I was very excited to have the opportunity to design the Machrihanish vest for Cross-Country Knitting, Volume One, and always enjoy knitting for Tom, who is its recipient and model. Tom often bemoans the general lack of shaping, and poor fit of men’s garments, so I like to knit him things that are well-fitting.


Men’s knitted vest patterns rarely include shaping, but one of the things I knew I wanted to do with this design was to taper it to the waist. Shaping of any kind can be tricky when designing with Fairisle patterns, but the trick here is simply to work the ribbing and the first few inches of colourwork on a small needle, before going up a needle size for the upper torso. When blocked, this straightforward manoeuvre creates a difference between waist and chest of 3.5-4 ins, which means the vest fits neatly to the body, without excess fabric.


Though this vest is, in many ways, a classic garment, I think the waist shaping also makes it feel sharper and more contemporary. But if your shape is more rectangular than triangular, you can easily leave out the waist shaping when working the pattern for a looser, more casual fit. Whatever your body shape, you should knit it with a little positive ease to allow the wearing of layers underneath.


Though I’ve followed standard sizing for men’s garments with this design, I’ve also tried to make the pattern straightforward and flexible enough to accommodate a variety of masculine body shapes. Because there is no ‘set’ place to divide for armholes, the main body of the pattern can be knit to whatever length is required to accommodate a shorter or longer torso. Equally, if the armhole depth is greater or less than that specified in the pattern, it can be increased or decreased as required. (A detailed sizing table and schematic is included in the pattern to help you achieve the fit that’s right for you). You also have the option of working the ribbing doubled around the armholes and hem for a firm and durable edge.


The yarn I used for this design was Jamieson and Smith Shetland Heritage.


This wonderful yarn was developed in consultation with the Shetland Museum and Archives, and is very close in handle, hue and character, to the yarns that were traditionally used to knit Fairisle garments in Shetland before the Second World War. It is a light fingering-weight – lighter than a standard 4 ply – and because it is worsted spun, feels much smoother than other “Shetland” yarns you may be used to. To give the garment its shaping, I worked the yarn at two different gauges of 8 and 9 sts to the inch, and at both gauges it gives a nice, light even fabric. Because of its unique characteristics, I would really recommend you use this yarn, but if substituting, please swatch carefully to ensure you achieve a fabric with which you are happy. You can find detailed information about shades and yardage here.


The pattern is written to be knitted entirely in the round, with steeks worked at the armholes and neck.


I personally love the speed and ease of working completely in the round, but if you are a determined purler, you could easily work the upper torso separately, back and forth.


Tom is very happy with his vest.


. . .and I am very pleased with the design!


Now, about the name. We live in the West of Scotland, and Machrihanish is a village further West, on the picturesque Mull of Kintryre. Tom is a great admirer of the Fairisle knitwear Paul McCartney proudly sported after he moved to Scotland, but we felt that Mull of Kintyre might prove to be too much of an earworm to work as a pattern name . . . and Machrihanish is also one of our favourite locales from the UK shipping forecast. . . . so Machrihanish it is.


We shot these photographs opposite Dumgoyne, a short walk from our house. The light and skies have been very dramatic here of late, and did not let us down that day. There is just something about the bright colours and high-contrast of a Fairisle vest that work perfectly with a highland landscape. Living out here often prompts me to think about colour and pattern . . . and these photographs of Tom make me want to get another bloke’s Fairisle design on the needles immediately!


My Cross-Country comrade, Jen, has also been writing about her design for the Volume – the fabulous Bruton hoody – so if you’d like to read more about it just pop over to her blog. We have also set up a new website for the collaboration, where you can keep track of our Cross-Country design journey.

Cross Country Knitting Volume 1 is now available!


47 thoughts on “Machrihanish

  1. Stunning! Congratulations on the man and on the vest!

    I won’t ever knit stranded colourwork, but gosh would I buy a calendar with great photos of well-dressed British men in beautiful landscapes!


  2. The model, the knit, the light, the landscape and the design are all perfection. One thing missing and sorely missed is a certain someone gambolling about..


  3. Uh… Lovely.
    Funny how the bright colours look more subdued when seen from afar. Like they blend into brownish and red.
    I wish my husband liked warm knitted things. Alas he gets way too hot, and so my handknits are for myself and the kids only.

    ~ Karina


  4. I love this pattern and the concept behind it! My partner loves knitwear (almost!) as much as I do, but he also agrees with Tom about the fit of men’s garments. Especially when you’re not the most muscular bloke out there, a lot of patterns for men look far to slouchy. We both really like this pattern though!

    I’ve almost finished my first project with the Jamieson and Smith Heritage yarn, and it has become an instant favourite. I can really recommend it! I think an online visit to Jamieson and Smith is in order.


  5. It looks as though this vest was started with some short rows – but I don’t see mention of it anywhere? It would be a nice way to add extra room for a big bellied guy.


