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On Irregularity and the Rejection of Certain Notions

Dear Kay,
I don’t often write here about Hubbo, mostly because he likes to keep a low profile. I’m not saying he works for the CIA, or the NSA, or Wal-Mart, even. But he may be the last human who can qualify to be attorney general; he’s upstanding, he is.
He is literally upstanding, too, about 6’3″ of upstanding, which is why (I’m embarrassed to say) I’ve never made a sweater for him. The problem with potentially handknitting something for Hubbo is that not only is he on the tall side, he’s on the warm side. He is the warmest human I know–a marvel of metabolism, toasty when I’m frozone, coatless most of the time. Like a six year old. He’s just not a very good target for someone who likes to make sweaters.
Until now. I accidentally knitted a sweater for Hubbo.
I started this sweater last summer, the Summer of Green, when I decided I had to knit a Teva Durham sweater from Loop-d-Loop or die. I’ve run on about Teva before. Knitting from her book would put me in her world, which has to be a very interesting place. I wanted to diminish my stash, and I wanted something simple enough that it would suit my dissolute summer knitting habits.
Here’s what came of that:
Pattern: The Irregular Rib Raglan with Toggle (page 71, for you Teva freaks)
Yarn: Rowan Magpie, Tarragon color. The Gregory Peck of yarns, really. If Atticus Finch didn’t live in Alabama, and he was chilly enough that he actually needed an irregular rib raglan with toggle, he’d pick Magpie. Rowan’s decision to discontinue Magpie ranks right up there with the theft of the Nun Bun. Low! Cruel!
Why It’s EZ: One-size-fits-all pattern. I figured if the winsome young thing on the cover of Loop-d-Loop could wear this, so could the not-really-so-winsome I. More on this later. And it’s knitted in the round. What could better suit a dissolute summer knitter?
Let’s Go to the Videotape
This sweater was a ton of fun to make: it hits that sweet spot of rhythmic knitting combined with clever bits that keep you on your toes. But it was not without its weird moments.
After chugging up the body, which toward the top takes a freaky turn when you’re doing one set-in sleeve and one raglan with a flappy deal on one side, it’s time to sew the shoulder seam. (There’s only one. How irregular!) Because the ribbing is irregular, the ribs don’t particularly line up, which is fine because the word irregular is right there in the name of the garment and I would have been bummed to have this tidbit too orderly. But it is HIGHLY irregular when you somehow turn the tube inside out and do the seam inside out. This is BEYOND irregular; this is “incompetent.”
This really is inside out, no matter how many times you tell yourself it isn’t.
Here we see the dark moment of the soul. It is at this point that you doubt the whole project. The set-in sleeve looks so emaciated that there’s no way it’s all going to hook up. And the raglan sleeve looks five times longer than a sleeve ought to look. Teva Durham is completely nuts. I am filled with loathing.
But she’s not nuts. She’s clever. She understands ribbing, and stretchiness, and the fact that a human inhabiting a sweater can significantly change its shape.
When I finally got all the sleeves and raglan flaps and collar all done, I tried on this sweater, and it was just too much for me. I love the irregular ribs, I love the irregular sleeves, but it’s just a pound and a half of sweater (I weighed it), and I’m a half-pound sweater kind of girl.
I decided to see just how one-size-fits-all this sweater really is, and Hubbo gamely agreed to try it on. There are a dozen reasons why I thought he would hate it. It is not gray. It is not thin. It is not symmetrical, and for a guy who thinks a lot about symmetry, this should have been a dealbreaker.
“It’s cozy,” he said, after I jooged the sleeves and discovered that it fits him fine. “You made it. I like it.” He looked down. “What is this thingie?”
Now. You notice how Son David has artfully placed a hand over Dad’s chest. No, he is not offering fealty, nor is he propping up his father. He’s covering up THIS:
A toggle.
This toggle is a bone of contention, let me tell you. Hubbo can take some assymetry, but he cannot take a toggle. The toggle is O’er The Top; the fact that the flap that the toggle is supposed to hold together is actually sewed together means that the toggle is not functional. It is decorative. And we cannot have something DECORATIVE ON A MAN SWEATER. The man does not want to be photographed in a handknit which includes a toggle.
I can’t say I disagree, really. It’s a fine sweater, toggle or no.
Off it goes, to the toggle trash heap. Which is kind of a shame, because in attaching the toggle I discovered a new craft for us:
Leatherwork! We can tool our own belts!
PS Today is David’s tenth birthday. Here he is with small Clif after he and their four friends collected all the snow in Grundy County during their sleepover on the mountain. (Deliverance Meets Lord of the Flies–you weren’t kidding.)
The snowball ended up where all great snowballs end up.




