Skip to content

For the Boys

As a guy who knits, and who on occasion designs stuff for other people to knit, I am sometimes asked why I don’t often design patterns for men. Shouldn’t I be rooting, as it were, for the home team?

I reply without hesitation that designing knitting patterns for men is a task so thankless that it would make Sisyphus hug his boulder.

(Most) knitters want interesting things to knit. (Many) men want uninteresting things to wear, because they have been brought up to believe that shapeless bags are the only option unless one is a pimp, circus clown, or drag queen. And yet, paradoxically, (many) men are extremely particular about their shapeless bags.

Design a man’s sweater, and you risk putting blood, swatch, and tears into a pattern that is unveiled to a rousing chorus of “I’d love to knit that but he’d never wear it,” from the sopranos, sung in counterpoint with “He’d wear that but I’d hate to knit it,” from the altos, with an ostinato of, “I’d maybe knit that, maybe, but first I’d change the neckline, collar, cuffs, length, fit, shoulders, structure, yarn, and color; and make it a zip-front cardigan,” from the tenors and basses.

Why bother?

It’s a tough game, but the redoubtable Martin Storey has been in there pitching since the 1990s. His new men’s collection for Rowan, Journeyman, serves up twelve designs (eight sweaters, two scarves, a slouch hat, and a pair of thick socks) showing off the company’s Hemp Tweed, Felted Tweed, and Felted Tweed Aran yarns. (As gauges are given for all patterns, yarn substitution is simple.)


Nothing here is going to frighten a man with timid tastes. The colors are quiet, rising from cream and beige to a crescendo of pale grey-green on page twelve. The fit is classic. The motifs (checks, cables) are out of the approved masculine playbook.

Storey keeps things interesting with a masterful handling of details.

Some are bold. The vigorous cables of Heston (the cover pullover) grow right out of the ribbing at the hem, then break away from the vertical, creating an energetic tracery of oblique lines across the torso.

Some are whisper-quiet. The minimalist McQueen cardigan is spare as an Amish barn–stockinette and stockinette and more stockinette for miles; but there’s a smartly engineered rolled collar in garter stitch, and details picked out in garter stitch, that make it eye-catching instead of ho-hum.


Some are frankly just perfectly perfect like the Mitchum cardigan which is sexy and cuddly and fun and modern and butch and gorgeous and sharp yet casual and I have to knit it NOW so I’m typing this review faster and faster because I need to get back to knitting it.


Brando, a hooded pullover that is also very nice.

As to the physical book itself, of course nobody sells the fantasy of the handknit lifestyle quite like Rowan. The art direction by Sarah Hatton and photography by Moy Williams are faultless. This book suggests, seductively, that if only I will knit and wear these things, I will become a dashingly handsome, guitar-playing urban poet/philosopher with great shoes who always knows where to find exquisite light and the perfect cup of coffee. The downside, judging from the utterly baffled look on the model’s face as he contemplates a book in a café, is that I will forget how to read.


Go Tuck, Yourself

Nancy Marchant, she who shook the knitting universe with Knitting Brioche, Knitting Fresh Brioche, and Leafy Brioche, is back with Tuck Stitches: Sophistication in Handknitting.

If you are unfamiliar with tuck stitches (not to be confused, oh dear, with Tracey Purtscher’s Dimensional Tuck Knitting, reviewed in a recent column), it may help to say that they are a further development of two-color brioche. There, that’s most of you sorted out.

For the remaining twelve knitters in the world who have yet to try two-color brioche: these are hand knit fabrics created by systematically adding and subsequently gathering together yarn overs (in the case of tuck stitches, sometimes quite a few yarn overs) to certain stitch motifs. Brioche is, in fact, a tuck stitch–the first one in the eye-popping stitch dictionary at the the heart of the book.

From there, Marchant pumps up the volume by stacking additional yarn overs, changing the ground from ribbing to stockinette to broken rib and other rib variations, mixing plain stitches among the fancy, and playing thoughtfully with the amount of each color used. (Brilliantly, she includes information about the relative amounts of the two colors used in each stitch pattern.)

So, what does all this manipulation get you? The answer, simply put, is fetching fabrics you haven’t knit before. Fabrics you haven’t even seen before. Most of them look well, often equally so, on both sides; and many (the author helpfully notes which) lie flat. (The breeze you just felt was caused by ten million bored scarf knitters saying, “Oooooooooooooh!”)

The stitch dictionary is preceded by a thorough description (with clear step-by-step photographs) of how the maneuvers for tuck stitches work, how they are abbreviated and charted, and how to perform them in an efficient manner (including fixing mistakes). I fear knitters may look at this section first, go cross-eyed, and set the book down again. That would be great pity. This isn’t a technique you can twig by just reading about it; pick up your needles and two balls of scrap yarn, and do what Marchant tells you. The doing is, I find, easier than the describing. And awfully fun.

