Thursday, August 23, 2007

What Boys Like

Back in the spring of 2005, when this blog had only been around for about a month, I wrote a screedish little entry about how my search for a men's sweater pattern had turned up miles of Aran cables and acres of Fair Isle, but nothing I felt would suit a fellow in my particular (urban, gay, young[ish]) circumstances.

"The knitting fad," I huffed, "has brought out shelves full of pattern books for the young urban female knitter. So how much longer do the guys have to wait, dammit?"

Manual CoverI think the wait is over.

I've just spent a pleasant couple of hours sitting with Kristin Spurkland's The Knitting Man(ual), a copy of which was sent to me for review by the publisher, Ten Speed Press. This is the book I had in mind when I wrote that early complaint; and a solid piece of work it is, too.

In putting her book together, Spurkland and her publishers have taken obvious care to appeal to a male audience without condescension. The look is sharp and decidedly masculine, with clean typography and subtle blocks of color. Refreshingly, however, there is no reliance on cheap macho stereotypes: no army camouflage, no grunge typefaces, no evocation of the car repair manual aesthetic. The handsome photography by John Valls, which includes a wide range of races, ages, and body shapes, is beautifully executed and shows off the projects to perfection.

And the projects themselves (there are twenty-two) are on the whole a well-edited and attractive lot. The first is a ribbed and cabled throw; the others are all for garments, including hats, gloves, mittens, socks, and several sweaters. All have their good points and some are perfectly delicious. Only two (house slippers with weird toes and a schlubby color block scarf) miss the mark entirely. Paging through the rest afforded me the pleasure, never before enjoyed, of finding in one volume six different projects I'd like to knit for myself. The previous record, in case you're wondering, was two.

For true beginners, there's the usual introductory section of techniques–illustrated with photographs of male hands. This would be a perfect gift for a guy newbie, as the projects range from very simple to moderately complex. I could well imagine it providing impetus enough to keep his needles clicking until he's past the Point of No Return.

The only thing not here that I'd like to see is some discussion of male fitting issues. And yes, ladies, male fitting issues do exist. Not all shoulders are created equal, to say nothing of chests and stomachs. Perhaps in volume two? (Hint, hint.)

In 2005, knitting books occupied about six inches of space on my bookshelves; now they take up five feet or more. I own more than enough books on knitting technique, design, and history. My need for The Knitting Man(ual) is perhaps not so vital as it once was, but I'm still awfully happy to find it at last.

Renovations Continue

Thanks for the positive feedback on the recent design changes. I'm still working on them, so certain features (like my blogroll) aren't in place yet. All in good time.

44 comments:

Julie McC. said...

De-lurking to thank you for writing about this book. My 12 year old son wants to learn to knit and the dearth of decent guy-oriented knitting books has been brought home to me in force.

Like the new look, too.

Longhorn Diva said...

For your mittens: "O that I were a glove upon that hand..."??
"Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts?" or
"Let's go hand in hand, not one before the other." or
"And thus I clothe my naked villainy..."???
LOL!
Okay, not so much, but I like the idea of finding just the right line. Good luck!

Mel said...

Well, I may just have to get it eventually. Just got the 4th BW Treasury, though, and a bunch of yarn today (Have you seen Opal's Hundertwasser collection? Who could resist a colorway called "Die Straße zum Sozialismus", or "Seeschlange"? Certainly not I).

So what do you think the couple on the cover of the book are shopping for?

dragon knitter said...

book sounds great! and boy do i know about male fitting issues! granted, my boys are still growing, but they have decidedly different body shapes. liam is relatively broad shouldered (at 15) and narrow hipped. sean (at 13) has less of the v-shape, and will more than likely stay that way. the size 16 jeans that fit liam like a glove at that age are fitting sean differently, fer sure. (boy has a bigger waist, most definitely). while they are still growing, at this stage, it's easy to see where they are going to end up as men. the question at this point is how tall are they going to be?

MonicaPDX said...

Well, it's about damned time! The cover looks very snazzy; and yeah, the knits on the cover do look like things men would actually wear. Great! Nice review, Franklin.

Plus very nice header! Ahhh, lace...

knitnzu said...

