My last post was a whimsical look at men’s sweater patterns from the early 70s including some wild vests. I have been wanting to knit a vest for Doug for some time now, but find that I can never find the perfect pattern. (Note that I am using “vest” in the American sense here. I will continue to spell colour with a “u” thus confusing those who want to categorize me.) While there are some fabulous patterns out there, I find that most of them fall short on one dimension or another. In particular, they are (1) designed for someone considerably thinner, considerably younger (or both) than Doug, (2) they are made with a thicker weight wool, such as worsted or aran, and/or (3) they are boring. This last must be commented on: I am told time and time again that men want boring. My man doesn’t. As evidence of this, have a look at the last sweater I knit for him.
Doug wants a vest that he can wear to work with a shirt and tie, that he can put a sports jacket over comfortably, that has color and ‘pops’. He also says he wants it to have buttons so that he can take it on or off during the day (but he could overcome this for the right pattern). I want a vest which is fun to knit, which is challenging but not scary, and preferably not with steeks (but I can overcome this for the right pattern). I also think that it would be better in fingering weight yarn to cut down on bulk. Here are a baker’s dozen of great men’s vest patterns. None of them seems to hit all of the requirements. But they come pretty close.
We’ll start with a few vests knit in aran or worsted weight wool, move on to some fancy colourwork projects and end with some fantastic fairisle. (All links are to the Ravelry page.)
1. Laredo by Angela Hahn
I seriously love this vest. Angela is a great technical designer and she charts this out in three lengths so that the pattern starts and ends on appropriate rows. I keep seeing it in a rich colour, perhaps a strong gold or deep purple. But it is made with an aran weight wool and isn’t the office-appropriate vest I am searching for. When Doug needs a vest to go on safari, however, this one is so there.
2. Dr. G’s Memory vest by Kirsten Kapur
This is a fantastic vest. It is knit in a worsted weight wool, but I also think it would look great with a sports coat. I love how the ribbing on the sleeves matches the pattern running up the side of the fronts, and how the two patterns come together and then separate at the shoulder to provide shaping. Oh, the technical deliciousness of this pattern is so appealing! Every feature is so beautifully thought out. Kirsten designed this in memory of her father, Dr. G, who suffered from vascular dementia. In order to receive the pattern, one must donate to dementia research, as detailed on Kirsten’s blog here. So, a gorgeous design and a good cause. (I already have the pattern and it is definitely in my queue.)
3. Argyle Vest by Veronik Avery
This is an old one from Veronik, dating from 2007, well before her Brooklyn Tweed collaboration. It is found in her book, Knitting Classic Style: 35 Modern Designs Inspired by Fashion’s Archives. I already own the book, which puts it in the plus column. I love argyle, and I think this design uses it to its best – it is a strong motif, but doesn’t overpower the vest. I love these colours but can imagine all sorts of options from subdued to wild. The problem once again is the yarn weight – it’s knit in aran. Plus – intarsia – not quite in my comfort zone. But it’s pretty huh? Especially when worn with a pout, like the model kindly demonstrates.
4. Drew’s sweater vest by Marly Bird
I love this vest! First of all, it buttons, unlike most of those I am reviewing here. But it also has great features: the shawl collar, the twisted garter rib stitch, the beautiful fan pattern that goes up the middle fronts and around the collar. It also is charted in a huge range of sizes – from 36.5″ to 60.5″! You would be astonished (or maybe not) at how many vest patterns end at a size 48″. Not only that, but it looks like a vest which would actually look good on big men. I think this one will end up in my queue. The problems – it’s knit in aran wool, and the shawl collar means no jacket.
5. #19 Men’s Houndstooth Vest by Josh Bennet
I love houndstooth, and this one is scrumptious! Really, this is a lovely vest, elegant and totally office-worthy (especially if not paired with this shirt). However, it is knit in DK weight wool, STRANDED, which means this has some serious weight to it. Only a guy with rock solid abs and a tendency to be cold all of the time could get away with this one. (Imagine trying to pull it off when the office heater was set too high.) If you look like the model, I urge you to knit this vest! I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Otherwise, I would suggest that a pair of houndstooth mittens might help ease the pain.