  1. Oh god Ann, if you give Kay the least bit of encouragement she’s going to start trying to figure out how to felt leather…
    Seriously, congrats on the hubby sweater. Since my 6’3″ guy lost 50 pounds, and all the sweaters so lovingly knit for him over all the years of our courtship and marriage are now all TOO BIG, ribs offer a glimmer of hope. I think that when I am strong enough to again contemplate knitting him a sweater (say, in another 2 or 3 years), ribs are the way to go.

  2. Ann, you read my mind. Just today I was wondering what had happened to that ribbed sweater and went back to the summer posts to read up on it! It looks great on hubbo, and I know just what he means about decorative thingies… Toggles on sewn-up seams are kinda silly! And happy birthday to David!

  3. I find myself on the unfinished (meaning still thinking about maybe proposing a pattern to FaveSpouse) side of the sweater dilemma, but with similar parameters:
    What do you make for your 6+ft spouse who is so hot he could never wear wool except on the farside of the artic circle?
    (Sweatermaking is required after all those nights of defrosting my icetoes on his furnacelike bod.)
    You solved all the problems! Yarn weight, color, fit, even the toggling. Its a tre’ convincing case for the pattern for sure. Maybe I have a modest (sweater) proposal to show the spouse….imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right???
    PS You know you are in the mom hall of fame for sacrificing freezer space for mammoth snowballs, don’t you?

  4. “assymetry.” Heh. Am I wrong to think of this as a freudian slip?
    Seriously, any hubbo whose take on a sweater is “you made it; I like it” is a hubbo to keep around.

  5. Hubbo is looking so foxy. Please tell him I said so.
    The handknit makes the man! I hope he wears it a lot. I love the way the raglan and set-in sleeve actually WORK. Maybe if he considers it outerwear instead of, like, a sweater, he’ll wear it more. Keep it in the trunk of the car, maybe? Congrats on Finishing Something. xoxo Kay

  6. I love the sweater. I even love the toggle (too bad it was over the top for hubby!) – but at least he likes the sweater!

  7. Sooo–just a few random questions (perhaps fueled by the entire pack of Skittles I just consumed): is your husband attorney general? Is he running for attorney general? And I’m just not getting the nun bun. I can’t make out Mother Teresa at all. Is she wearing an elf hat?
    I really like the sweater. I’ve only knit one for my 6’3″ husband, and that was 50 lbs ago.

  8. Hubbo looks great in the sweater. And I’m mighty impressed that you got it on him with the toggle in place. I know something about the male aversion to toggles.
    Happy birthday to David!

  9. hubbo does look fabulous and sweater is gorgeous (i like the toggle too)… about that toggle, what were you thinking !!! Funny how the sleeves always looks a bit too small but fits just fine.
    happy birthday to David. A decade.. how very grown up !

  10. My hubby dissed this sweater too, because of the toggle. He said it was too much like a “brooch or something” I gave him a blank look, as I realized he even knew what a brooch was. The sweater looks quite nice. Toggle or not.

  11. “What’s this thingie?” He looks great!
    And Happy Birthday to David!

  12. What an utterly charming post: the essence of the Mason-Dixon blogorama. (I realize there are several. It’s a bit like the perfect sweater… and I won’t get started on that. That’s Dangerous.)
    The sweater is amazing! I’ve recently seen the light on Teva Durham and Annie Modessit and will be a proud owner of their books soon soon soon.

  13. Oh, that sweater looks great on him! How tricky to pretend to knit yourself a sweater. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Wonderful. What are you going to do about the flap? Are we zippering or doing some very clever seaming? It’s a great sweater and you have a wonderful hubbo who sports it well.

  15. Fantastic sweater that was made all the better by your handsome hubby and by using my fave of all time, Rowan Magpie. *chortle*I miss Rowan Magpie*chortle*.
    Happy 10th to David!

