Making a women’s jersey pattern fit a man

I made the Lorelle jersey up for me (size small) and it is a lovely jumper. My son Gus admired it and asked for one for himself, but without the zig zags. I said I would think about it and have a try. It will be the first item in our joint Sewing with a Plan 2017.

Regular readers know I am an almost complete beginner when it comes to knitting. In fact the Lorelle was my first garment ever. Since then I have managed a striped T shirt and a ski jersey. So for project four I will be knitting this jumper, but adapting it for Gus. I am thinking of this project with a mixture of excitement (creating something off piste, yay!) and making something to fit a man (very different shape to me), but also thinking I have done this once before so it is bound to be easier. And then Stephanie’s very clear advice (I know advice that comes from experience) that men are considerably bigger than women and making up the fabric is the key part of knitting, so there will just be many more hours involved in actually knitting.

To get an idea of what might be required I got Gus to pop on my sweater. He made me swear not to share the photograph with you. So I won’t. Long story short it was pretty tight across the chest and shoulders, but not too bad in the body. I discreetly sent the photo to Kari-Helene, Lorelle’s designer and asked her not to laugh. I told her I wanted to adapt the pattern for Gus. I love Kari-Helene – she doesn’t say what you might expect, eg no can do, men are a different shape, buy my pattern X for men. No. She is a cool woman and she fanned my excitement.  She wrote:

I promise I am not laughing. 🙂 It is very fetching!

But in all honesty, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

I think you would have to add some rounds in the body before joining the sleeves on, but that is just working a few more rounds to add extra length. Easy.

Then I would probably also add a few extra rounds in the yoke. Where you are working the zig zag in the pattern you are working straight without shaping, so I would probably work this part just straight, changing over from reverse to normal stocking stitch when you feel it is right. Then maybe adding a few more rows evenly over the next few decreases. But it is hard to say just how many. What I would recommend, to make it easier to go back should things go wrong, is to insert a lifeline at a suitable point. It basically means to add a contrast colour thread through your stitches at a point where you would want to unravel to to make it easier to pick the stitches back up again.

I hope this was some helpful advice and good luck!

A lifeline! I had never heard of that before and it is good advice. I didn’t actually do it as I felt fairly confident this time, but it is a great tip.

I meant to buy the wool from Purl Alpaca, but they have slightly changed the recipe of the light grey to include a bit of rusty red, just a little bit. It is a great colour but I wanted a definitely cool grey so I looked elsewhere. I bought a Peruvian product, King Cole DK consequently somewhat cheaper than the UK Purl Alpaca, but a very similar shade to my original. If anything very slightly deeper, and very slightly bluer. And theoretically a slightly thinner yarn.

I made up the Large size (for bust 39 – Gus is chest 38). Maybe I could have started with the Medium and then moved to large at the underarm stage, but I thought a tubular shape would be best. I like my sweaters to be a bit big and I hope Gus does too. But the extra few inches, compared to my 34″ bust version, really took so much time. And I felt there was an acre of knitting fabric in my lap. But when I measured it, and held it up against Gus it looked about the right size. I think this whole thing of making for Gus shows me that I rely so much, in making clothes for myself, on my instinctive understanding of my own body. I have an internal, “the body in the mind”, view of myself that is (at least in terms of dimensions!) fairly close to reality. Without this guide for Gus I am in danger of making up his wardrobe in a way that is actually too small for him, and closer to my size. Which would be a bad move!

Apart from that I did what Kari-Helene suggested. I measured Gus’s torso (48cms hem to underarm) and added an extra 5cm to the length. And then, once I had joined the sleeves, I added another couple of inches in the yoke. I only have to sew it up now, so I will show you how it looks on Saturday.

In the meantime I would like some help. I want my second jersey for Gus to be designed for a man, and I want it to have a polo neck and set in sleeves. Ideally I think a ribbed pattern, or some subtle cabling. I went to Ravelry and search adult men’s patterns. Honestly! I had been warned by Stephanie and my friend Bridget that there are some truly awful stuff on there (as well as marvellous knitting, I admit). There were about 400 pictures. At least 100 were Scando knits with a bulky, boxy shape. 100 were of real husbands and sons and they looked like the male equivalent of “Readers Wives” – often weedy or portly, looking rather unhappy in their home knits. And the rest were either embarrassingly retro or completely dull. There were only two that I “favorited” – both out of print. Any ideas for a trendy parsnip shaped young man with a long neck?


26 Responses

  1. Christine

    Have you looked at Patternfish. It just sells patterns from a huge range of companies and designers. You might have the same problem but it could be worth a try.

  2. Sue

    Kate, I have a gift for you that I thought you might like and there may be just what you need in there. I found 4 vintage Patons pattern booklets in an op shop which are all men’s patterns and immediately thought of you. So hang fire!

  3. Stephanie

    Woah you are quick! Looking forward to seeing Gus in his “Lore.” I would think that Rowan would have a decent polo neck jumper of that description, but it sounds as though Sue has some things for you. Check out some of Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed’s designs for men. You could always add a stitch pattern you like to a basic polo neck. It doesn’t sound like a difficult project for someone adventurous like you.

    • Stephanie

      Just scanned Brooklyn Tweed on my phone and the Vika pullover by Véronik Avery is quite nice. Not quite the sleeves you are after and more cabling but something to look at for ideas.

  4. eimear

    ravelry is great resource to look up patterns for men and women, and see what other have done in diff weights and yarns and as many of the makers are men you also get to see some of their makes…….I know i have knit and crochet software which will work out stitches which could have been useful for converting……. (link is here although it seems to be discontinued….useful inexpensive programe…..

