Avoiding the Curse of the
According to one of the polls by Clara
Knitter’s Review, 41% of us believe that, if you knit a
sweater for someone to whom you are not married or engaged, you
will break up. By her poll, 30% of us think that’s nonsense.
But 15% say they’ve experienced it firsthand.
Why? Because men seem less like
members of a different gender, but members of something that is
almost a different species--a wary sort of prey species that
sees females of its own kind as predators. Maybe the BF
figures if you’d commit that much time and effort and money to
him, you’re committed, and he’s not that committed. So
he ducks out. I think you have to be seeing someone for a
while—six months to a year or so—before it’s reasonable, and not
premature, to make him a sweater.
Other reasons for him to flee? Maybe he
thinks the sweater is horrendous, that he’d never wear it and it
would hurt your feelings and the whole thing is just too
The last person I encountered who had a
story about the Curse and her recent breakup was telling me her
story over the last sleeve. The sweater was in college
colors—Princeton orange and black--in stripes that would have
made her departed BF look like one of those tabloid favorites, a
Killer Bee. What would you do, had you been in his position?
She said she was going to finish and wear it. Bet she didn’t!
Somewhere between a month and six months to
a year, it might reasonable and unthreatening to start with
something smaller. A scarf? A hat?
Mittens? Socks? A U neck or V neck sweater vest,
rather than a full sweater? If a full sweater, consider
replacing the beloved and ratty one, stained and fraying, that
he’s owned since high school or college.
But if it is going to be a actually new
sweater that won’t present a problem in and of itself, you need
to stick to a conservative shape, in colors that he doesn’t find
unacceptable, in a modest yarn, plain or tweedy. Maybe
superwash or an acrylic/wool blend for washability, and a plied
yarn for durable good looks.
This is no time to try to “liven up his
wardrobe,” a mistake whether you’re dating him, engaged to him,
or married to him. No matter what, he does not want and will
not wear a sweater in orange, unless he goes deer hunting, or
anything in wild patterns or what men think of as “girl colors.”
Stick with the colors men like: Cream to
beige to brown to black. Blues in shades from denim to navy.
Darker reds, such as wine colors. Greens from sage to forest.
Long sleeves or none at all. A neck that won’t make him feel
strangled. A length that becomes him, and no tight ribbing.
Not a cardigan, unless he’s the age that Mr. Rogers was when we
knew and loved him. No bells or whistles, a yarn in worsted or
Aran size on needles no smaller than #7 and no larger than #9,
so it will go pretty quickly, fit under a jacket, and make him
realize that it’s not a big, menacing commitment of time,
effort, and money.
Make sure it fits. Either measure the man,
or measure a sweater he owns that looks good on him and that he
likes. Correct any errors as you go. And when you’ve finished
it, take special care with blocking and finishing and weaving
in. You want it to look handmade, not homemade. You want him
to want to wear it, and be proud to do so.
Avoid the kind of sweater that most of us
make only for fiancés or husbands: the full-dress Aran or Fair
Isle or Norwegian. They are obviously too much work, and too
much time, for someone you’re dating. I actually know someone
who can knit a Norwegian ski sweater in a week, but I can’t, and
you probably can’t. The last one I did took more than a month
of evenings, on #0s and #2s. When it was done, someone said to
me, “You made that? I’ve seen them, but I’ve never known anyone
who actually made one.”
Because I design a fair amount, and knit a
lot, I don’t have a problem with making sweaters that I end up
giving to male friends, any more than I do with giving things to
female friends. Any rational human being knows that one medium
sized woman who knits a lot must give things away, and does.
The gentlemen seem mostly to have welcomed the additions to
My postman, the genial mayor-by-consent of
my neighborhood, gets all kinds of things, and field-tests
cold-weather gear for me. A faraway friend from my college
years got Altiplano for his annual hiking trip. A friend from
around the corner got Andes. A friend’s boyfriend got a
Balaclava for field testing when he was working at the South
Pole. Some friends got cowboy hats, and some got socks, as I
perfected those patterns, and I’ve sent scarves to more people
than I can count.
So far, they are, all but one, still
speaking to me. Be mindful, of course, that at 65, I’m probably
a little beyond boyfriends, and the curse of the boyfriend
*Want to print out this great knitting tip to have it for keeps? Download our printable PDF file. It's free
to you from High Country Knitwear!