If you catch the fever and want to go further, the Appendix has information about converting flat patterns (the book’s instructions are all for flat knitting) to circular, converting motifs from two colors to one, and…hoo boy…designing your own new tuck stitches.

By way of encouragement, there are patterns for accessories and an absolute knockout of a blanket (in the 1960s revivial colors that everyone hated two years ago, and now everyone is buying) to round things out. The novelty of the tuck stitch technique and Alexandra Feo’s lickable photography got to me. I have already cast on an Aimée cowl for myself.

Two books, two new projects cast on. This, my friends, has been a very good month.

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • I will read, and reread, ANYTHING Franklin writes!

    • Indeed, indeed!

    • Ditto, Trudi!

    • So true!

  • So funny. Very astute analysis of man sweaters. But those Martin Storey designs are fab. Martin Storey is a real treasure.

  • I laughed and laughed and laughed some more…and then had to go back to look at the pictures ’cause too busy laughing the first read through to pay much attention.

  • Excellent, as always.

  • Day made. What a delight to read any and all of Franklin Habit’s columns. Still cracking up over here.

  • I looked for something for my son and its great to find you guys!Can you include a pictorial for boys with asberger we could do beautiful pieces.thank you. Yadira

  • I loved this. Thank you

  • Thank you, Mr. Habit, for another entertaining and informative review. I maintain an iron-clad rule that my knitting library must be contained to a certain physical space, but you’ve given me compelling reasons to see if I can make some room on that shelf. Reason #1 being that poor Rowan model – he may not be able to read, but I think we can make it work.

    As for the tuck stitches, I was intrigued from your sneak peek on Instagram and now understand your excitement. I’ve been a scarf-hater for years because I can’t stand having a wrong-sided fabric on an item that will *always* be showing its wrong side. To solve this problem + The Boredom Factor in one go? Pure knitting magic.

    • I laughed out loud at the comment about the model, and then looked at who wrote it–Hi Sarah! 🙂 If you haven’t seen Ghostbusters with Kate McKinnon, you need to if only to marvel at Chris Hemsworth’s bimbo receptionist turn–hi-larious.

  • If you don’t stop publishing pictures of incredibly fabulous new patterns, I’m gonna have to quit reading your blog. Although I suppose my inability not to love the next shiny, beautiful design I see THE MOST really isn’t your fault. And sharing new ideas IS the whole point of everyone blogging. But what is a poor ADD sufferer – SQUIRREL! – to do?

  • Witty and informative, as always. Thank you, Franklin! Now, I’ve got to go buy a book. Bye.

  • I love the names of the designs in Martin Storey’s new collection – especially that the only pair of socks are named for Clark Gable, who I always think is practically forgotten. I’ll need to get it just for that!

  • I have bought the majority of my knitting books on Franklin Habit’s recommendations alone. Now, 2 more for serious consideration!

  • You can say they’re all for men but McQueen with it’s svelte raglan shoulders and shorter length is obviously meant for all in search of the perfect Grandpa cardigan!

  • Summed up my man perfectly! Great review as always Franklin.

  • Yep, shapeless bags—my husband’s entire casual wardrobe. Thank you, Franklin, for the best laughs all week!

  • OMG! I can’t remember the last time I read something that had me chuckling so much (1960’s color!) and still had a lot of wonderful info. great reviews, thanks so much!!!

  • The model for the McQueen cardigan looks like a guy who forgot how to have fun, if he ever knew how. He’s taking “brooding” good looks to whole new level- grumpy. I love the cardi he’s wearing though.
    I love your reviews and I’m intrigued by the tuck stitches. Can’t wait to try them.

    • Totally agree. McQueen a cool cardigan (can you say, easily borrowed from hubby to me?), but those pursed lips, oh my.
      Maybe he can’t figure out the diff between grumpy and sexy pout?

  • I adore Franklin and everything that he writes!

  • Perhaps he (the model in the cafe ) is trying to tangle with Heidegger. Enough to perplex the most fervid readers. Please don’t stop writing.

  • My husband gave me the Marchant book for my birthday and I can’t wait to dig in. The Retro Blanket seems a perfect way to use my hoarded hanks of (dear departed) Magpie and Magpie Tweed.

  • Great writing, as always, Franklin. Just a suggestion for Rowan: how about a smiling model, clean-shaven, crew cut. Ditch the broody look. Isn’t there enough anger out there these days?

  • Thank you again Franklin for an entertaining write up of two very interesting looking books! I laughed so hard at the first review that I forwarded it on to two non-knitters who enjoy your musings as much as I do.

  • Wonderful, and scrolling down to previous reviews, I think I may need to schedule some exiciting new projects. Also thinking that I do a tuck stitch in Bee stitch now in my favorite washcloth.

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping