11. Sandy, thanks for taking time to read and answer questions some of us have not even reached, when reading the posts..

    thanks too for making me laugh (almost out loud) at the comment that Bertha does not need a Bert as she’s concentrating on her career.. B.E.S.T. answer yet!! :o):o):o):o)

  12. Just seeing the men’s gallery – wonderful and all quite handsome.
    An observation on the backneck fitting – on Aaron, Eric & Mark it does pull down, but on T.J. it fits very well. What is going on with these different backs? Is there more bulk on some of these guys? Seems unlikely as Mark seems to have a slimmer figure.
    Just wondering as I’m sure other knitters with a man to knit this (and other designs) for are.
    Keep up the great galleries, this is just the kind of help I need to encourage me to knit for myself again – other tha shawls! thanks a bunch – molly z

  13. Goodmorning!!

    Maybe you can not add short rows to this particular sweater, but I do not agree with you that you can not add short rows in any sweater with a pattern 😉

    I used this technique to shape the shoulders on the Basket Weave sweater, as it was suggested in the istructions and the result is excellent!! No bulk !!

    the only problem is that you have to consider the pattern, so when you pick up the stiches on hold the pattern will not be disrupted 🙂 🙂

    thE KniTTingOholic gIRL
    (known as Julie // Athens-Greece)

  14. Another way to do some shaping when you have a distinctive pattern is to change the needle size gradually. Use one size bigger on the right side for a few rows, then make it the bigger needles on both front and back side rows. Increase as necessary and then go back down the same way. Very subtle but fits well.

    I love your patterns, tips and hints–more than makes my day!


  15. In the case of fitting a beer belly…Wouldn’t you need to make the front of the sweater longer than the back so the sweater would hang straight at the bottom edge?

  16. I really like the idea of doing shaping for beer bellies, broad shoulders/narrow hips, various shoulders slopings and neck modifications. All of these things would help us knit better! AND I would love for Bertha to have a much larger sister (something in the 2x size range maybe). In fact I’d be willing to contribute to such a fund. Can we name her something like Priscilla?

    According to a 2004 study, here were the average sizes for American women:

    White women ages 18-25: (bust)38
    White women ages 36-45: (bust)41
    Black women on average: (bust)43
    Hispanic women on average: (bust)42.5
    Other women in America (mostly Asian):

    Bertha, as lovely as she is, at bust size 34 is rather below average.

  17. I agree that the sweater looks good on you. My photographer’s eye is saying that someone significantly taller than you was taking the photo and that is what is enhancing your bustline more than the sweater.

    For a “boxy” sweater, I think this one is quite good looking on you. It isn’t going to enhance curves, but in your case I think it balances your bust and hips. With only 1″ of positive ease you can still see that you have a waistline. I think the key to women pulling off men’s sweaters is to not include too much ease and I think this illustrates that point quite nicely.

  18. The sweater actually looks pretty good on you, Sandi.

    I think if I were making this for me (average build), that I would use some of the shaping techniques used in the Spring IK. There a lot of garments changed needle sizes to keep the integrity of the stitch pattern while subtly adding shaping. Not that every sweater needs waist shaping!

  19. Thanks for putting that sweater on, Sandi. I’ve been looking at it and liking it, but seeing it on you– I’ve GOT to have it. My first reaction was “how cozy!” Looks absolutely fabulous.

    I’m not really sold on that color for you, though. (Of course, that could very well be due to the computer). I think I might take the top and sleeves just a skosh lighter in the same pallet.

    OOhhh– so many possibilities! I know what’s next on MY needles. 🙂


  20. I think the brick sweater looks the best on you Sandi. The back of the neck sits at the back of your neck and the opening in the front does not gape and I think it does not really accentuate your bust in a bad way but suggests the curves that are there without hugging them too much.

    I think there are more attractive sweaters to knit for a woman but – I really think it looks good on you

  21. Hi Sandi, I love the way you look in the sweater too! (It’s pretty nice on everyone, actually.) I wonder if you’re worrying too much about looking busty. Busty is good, you look great at this weight and the Girls do too!

  22. I, too, like the kitchener finish idea to disappear the back seam all together. Is the rib at the neck strong enough to take the pull of the arms, though. After seeing you in this, it’s a great sweater to knit for the couple. Thanks, Susan

  23. Marriage proposal? You mean these men are available? LOL! Well, count me in!

    Seriously, none of my 3 sons really like to wear sweaters but I’m posting this link on my blog for those who do have sweater-loving males in their lives. Very good suggestions here!
    🙂 Gina

  24. The back of the neck looks great on you and on TJ. Not so great on the other guys. It does not seem to be an ease issue. How would the knitter know when they need to make the adjustments not to bind off when directed by the pattern? Not trying to be a pain, but I would love to make the sweater for my son, but he would not wear it with the back of the neck trying to make a run for it.

  25. Ooh, who got the marriage proposal? Is the 6′ 6″ guy still up for grabs? I’m 6 ft and would love someone I could look up to — and promise to be very patient about all the extra knitting involved in lengthening those arms and torsos! Pass on the word to Eric!
    who is also not prone to
    public proposals, but
    knitting lust makes us
    do strange things…

  26. I need help with the spectrum scarf pattern. How do I get 4 strands out of 1 skein? How much yarn per strand? Should I wind it into 4 separate balls? Can anyone help me with this?

  27. I am having problems with the spectrum scarf pattern. How do I get 4 strands out of one skein? Do I wind it into 4 separate balls? How long for each ball? I am confused!

  28. Okay, I have to second the question about the neckline: WHY does it hang so baggy on some of the men, and fit so neatly on T.J. and Sandi??? And how do we figure out how it will lie on OUR would-be-models, and how do we make it fit?
    My usual method is to just make the darn thing, THEN see who it’s for… (I have a large pool of relatives and friends! :-P) However, I always start with the color… and they don’t all look good in the same colors!

  29. What a lovely gallery. Thanks, guys! I have one of those hubbys [of 31 years!] who doesn’t like sweaters, but *might* wear a vest. Could we get some vests, please? & all these gents are in their slender period. We need some of the 55+ set; whaddya think?
    I hate that neck on the sweater, though. If it wouldn’t work on these guys, there is NO way, it would work on the taller, broader, chunkier men in my life! Jennifer

  30. Yes, PLEASE an article or two on knitting for pregnant women! I have put much of this year’s knitting on hold because I have no idea how to make it fit!

    I have heard of the Sunrise Circle Jacket being adapted for a baby belly, but since this is knit side-to-side, I don’t quite know where to start making adjustments. Can you suggest any tips?

  31. Love the blog & the galleries. On another note: would it be possible for the store patterns to note the issue date they’re from? I almost bought a pattern recently and realized I already owned the magazine issue it came from.