How To...

Published on April 7th, 2014 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


How to knit things men want to wear

Knitting a gift is always a little fraught. Obviously, you want your hard work to be appreciated, to be loved and worn, but how can you tell ahead of time if your gift is on track? Luckily, there are a few key things to remember that can make all the difference. I like to think of these as: why, what, which, will.

Why am I knitting this?
As a knitter, it’s tempting to pull out the needles any time a gift-giving situation arises. However, a knitted item, however lovingly and expertly made, isn’t always the right answer. After giving a few duds, I’ve started asking myself why I’m knitting for this person, and whether a bought gift, or perhaps home made cookies, would be a better fit.

What am I going to knit?
A useful gift has to fit into the recipient’s lifestyle. There’s no point knitting a beautiful aran jumper for a man who never wears a sweater, or making cashmere gloves for a little boy who gets everything muddy. However, for most men there’s something genuinely useful you can make, but you need to observe their day-to-day life to spot it. For example, machine washable fingerless mitts and hats are a great gift for anyone exercising outdoors in the cold.

Which colour should I use?
Look at the men’s and women’s sections in a clothes shop and you’ll quickly notice that there’s a lot more variety in women’s clothes. While many men bemoan the lack of choice, others have a very narrow comfort zone when it comes to clothes. If you’re knitting for someone you know, you’ll have an idea what colours they wear. If you’re knitting for a stranger or for charity, stick to plain neutrals, like navy, brown, black and beige, as they’re likely to appeal most people.

Will it fit? Will it work?
If something doesn’t fit, or doesn’t work, it won’t be used. The flip side of this is that if you knit a pair of gloves that fit like, well, gloves, or a really useful mug-hug, then it will be used until it falls to bits. Try to accept that the best possible outcome is that your knitting with fray and unravel being stuffed in a pocket for the ten thousandth time.

A few short cuts
There’s no substitute for being able to talk to the person you’re knitting for. Even if you’re making a surprise gift, you can still ask leading questions like ‘how come you never where hats?’ or ‘do men really never wear pink?’ to help your plotting. However, if you haven’t got this level of access, here are a few ideas to kick start your knitting.

Team colours and college ties
Nostalgia and loyalty are powerful draws. Many otherwise conservative dressers will make an exception if the lurid hues are the colours of their favourite sports team or their old school. If you can’t stand the idea of more black on black, then this can be a very handy loophole!

The geek factor
Many people like to wear their hobbies on their sleeves, and will love a geeky knit that celebrates their favourite TV show, sport, book or movie. Retro chic is in, and you might find that the Dennis the Menace jumper your 6-year-old rejected in 1984 is now top of his Christmas list, age 36.

Keep it simple
We all have wardrobe staples we wear over and over again. While they’re not very exciting to knit, a plain beanie hat, simple gloves or a comfortable sweater are likely to be reached for again and again.

The image featured above is from Rowan Knitting and Crochet Magazine #52.

About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles. She blogs at:

Last updated: April 11th, 2014.

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