  5. Make It Any Wear

    Definitely look to Brooklyn Tweed for modern men’s patterns. Also check out Bruce Weinstein’s patterns like this appropriate named one:

    though you’ll have to purchase a book, which can be done, for little,used though Amazon.

    Both Henley’s I’ve found are written for thicker yarn than you’ve bought but should be able to work if you work a larger size. Come back and we can help you out with that.

  6. Jay

    How on earth do you knit so fast? Please share the secret. It would take me a few hours to knit a man’s jumper on a knitting machine, by hand – think weeks. I learnt about the lifeline trick just a few months ago, then forgot it.Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Bridget

    Lovely to be mentioned. I have fiddled with a fitted woman’s pattern to make the a matching jumper as part of a wedding present (this was a request from the bride, I am not a great believer in his and hers but apparently it is very trendy now). It was easier for me as the bit we wanted to keep was the yoke, so I was changing the body. I think the thing you need to work out is what does Gus like about it – the texture, the hang, or the shape. I found a man’s pattern that used the same size needles and gauge of wool, and then increased the yoke to fit. I think I then cobbled it making the shoulders by decreasing much more rapidly, and based on a man’s pattern with a yoke – I seem to remember that it needed a couple of tries, but I often have to undo and reknit). I will ask the very classy wife if it has worked – she is a colleague and not in today, so will report back. The most important thing I think in fiddling with patterns is to keep to the needle size and wool – I am very impressed with your work rate. Three jumpers in almost as many weeks.

  8. Marji

    The Vintage Patons book may work. If not, check out
    Or – It would be easy enough to knit this as a crew neck leaving out the split for the button placket.

    A lot of what will make it current is the fit, and you control that as you knit. So pick your elements and then look for a pattern – set in sleeve, crew neck, some rib or twist. A lot of the pics you see on Ravelry are men in loosely fitting sweaters as that is what their middle age bodies and sensibilities want, Whereas I think the younger guys want a closer fit.

  9. Meg

    Consider “Cable Guy” by Heather Dixon. It’s has cable crossover stitches but no purl channels along them, so the fabric just has nice loose undulations. I made this for my clothes-loving spouse in a cotton-silk yarn:

    I also adapted “Cotton Raglan” by Melissa Leapman for him, knit in Cascade 220 superwash. I changed the hem to be more traditional. This sweater has a very pleasing, simple all-over cable pattern that doesn’t look like a fisherman’s gansey.

    Good luck!

  10. Giorgia

    I join in with everyone here amazed by your knitting commitment. Not only you are getting more and more advanced with patterns/colours/variations, but you are incredibly fast! I’ve started a scarf in September and it seems forever before it’s gonna be finished (admittedly scarves are boring work after a while).

    Very well done! I’m also resisting the temptation to get myself the Lorelle pattern now, you’re better than advertising!

  11. Nancy

    I agree that vintage patterns are the ones that will give the fit better suited to young men. My sons are very particular about fit and style and I have found the mens patterns from Lang to be excellent and easy to modify to get the fit they like. you may end up knitting a “dud” before you have perfect success but at least your son does not live thousands of miles away. And then of course remember to rip, rip and rip again until you have the perfect fit. Best of luck.

  12. Su

    First, my disclaimer that I have only knit pullovers for females. Second, suggest Jared Flood -guessing the typical fit of his popular Cobblestone isn’t what you are looking for – you want something trimmer for Gus. But you can do increases if knitting bottom up or do decreases if knitting top down to get a trimmer fit in the body to follow the V shape of a “turnip”. y You know his measurements and need to figure out how much ease he wantsllikes in a pullover at key locations- guessing waist and chest.

  13. zeddie

    A little searching online produced the result that a polo-neck is what we in North America call a turtle-neck. (I originally thought a polo-neck is a sweater that has a neck like a polo shirt and I thought Ann Budd’s Guston sweater would be suitable.) The Chicane pattern by Cookie A (in Brooklyn Tweed 2012) is a good choice for a cardigan but there really aren’t too many modern, slim, pullover turtleneck sweaters with set-in sleeves.

    • fabrickated

      Ah! Now I understand. The Guston is nice but not what we call a polo. Turtle neck here would be lower I think. And yes there aren’t many slim modern turtlenecks that have anything other than a raglan. The first sweater I have almost finished is a yoke sweater which has raglan type sleeves, so I really want set in this time. Thanks so much for your help Zeddie.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks so much Zeddie. I actually like this sweater with its “suspenders” – what we call “braces”. Suspenders hold up ladies stockings. And the thing some kids have on their teeth are called braces too.

  14. Brenda Marks

    I’m completely impressed! Your enthusiasm and commitment are inspirational. I have recently knitted a beanie hat in chunky wool and thought that was a good accomplishment. Now here you are showing me what is possible! : )

    • fabrickated

      Well done Brenda. I hope your beanie comes in useful…. I would like to knit some hats – in fact I had this idea of knitting several to keep in our new country house – one for each family member perhaps – monogrammed or colour coded. Hope you are OK. xxxx

  15. Verona Woodhouse

    American designer Jared Flood (pdf downloads on Ravelry) has great men’s jumpers and a good slim fit. They are plain, but with subtle details, which make great design features. I knit an aran weight one for my husband last year and would like to do a 4 ply one some time, but there is just so much knitting in a 4-ply for a man.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks for the tips Verona. I know what you mean about four ply for a man. I couldn’t believe how much time those extra inches took (and how boring they were – like fillers).

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