  16. I would have the same concern that the sleeve won’t fit into the sweater … and I am really glad to see that they do fit so well.
    Your husband wears the sweater really well … or the sweater suits him? Which way? I don’t know. But this: “And we cannot have something DECORATIVE ON A MAN SWEATER.” really put a smile on my face … ๐Ÿ™‚ So true.

  17. That is a fanTABulous man-sweater! And the doing of it for a 6’3″ guy shows the enormity of the love you must have for him.
    I agree about Magpie. Before I even got to know it well, it was discontinued.
    Happy Birthday, David! The snowball in the freezer…I just gotta say that I’m totally impressed that you have ROOM in your freezer. Not true in my house.

  18. oh ann….are those eggos in the freezer???? that is one manly sweater….how’s about a modelling contract?

  19. Sweater is great, hubby is great, kids are super great, toggle is not great, birthdays are great. In fact, today is my nephew’s birthday – he’s five. It’s a special especially great day.

  20. That really is a good looking sweater, Ann. ::fans self:: It’s making me…a little flustered, to say the least. Your husband looks quite at home in such a sweater, too. The irregular ribs really become him.

  21. Excellent ribbage. For his pleasure, even!
    Nice to see Hubbo again. He does seem very Att’y Gen’l-ish now that you’ve mentioned it. I only know him to be very polite. And tall. Really tall.
    David is now a card-carrying member of Double Digit Ages!! Congrats!!

  22. Look at all that GREEN! Outside. In January…. Oh, how I miss living in TN. The green sweater is awfully nice, too.

  23. Fabulous !
    I see his point re:the toggle. Not quite right for a man of stature. He does look fab in the green rib.

  24. Well, I may have to get back to that Teva Durham book. I actually bought yarn for one of the sweaters, then reconsidered how it might look on my actual body and used the yarn for something else. This one came out great.
    My daughter is 10; I love 10!

  25. Darn, I hate it when I do that…

  26. My hubby is also tall and way too warm for a sweater! He only wears sweaters if it’s going to snow and he’s not skiing. Since it hardly ever snows here, I’ve only knit him a pair of socks and a hat. So you think your hubby will actually wear this sweater?

  27. Very handsome! A great accidental knit.

  28. …….and I thought the issue was going to be that the Toggle was pink………..symmetry achieved through a husbands fit, a son’s well placed hand and the knitting needles of a caring spouse = loving family
    Linda DH

  29. drive by comment, waving with one hand, thumbs up with another, gotta run …

  30. Ten years and a coupla weeks ago, I remember a vision leaning against the dining room wall at my sister’s engagement party. It was Ann, looking all sleek in her matte black maternity miniskirt, black tights and Red Cowboy Boots. She looked like she had a basketball under her top. The Most Elegant Pregnant Lady Ever! And to think that the basketball was our adorable David…

  31. Happy birthday to David! 10 is a real milestone … next thing you know he’ll be taller than you (this happened at our house in December. The boy was way too tickled about it.).
    Hubbo’s sweater is gorgeous, and I’m on his side about the toggle. It’s too much.

  32. Hey, knowing the trepidation a husband must experience with the approach of his knitting wife with an offering of composed wool, I deeply respect the man doning an unorthodox garment, irregular and assymetrical as that one is, toggle be damned. Having punched a few holes, you are now free to attach leather handles to your felted bags and buttonhole be, uh, put on pause.

  33. is it an x/y chromosome thing that the boy is always warm, in shorts and a t-shirt, while the girl is bundled up in sweat pants, turtleneck and sweatshirt under a blanket while knitting, or is it just me?????

  34. Love the sweater. And it’s beginning to make me wonder if my husband, who has similar sweater design and warmth needs, would like it. He, too, would shun the toggle on the man sweater.

  35. ann … fabulous ribby “untoggled” sweater … i made it in kid classic … the yummiest raspberry’ish color … with the toggle for myself!!! … ahem … but isn’t it amazing how the whole ribby thing just works … i just used the same ribby pattern for a quick vest adjustment … but that’s a different story … hey … i wish you two, ann + kay, a very swell time @ the tnna in san diego … you will be going, right … one of these days i’ll get there myself … in the meantime congrats on knitterly things and a decade old kid!!! … oh … ya’ poor people who have to keep a snowball in the freezer … come visit up in the northerly lattitudes … even just nj and it might be cold enough to keep it outside … you’re an amazing mom for keeping it in the freezer!!! … kisses … ina and gumby … got some knitting to do … with rowan yorkshire tweed … a nice follow up but not nearly as amazing as rowan’s magpie … oh well … maybe they’ll bring it back … ya’ never know … oops … talking too much …

  36. I love a happy ending–especially a happy ending with a happy birthday. Salutations, David!

  37. Happy birthday to David – I hope he had a great day and he enjoyed his first day in double digits. Two whole hands.
    The sweater looks like it’s a perfect fit – toggle or not; “best of all, it’s FUN!”