That looks like a great book! I have to hunt around for good guy sweaters also-that aren't as you said cabley or fairisle. There's a good reversible ribbed sweater in 'Knitting with a smile' by Inger Fredholm-I've made two. I'd make the cover v neck for myself, though I'm trying to wear less 'man' clothes, but by god they are generally more comfortable and more durable and at least some of them actually fit better-go figure. But this has caused some confusion when walking the dogs at the local trolling spot-at first it freaked me out that a man was following me, but then I realized he was scoping me out-5'10, man jeans, man workboots, man wool flannel jacket, cap, short hair... he turned right back when he heard me call for my son.

Bobbi said...

Thanks for the book info! Doogie will be glad to hear it. You are SO right about the need for something to be written about "fitting men". Hopefully, the muses will hear your call and put the seed of inspiration in SOMEONE'S ear.

Nelly Olsen said...

I see you haven't incorporated my great idea from yesterday into your blog.

*sigh* You never like my ideas. For the life of me, I don't know why.

Terri said...

Hooray for you on mentioning male fitting issues. My husband is tall (6'4") and has a disproportionately long torso compared to his chest/shoulders and arms longer than my freakin inseam length. Just knitting longer doesn't really work because shaping has to be adjusted all over the place.

heather said...

glad to see there is a good book of men's patterns! Thanks for the review.

twollin said...

Dialing Amazon as I type to get this book, though the fitting issues thing is a bit of a pain. I have been very frustrated for the past..oh, must be 5 years..that the knitting mags that I read (and I do not read them all)seem to have abandoned men's patterns. Interweave has one every once in a while, but after Vogue put out that Men's Issue with Kaffee Fassett on the cover, I have not seen a men's pattern in their books ever again. Which I do not understand. Maybe that men's Issue did not do well, but it doesn't not follow that men's patterns are not wanted.

JoVE said...

Actually the photo on the cover suggests that not all male bodies are alike. But between you and Joe this sounds like a winner.

Anne said...

The book sounds like a useful resource. BTW, it's Stephen Fry's 50th birthday today in case you wanted to wish him many happy returns....

Yarngineer said...

Thanks so much for the review. I also have a hard time finding good male knitting patterns, for my husband. And, I like to wear men's clothes styles too. Can you tell me whether the book has patterns sized up to XL and XXL? That is always an issue for him, just like I am sure the smaller sizings are an issue for you and me, us wee people. Not enough men's patterns go up that large in size. (Yes, the thought of miles of stockinette makes me want to scream!)

Helen said...

Why WOULDN'T men have fitting issues?
There are as many male body shapes out there as female, I'm sure. (Okay, so there are likely more variations in breast size and shape than in chest size and shape, but still). The same rules apply to how to approach them!
Meanwhile, I must go investigate this book. Perhaps, at long last, there is a sweater my DH actually wants to wear so I can knit one for him....

angelanoel said...

I've always loved 10 Speed Press for their cookbooks (though they'll soon be stopping printing them - sad) and am very excited to hear they also do knitting books. I may just have to check out that one as hubby keeps asking for a manly sweater.

Sheepish Annie said...

Even as a girly-type person, I often prefer the construction and fit of the men's sweaters. Sometimes a girl needs a "boyfriend sweater" without investing in the boyfriend! I'll look forward to seeing this book.

anne marie in philly said...

queerjoe also liked this book. I may have to check it out.

the man in my life is 5' and about 220. I have knit him 4 sweaters (pullovers) in the past year. no f-ing cables; I used stitch designs liberally lifted from the '365 knitting stitches' calendar and ann budd's 'handy book of patterns' as my templates.

they fit him and him alone.

the best thing I can do for him is a custom knitted design.

lerving the blog changes, BTW.

PS - change the locks whilst dolores is out on the town!

Marin (AntiM) said...

Franklin, did you ever comment on "Knitting With Balls"? I can't find it, but it's the only other knitting book directed at men that I can come up with off the top of my head.

I have a male friend who wants to knit and, not being male, I'd like to have some masculine input on which book would be better.

Any assistance you could lend would be most welcome.

Lorraine said...