  6. Well, both designs are just amazingly tempting, but with winter approaching here and a man who only wears the lightest of jumpers, Machrihanish it is!


  7. Wonderful photos. I just love the vest. It is beautiful. And yes, the sky is amazing. I was always a fan of the Fair Isle sweaters that Paul and Linda wore and always wondered where they got them. Did they buy them in a store? Did someone make them? Lovely post. I hope to visit your part of the world someday.


  8. Everything about this is spectacular. The vest of course, the colorwork, the model, the setting. One day, when my relationship with colorwork is a little less fraught….


  9. Once again the yarn comes to life in the hands of Kate Davies! After looking at the photographs of Angela Wright`s wool installations (mentioned in Kate`s blog) it is obvious that there is a great deal of talent being put to good use and is being recognised around the world.
    Many many thanks.


  10. Oh, this is absolutely beautiful! I love how the colors change from up-close vs. further away – the individual colors seem to pop a bit more closer in, and form such a lovely, more muted palette from further away. This is going in my queue, certainly! I think that I’ll need to learn how to steek on something a little less magnificent first, though. ;-)


  11. Fantastic design. Perfect colour work reeking of historical respect, photographed wonderfully. One of my favourite types of day, deep dark sky with sunshine… very dramatic. A perfect backdrop for a very suave and well dressed model! Well done Kate, and congratulations once again.


  12. My husband can’t wait to have me knit this up! With all the customising you’ve incorporated I might also try to make a matching waistcoat for my 6 year old man – I love this design so much!


  13. the vest is gorgeous and the model is dashing. well done all around again!
    i’m extremely excited about this new collaboration with Jen and can’t wait to see what else you both cook up.


  14. Stunning pattern, beautiful landscape, handsome model, just perfect. Yes, I’ll hop over to the to the other blog. Thanks and congratulations on another fabulous design.


  15. I remember your first designs for Tom, the running ‘jersey’, the first cabled sweater…. and now this amaaaaazing design. What a journey for you *both* ! ((what awesome photos too!))


  16. Fantastic Kate, I love love love it and I know my husband would adore it, but I’m still only a baby colour knitter (one 2 coloured snowflake hat) and so I think I would be too scared to attempt it. It is absolutely beautiful. Does the model come with the pattern????????


  17. Gorgeous, as usual. The approach to shaping intrigues me. I worked hard to adjust the fair isle motifs in my Trellis Waistcoat to accommodate some drawing in of the waist, and so now I’m wondering if your approach would work for a woman’s design, or if it would look odd situated in the middle of the torso rather than at the bottom. I hope you do more men’s designs. The only difficulty I’ve had is that they demand so much more knitting time–the first one I had published (for Twist Collective) was for a 6′ tall model and I knitted frantically to get it done in time for the photography. Finally, you are so fortunate to have a ready-made stunning landscape and lighting–so dramatic!


  18. Would you consider doing a post one time about tips on adapting appropriate women’s jumper and cardy patterns for men? Id love to adapt some of the designs in colours of shetland which I have but not sure where to start re shaping etc.


  19. Lovely vest, model, and photoshoot background! I’m also intrigued by the idea of shaping by changing needles; thanks for the discussion of your shaping technique.


  20. love the graphic sharpness the navy blue bands give it and the largeness of the pattern. the man and the scenery are also looking very good.

    i still await the day when bruce gets a hoodie. perhaps of lanolin rich stinky wool a la icelandic fisherman.


  21. Love the name, such a place although I have only visited one. My daughter, who is studying folk music at Newcastle, sings a beautiful song (Boys o Callieburn) – the kind that brings a tear to the eye. Looking on the web I see the fourth verse starts – Machrihanish, bright and bonnie – very appropriate!


  22. This design is absolutely gorgeous, I love the smooth, neat surface of the colourwork achieved through use of the Heritage yarns, and that the palette is both reminiscent of the famous Fair Isle of the 1930s and also fresh and contemporary, with that delicious green zinging through the design. There is a wonderful corollary between the Heritage yarns – a contemporary interpretation of vintage yarns – and your 2014 take on a Fair Isle vest. I agree with Tom than many man-knits fail to address the triangular shape of MAN and tend towards a rather rectangular silhouette. This tapered waist, worked out so thoughtfully for the knitter as well as for the wearer, is a great way to address the problem and I have to say that Tom against the stormy highlands looks THE BIZNESS in his new knitted finery. Shamazeballs.


  23. That is fabulous… but now we need another of your clear and excellent tutorials on steeking a v-neck! (And joining up at the shoulder…)


  24. Tom looks absolutely smashing in his vest! Thank you for all the detail about it’s design and possibilities. I envy you the lack of snow and early spring flowers from your previous posts! Almost everything here is still buried in up to a foot of snow.


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