A baker’s dozen of men’s knitted vest patterns

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

laredo_z_500_medium2

© Jamie Dixon

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

Dr G's memory vest

by throughtheloops

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

1137288719_804b80bfe1_z

by Veronik

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

Drew's sweater vest

© 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

vogue_houndstooth_vest_medium

© Vogue Knitting, Winter 2009/10 Photo by Rose Callahan

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

VKEF14_Men_11_medium2

© Soho Publishing

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

Estafan_2RET_medium2

© Rowan Yarns, 2014

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

LOM-hands-in-pockets_medium2

© 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

Order_of_the_Phoenix-1_medium2

© Interweave & ©Harper Point Photography

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

Carraig_Fhada_tom_6_copy_medium2

© Kate Davies Designs

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

Knits-Fall-2016-1364_medium2

© Interweave Knits

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

lukesvest_a_500_medium2

© caroline bergeron

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

WartimeFarmSleevelessPullover_04_medium2

© 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.

 

Patterns for Men

It’s been a while since I knitted a sweater for Doug (the last was Brick, which you can see here).  I am thinking it is time to knit him another and so have begun the process of considering patterns.  I started by looking through the men’s patterns that I have favorited on Ravelry in the past six months or so.  As I thought this topic might be of general interest,  today I’ll show you some of the patterns that caught my eye for one reason or another.

Rowan is one of the few reliable print sources for Men’s patterns.  Each issue of the magazine has quite a few men’s patterns; always beautifully photographed.  They tend towards lots of ease, so beware if you knit one – think carefully about how much ease you really want in your finished sweater.  The recent issue of Rowan (Rowan 55) had two men’s sweaters that stood out for me.  The first is Guido, designed by Carlo Volpi:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

I’ve never heard of Volpi before, but this is a great start.  I like the subtle texture used here and the colour palette as well.  This sweater is knit in Rowan Purelife Revive, which is a blend of silk, cotton and viscose.  I do love silk sweaters for men.

In the same volume is the pattern Estefan, a cotton vest designed by the great colour wizard, Brandon Mably:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

copyright Rowan Yarns 2014

I must admit it is hard to decide what I like best here: (1) the vest, (2) the model, or (3) the stairwell.  It is a tough choice but I think the stairwell probably wins.  (Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m showing my age!)

One of the most iconic sweater patterns of all time is the Marius pattern from Norway.  It is named after Marius Eriksen, Jr.  Marius served as a fighter pilot in World War II, before he was shot down and held as a Prisoner of War.  After the war, he became a champion skier and was twice Norwegian National Champion.  His mother, Birgit, designed and knit a sweater for him based upon traditional Norwegian sweaters.  Marius later became an actor and he wore this sweater in the film Troll i Ord.  There are literally thousands of variations of the Marius pattern; drop it in your favorite search engine for some idea of its endurance and popularity.

I recently came across a very modern and spare variation in a vest, called (not surprisingly) the Marius-Vest, by Sandnes Design.  This version is in grey tones instead of the more standard blue and cream.  I like it enough to attempt to translate the pattern from Norwegian:

copyright Sandnes Design

copyright Sandnes Design

To continue with the Nordic theme, I also like the Icelandic sweater pattern Spegilsléttur:

copyright Istex.IS

copyright Istex.IS

This was designed by Bergrós Kjartansdóttir and knit with Lopi wool.  The yoke design is very architectural to me, and feels like late, cold, winter sun coming through lead-paned windows.  (With a few mods here and there, it would make a great women’s cardigan.)

Kyle Kunnecke is a new designer who I am keeping an eye on. He designs and blogs under the name Kyle William.  I think his sweaters are clever and fun.  He is really someone to watch in my opinion.  He recently released this fabulous pattern, called Colton:

copyright Kyle William

copyright Kyle William

I love this sweater!  Houndstooth is big right now, and this is one of the most appealing examples of the houndstooth revival.  I think it is very sharp.  The colour choice here is great and the line and fit are perfect.

Martin Storey has designed more sweaters than possibly anyone.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he designed a sweater before breakfast each day.  He designs for everyone – men, women, children – and in every style – classic, fair isle, cabled, rugged, elegant, slouchy.  He is one of Rowan’s star designers (pointing out again that Rowan is one of the few go-to places for men’s sweater patterns).  I like lots of Martin’s designs, but found myself really drawn to this one:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

He calls this Neat Tailored Jacket, which I guess says it all.  I think it is a gorgeous example of knitted tailoring.  I like everything about it.  This is published in the book Sarah Hatton and Martin Storey Designer Knits.

I couldn’t write a post about men’s patterns without highlighting Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.  Jared has catapulted to fame in recent years both as a designer and as the founder and creative presence behind Brooklyn Tweed, a yarn producer and design house.  In the summer, BT produced its first issue of men’s patterns, simply called BT Men, which was a very welcome entry into this sparsely occupied field.  One of his contributions to the issue is the ruggedly cabled Timberline:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

This is a great example of taking a traditional style and putting just a bit of a modern twist to it.  Look, for example, at the detail in the lapels.   It is this meticulous attention to details combined with a real love of the history and traditions of knitted garments that sets BT apart.

Interestingly enough, the sweater I like the most from BT Men is one I hardly glanced at when the issue was first released.  This is the design Redford, by Julie Hoover:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

At first glance this is so ordinary a crew neck that I couldn’t see the point; surely this is the kind of sweater that you could buy rather than knit.  I mean, there are literally miles of stockinette stitch here, all knit in fingering weight wool.  But the more I look at it, the more I like it.  The details are super.  The side panels give a very modern line, the shoulders are perfectly fit, and I like the bottom edge – the lack of ribbing makes this fresh.  This is knit in BT Loft, a delicate, tweedy, fingering weight wool which I am using now to knit my Carpino sweater.  I think it would make the perfect men’s sweater fabric – very light and soft but still 100% wool goodness with all that implies.

I’m not sure whether any of these will end up on my needles for Doug.  There are many older patterns which just may provide competition.  In the meantime it is fun to keep searching.  Writing this post has led me to two observations.  First, there is a decided lack of patterns for men.  This is really sad and also incomprehensible to me.  Second, beards are definitely in this year!

[11 Feb – edited to fix two typos]