Franklin- There was definitely a need for this kind of book- without designs that look old-fartish.
I know there are male knitters out there, but I hope it brings more of you guys into this great hobby.
I say "hobby" but it's really my life.

Kirstin said...

The next Stitch and Bitch book focuses on men's patterns. Maybe publishers are finally realizing that male knitters spend money too.

sue said...

I like the new blog look!

Anna-Liza said...

I have a similar problem to terri's--my DH is tall and very slender, with extra long arms and rather broad shoulders in proportion to his hips. I'm not that great about alterations, so tips on fitting men would be very, very welcome! I'll have to get this book-it's not just my DH, I have three sons!

So, Franklin, when is your knitting book for men coming out?

the fiddlin' fool said...

So glad to see a book like this come out. Too bad Knitting With Balls was such a disappointment.

StarSpry said...

Sounds like a great book!

Love your new header :)

Bobbi said...

Oooo, just remembered...Debdie Stoller will have a new book, "Son of Stitch N Bitch" that might have "fitting" details. (Size matters!)
Just in time for holiday gift giving...for those who do that kind of thing. ;-)

Teresa said...

I just got my invite the other day. My id is Lileesgram.

I don't want to do anything else!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

ninaclock said...

I agree about wanting more information about fitting for men. I want to know those things when I knit for my hubby. I feel so lost when I try to assess fit for him

Paris said...

A knitting book aimed at men? Without stupid clichés? And with patterns reflecting urban sensibilities?

I shall certainly have to check this one out.

Nelly Olsen said...

OK. I have one more idea. (You're rolling your eyes now. I can just feel it.) The lace on the new header is nice, but add a strip of leather down the middle. Or have the lace laying on some leather.

MollyBeees said...

Thanks for this post! I've been looking for a great sweater pattern to knit for Mr. Bee. Maybe I'll find it in here. I like the long-sleeved sweater on the cover but have some reservations about the sleeveless vest...with a hood? Maybe it'll make more sense in person. Off to the bookstore!

Carol said...

That's enough recommendation for me. Just ordered it. I have too many men in my life that need knitted things and nothing ever fit the bill. Can't wait for it to arrive now!

dale-harriet said...

Say, could you send Dolores up here for a visit? She'd fit right in to the Mad-City scene. We're having wonky weather too - she'd probably shrink around here lately, raining raining raining. I daren't go outside, I'm afraid I'll shrink too (at 4'11" you don't take risks -- much more I'll need a booster seat in the car to be legal). And Franklin? a propos of not much, I lurve you, thank you for jes' bein' there and *bein'*.

goblinbox said...

I'm fairly certain men invented knitting. If they truly loved it, they would never have let it go!

*lol*

Anonymous said...

Thnaks for reviewing the book! I'm so glad you liked The Knitting Man(ual)!! Yayayay!

-Ingrid

Ten Speed Press

marie in florida said...

wow* ten speed press? from way back in the 70's? anybody's bike book ten speed press? cool and far out man

Five Ferns Fibreholic said...

I think that book will be on my wish list. I love making sweaters for DH as the guy appreciates them far more than our kids.

Andrea Rusin said...

Call me dim (you won't be the first) but I wouldn't have thought those sweaters on the cover were sweaters guys would wear. What do I know? Seriously, Franklin, write the book. I figure if you'll wear it, my kid'll wear it.

Melanie said...

Tara Jo Manning's Men In Knits actually includes a very nice discussion of sweater styles as they relate to male body types (and the target male's personal style). While my own resident male flat-out refused the designs (too busy or --the horror--more than one color at once!), I did find the book's advice on measurement taking etc. very helpful.

d2wms said...

>>...which includes a wide range of races,...<<

Can we lose the word 'races',please? The only race on this planet is that of human.

sahara said...

Thanks so much for the review! I'm teaching a few guys, and I was embarrassed that I couldn't reccommend them a book.

Sneaksleep said...

Yay! Finally, a decent book of mens' patterns! Thanks so much for the review--I can't wait to pick this up!

elan said...

Thanks for the recommendation, I live in a house full of men & finding something they will wear when I'm done knitting can be a challenge.

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