  38. You have some great looking men in your family. The “look, no toggle” photo is just so funny.

  39. Man, it looks so cool that I may have to knit one for hubby! (If he will wear it in Singapore’s weather, that is…)

  40. The sweater looks great on the husband. Too bad about the toggle. My husband is the same way. When I suggested some glass buttons for a sweater I was making him last year, he looked at me like I had two heads.

  41. Happy birthday to David, 10 is a great age!
    The hubbo sweater is fabby, I’ve just bought the Teva Durham book and it’s amazing, there are so many nice things to make!

  42. I think the toggle is lovely and I am quite impressed with this sweater! Hopefully it grows on him, so to speak.

  43. Enjoyed the play by play on the sweater creation. Real men don’t wear toggles, heh. Soo funny, but so true!

  44. Would 3 or 4 rilly plain buttons (coat buttons, shirt buttons) sewn on along the sewn-up flap be considered “decoration” by a man? I am having trouble with so much asymetry for no obvious reason…although the more I think about it, the more fun the concept gets…just because. (“I couldn’t decide on which type of sleeve to make, so I made them both.”) Looks good, anyway.

  45. Seriously, I know a thing or two about leather work, and it is da bomb. I can make my own boots. I made myself a doeskin leather coat, and it is a temple of hotness. Which means you can make your own boots, or your own temple of hotness. I swear. Good stuff. Let me know if you want info.

  46. Happy belated Birthday to David, brave coverer-upper of all non-manly sweater gee-gaws!
    I’ve got to go along with Hubbo on the man-toggle issue, too. It was a good call. The sweater looks just fine without it, and David won’t have to follow him everywhere to cover it up, either.

  47. ann, your fellows are some kind of handsome. kudos on the fantastic sweater, glad you’re happy with it!! it’s quirky, but not too much, i think… and the colour is perfect.

  48. Hubbo looks fab!

  49. I love that sweater, and one of my eternal disappointments is that none of the men in my life share my love for it. The problem is, of course, the toggle (which is one of the things I love about it, but I also initially believed it was serving some kind of purpose as a closure..). I would like to knit it for myself, but realistically I think I like the look of it on a man (and definitely not the skinny young girly on the cover). Hmmm…perhaps it’s just that it looks so very yummy on ‘that’ man, the one on page 71 – he is so very cute…

  50. That is great Man-Sweater all right. You knew the toggle was a no-go , didn’t you? There are strict unspoken rules concerning man sweaters and this is a universal truth. He looks wonderful in it; I hope he wears it outdoors on very brisk days. Well done.

  51. I am stumped by Amazon’s search screen, thus, “Results for: symmetry Related Searches: brokeback mountain”. This boggled my mind so much that for some moments I was unable to verbalize my appreciation of the fabulous sweater and its equally fabulous model. (I do agree, no toggle, please.)

  52. Love your foray into the land of Teva. thanks so much for sharing. I’m standing at the edge and am tempted to enter myself… just feeling a bit timid about it at the moment.

  53. What a gorgeous sweater for your man! I knitted a Magpie Aran, ribbed sweater for my tall guy – he calls it the “super-jumper” because it’s SO warm. It’s OK unless he wears it for any physical activity at all, in which case he overheats in five minutes and rips it off shouting “I’M ROASTING – IT’S THIS STUPID JUMPER”. Fortunately it stands up to being pulled over the head by the scruff of the neck. Happy roasting then.

  54. I’m working my way through Loop-d-loopydoo at the moment. I reckon my man will look as good as yours in the rib jumper. It’s now on my list!
    Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of your book.

  55. i love the sweater! I am at the blocking and sewing point on one for my husband (who wants it WITH toggle and is actually going to make the toggle himself – he’s a woodworker). There have been a couple times while knitting that i have thought “oh, now THAT’s clever!”. Gotta love that in a pattern, or in anything for that matter.


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