Chain Male: Crochet Design for Guys
I learned to crochet about fifteen years ago. At first, I went the afghan/potholder/doily route to occupy my stitching time. But as time went on, I wanted to try my hand at clothing. Thus began my search for men’s crocheted clothing patterns.
Shawls and stoles I found. And there were plenty of designs for women’s sweaters, and even dresses. But patterns for men’s clothing were few and far between, and of those I did find, very few appealed to me.
Finally, I chanced upon a book by Melissa Leapman that had crochet sweater patterns for the whole family. I found a man sweater I liked, jumped right in and—admittedly with some fear and trepidation—made my first sweater (thanks, Melissa!).
I did it! And I believed that I could design my own, using established schematics as my guide. thus began my career as a designer of men’s clothing. Designing for men has its particular challenges. Generally, men prefer simpler styles and neutral colors. As such, the embellishments and vibrant palettes often seen in designs for women are o -limits for guys. In addition, men’s designs, in my observation, call for solid construction in neutral tones with some texture.
I am naturally drawn to texture, both for the challenge it presents me as a crocheter and its effect on me as a wearer. As a crocheter, I find that texture breaks up the monotony of endless rows of basic stitches. In my designs, single or double crochet stitches serve as filler stitches between textural elements. As a bonus, the textured stitches remove the pressure of executing perfectly aligned swatches of simple stitches.
One of my favorite ways to add texture is with post stitches. The post stitch creates texture in a medley of ways: alternating front and back post double crochet creates ribbing; alternating post stitches and regular double crochet creates ribbing as well, but with less bulk; aligned post stitches create vertical columns; and more complex configurations create such patterns as basketweave, featured in my Tatami Vest. Post stitches are also the backbone of crocheted cables. Because cables are so entwined with knitting culture, there are lifelong crocheters who are unaware of the cable magic that can be created with the hook. The cable can span as few as two stitches to as many as your imagination will allow.
For the wearer, carefully crafted texture can provide camouflage for less favored parts of the torso by focusing the eye away from the area of, er, fluff. I tend to favor narrow vertical lines in garments I make for myself; the Telegraph Sweater (Interweave Crochet, Winter 2015) features this flattering line. Such texture can camouflage girth and highlight one’s better features.
Fond as I am of texture, I must note that it is possible to do too much. Please, know when to stop. Too much texture can detract from the overall structure of a piece. If there is too much happening, it is difficult to focus on the beauty of individual elements.
Also, when working with textured crochet, which creates a denser fabric, choose your fiber carefully. Opt for a lightweight yarn; it will still be plenty warm. Note also that if the yarn is too dark, your beautiful stitchwork will be hard to see. Keeping the garment simple will go far toward pleasing the man in your life. Whether you’re trying your hand at designing a garment or choosing a pattern to purchase, keep in mind what your man will actually wear. If he’s never worn orange in his life, just don’t even. After you put in all that time and money, you want a sweater that he will wear, not stuck in a drawer.
Keeping you in stitches,
PETER FRANZI began crocheting at the tender age of fifty and began designing five years later. He enjoys working in traditional styles using new or unusual techniques and yarns.