6. #8 Fitted Waistcoat by Franklin Habit
I’ve featured this waistcoat on the blog before. I think it is totally beautiful. It is definitely on my radar, but I am waiting to see a few more projects pop on on Ravelry. I want to see what it looks like in real life on people who don’t wear a size small like this model. I am worried that its cut, not only the trim waist, but also the deep arm scythe and the narrow shoulders, won’t suit Doug’s shape. But someday, maybe….
7. Estefan by Brandon Mably
This is another vest that I’ve featured before on the blog. (Oh no! Have I become hopelessly repetitive and redundant?) Abstract away from the fantastic tile background, and from the attractive model staring at you with smouldering eyes and come-hither look, and ….you still have a great vest. Brandon Mably is a colour wizard. This is knit in cotton, in a sport weight. I don’t really see myself doing this kind of colourwork in cotton, but I can imagine knitting it in wool.
8. Lean on me by Anna Maltz
This is a pretty pattern published in the Winter 2014 edition of Knitty magazine (this means it is free as well!). I love its use of colour and pattern, particularly paired with this shirt! Like the Houndstooth vest above, however, it is knit stranded with DK yarn, which will produce a heavy fabric. That, and the way the stitch pattern biases, leads me to suspect that if you are carrying some extra weight around your middle, this vest will highlight it. On the other hand, it is awfully pretty and there are endless options for playing with colour.
9. Order of the Phoenix Winged Vest by Kyle Kunnecke
I think Kyle Kunnecke is a great designer; he is so clever and has such a sense of fun in his designs. You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to think this is one seriously cool design. One of the best things about it is that from the front it looks like a completely straight, classic v-neck vest that would like right at home with a jacket and tie; then you turn around and kazaam! I’m not sure this has “Doug” written on it, but if he has a (late) mid-life crisis and buys a Harley, this is going on the needles.
10. Carraig Fhada by Kate Davies
Kate’s recent collection, Inspired by Islay, contains a few very nice pieces for men. This vest can be made with either a crew or v-neck style (it is designed as a unisex piece and has directions for both men’s and women’s versions). There is a huge range of sizes, from 32 to 60 inches. It is knit up in her new signature yarn, Buachaille, a sport-weight wool. I love this yarn, which feels good on the hands and takes to cables or colourwork really well. If you follow the link, you can see one done in shades of grey with a very thin green stripe (in place of the yellow here) that is equally lovely. I think that single row of a bright, contrast colour really makes this pattern pop.
11. Fall River Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone
I love this Fairisle Vest designed in natural shades by Mary Jane Mucklestone. This is the first vest in this post that is knit in fingering weight wool. (I can see why you might think that fingering weight would be a slog for a man’s sweater; but for a vest – no sleeves! A vest seems like a reasonably-sized canvas for some fingering weight colourwork with no chance to get marooned on sleeve island.) This is a fairly standard Fairisle man’s vest, but an especially lovely one I think. This uses seven gorgeous muted shades that really work together to add richness.
12. Luke’s Diced Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone
This is a great vest. I am clearly attracted to designs in which different patterns play off against each other. And it buttons down the front. But it is knit in sportsweight wool. And it looks hard to me. (And the model looks to be about 15 to me. I know this is a very nit-picky complaint; I am showing my age.)
13. Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover by Susan Crawford
This vest has an interesting story. From the pattern description: “In the wake of the popular Wartime Farm BBC TV series, you can now knit your very own authentic Fair Isle Sleeveless Pullover, modelled on a 1938 original and as worn by Alex Langlands no less! For each pattern sold, a £2.50 donation will be made to the Women’s Land Army Tribute Campaign to help raise money for a permanent memorial to these forgotten ladies and their untold toil during the World Wars.” This is knit in fingering weight wool, and is not steeked (it is knit in one piece to the arms and then knit back and forth). I think that it is fantastic.
These are all great vests, but I am still wavering. I have three other options to consider. I can (1) design my own, (2) modify a women’s vest pattern, or (3) modify a men’s sweater pattern and knit it as a vest. I have lots of ideas about each of these, and may blog about them soon.