Scottish Made Heavy Duty Knitwear for Winter Weather

The UK has experienced its second cold snap in as many months, with temperatures falling below 0°c for several days consecutively. The arctic air had people across the country reaching for their de-icer, hot water bottles and, of course, their cosy knitwear. Thick knitwear and winter weather go hand in hand. For centuries we have been wrapping ourselves in warm woollen garments when the frost arrives.


Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in ecru
Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in ecru


Not all knitwear is made equal though, and whilst a sweater might be thick and warm, it may not necessarily be comfortable to wear. In fact, one of the common complaints people have towards very thick woollens, is that they tend to be scratchy and uncomfortable. The thicker it is, the itchier it tends to be. On the other hand, thinner knitwear has associations of it being softer (think very fine gauge merino), but they also tend to be too flimsy and not last.

At Colhay’s comfort is one of our top priorities, alongside garments being well-made and long lasting and we believe that our thickest and heaviest knitwear best represent this philosophy. Whilst being some of the heaviest and most robust knitwear you would have ever worn, they are also the softest – a truly unique combination that is incredibly difficult to achieve. In this article, we will look in detail at the thickest and heaviest garments in our range (some upwards of 1 kilogram) and explain how they are able to remain so incredibly soft at the same time.


Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in camel
Thick and warm, yet soft to the touch - a unique characteristic of Scottish made knitwear that gives it the reputation as the world's finest 


One of the key reasons is that we use specialist knitters in Hawick, Scotland, a town renowned for its knitting industry, to produce our garments. The knitters have vast knowledge and experience, and are experts at their craft – an industry-wide recognition within the fashion world that is not often publicised. Their specialist knitting techniques and craftsmanship, combined with the high quality of the yarns we use, result in garments that are strong and sturdy, yet incredibly soft to the touch and cosy.

Though we focus a lot on describing the incredible hand feel of our pieces in our literature, it can be difficult to truly convey the softness in text. As we start to increase our presence with pop up shops, more and more people begin to experience the softness of our pieces for themselves and the most common reaction we have seen is simply, surprise. People have never felt knitwear on this level before and don’t expect just how soft our very thickest knitwear is and how different one of our garments feels in comparison to knitwear they’ve previously worn. Often customers’ faces light up when they try them on, which is wonderful for us to see.


Superfine lambswool fisherman cable rollneck in olive
Our knitwear has a "one of a kind" hand feel - that's because most chunky knitwear today feels scratchy and comfortable, despite it being warm, whilst ours is so surprisingly soft that customers often ask what material it actually is as they have never felt anything like it before


As we previously mentioned, sometimes it can be tricky to express the feel of our garments through text, so we’ll let this feedback from one of our customers speak for itself. Upon receiving his Superfine Lambswool Shawl Collar Cardigan, he said:

“I am incredibly happy with the item and its unbelievably soft feel for lambswool. I can't describe how I smiled and laughed in ecstasy putting it on - I kid you not!”


Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in olive
Our superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in olive


If you’re looking for some winter wear that meets your high comfort and quality expectations, we’ve outlined our favourite cold weather pieces below; a rundown of some of the thickest and heftiest in our range of knitwear:

The Shawl Collar Cardigans

Our shawl collar cardigans are particularly popular. They are designed to have a rugged, casual appearance, and yet, because they are made in a refined material, there is an elegance also about them. This combination of features makes our shawl collar cardigan the perfect “smart casual” piece, and its versatility is shown through its ability to be matched nicely with an office outfit or casual outfit. The shawl collar shape is rounded and when flipped down, creates a flattering v shape that frames the face. The shawl collar cardigan is also designed with the correct proportions – with the large bulky shawl collar up at the top, and then tapering slightly as we go towards the waist. The inverted pear shape means that the shoulders are accentuated and the waist nipped in.


Cashmere shawl collar cardigan in ecru
The inverted v shape of the shawl collar cardigan, with its larger shawl collar, tapering down to a slightly nipped in waist achieves a flattering silhouette for the wearer


We have two versions, one in lambswool and one in cashmere and both are exceptionally soft garments. The cashmere version is eight ply, meaning eight threads of yarn are twisted together before knitting. The lambswool version is six ply, which is the equivalent of a 12 ply cashmere and is the thickest of all of our garments. You may have come across other shawl collar cardigans, but very few will come close to the thickness you will experience with our version of the rib-stitch shawl collar cardigan – a specialty of Scottish knitwear craftsmanship and a stalwart in our range.

Despite these being some of the heaviest knitwear produced, they are exceptionally soft to the touch – a departure from the scratchy chunky knitwear you may have come across before.

Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in grey mélange
Superfine lambswool is the world's finest and softest lambswool, coming in at 18.5 microns in diameter (most lambswool is 21 - 24 microns)

The superfine lambswool version is so soft for three reasons. First, because the lambswool used is the superfine variety, meaning that the fibres are much finer than normal lambswool (about 18.5 microns compared to 21-24 microns for normal lambswool). Second, it is then washed in Scottish water which has a unique combination of minerals that soften the knitwear more than knitwear made elsewhere, whilst at the same time strengthening the fibres. This is a rather magical quality, that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Often, water from elsewhere might soften the knitwear but causes it to lose integrity, or the water is just not able to soften the fibres enough, leaving it dry and hard. Scottish water is the rarest kind in that it is able to soften the fibres, whilst at the same time not affecting the fibres strength and durability. Finally, the superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan is knitted in a rib stitch construction, which makes the knitted material softer than plain stitch.

Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in camel

The lambswool is exceptionally chunky yet soft - a combination you will rarely find. Apart from the fineness of the fibres used, garments are washed in Scottish water - renowned as containing a unique cocktail of properties that softens knitted garments considerably without compromising their strength, ensuring that they will last decades

For these reasons, many of our customers who come across this garment remark that they just cannot believe it is lambswool!

Superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan in olive

Whilst our superfine lambswool version is incredibly soft already, and many of our customers wear it directly on the skin, our cashmere version is the next step up in terms of softness. Looking at fibres again – the fibre diameter of our cashmere is around 15.5 microns (compared to 18.5 of the superfine lambswool), so remarkably, it is even finer than superfine lambswool. Often referred to as the king of fibres, the cashmere we use is also the creme de la creme of cashmeres – the finest and strongest of its kind. Our cashmere shawl collar cardigan is therefore the epitome of luxury winter wear.

Cashmere shawl collar cardigan in navy
Cashmere shawl collar cardigan in navy and superfine lambswool fisherman cable rollneck in ecru

Both the cashmere and lambswool shawl collar cardigans are available in elegant and sophisticated colourways, likely to mix well with items you already have in your wardrobe. Both are also incredibly warm and cosy.

Cashmere shawl collar cardigan in dark olive and cashmere Belmondo rollneck in navy

Cashmere Ribbed Submariner Roll Neck

This piece is founder Ronnie Chiu’s favourite garment in the entire Colhay’s range. “I practically live in it all winter. I can wear this all day long; it’s designed for it. The moment I am up to make my coffee in the freezing cold kitchen, all through the day in the studio, in the evening, lying in bed just before going to sleep.”

Cashmere ribbed submariner in dark brown. As with all of our colours, they are carefully selected and tested against other garments you will likely own to ensure they would go well. The colours therefore tend to be darker, more muted, but rich and elegant.

It’s made in a four-ply cashmere yarn and knitted with a rib stitch structure for extra warmth. As it is a pullover sweater as opposed to a cardigan which is open at the front, and with a tall, thick rollneck too, wearing the ribbed submariner rollneck means you’re enveloped in a thick, cosy and supremely soft garment. It is designed to fit close to the body, and the minimisation of any gaps helps to trap heat and make the sweater all the more insulating.

Our cashmere ribbed submariner is designed with a fitted silhouette to minimise gaps which in turn, increases insulation


Not only that, it is extraordinarily comfortable to wear whilst being warm and insulating, given that the world’s very finest cashmere is used, and no amount is spared, as a much higher percentage of cashmere is packed into each piece of knitwear. This is due to the high yarn consumption required for tight tension knitting – in other words, knitting very densely to minimise the holes between each stitch; a heritage knitting technique that is characteristic of Scottish made knitwear.

Scottish made cashmere garments are tightly knitted, a heritage technique which ensures gaps are minimised. But this also means a much higher than average cashmere yarn consumption; sometimes up to 40% more yarn. This ensures that the garment can last decades, compared to cashmere garments made elsewhere which do not use as much yarn. 

For those very cold days, we recommend double layering with a shawl collar cardigan for the ultimate winter weather outfit that’s warm and comfortable but still stylish and well put together.

Fisherman Cable Roll Neck

Another roll neck, so again this option envelops you in warmth. This particular sweater is knitted with superfine lambswool, our extravagantly soft version of a well-known fibre. It features a cable knit which adds some extra detail and character.

This piece takes its inspiration from the thick, sturdy and functional jumpers worn by fishermen of days gone by when they were dealing with harsh conditions at sea. It’s a refined and modern version of this historical piece of knitwear. It’s knitted with a six ply yarn, making it substantial and warm, but designed with a slimmer fit in mind to avoid bagging and bunching.

The trimmer fit means there’s not a great deal of space between the sweater and the body, trapping the warm air in the small space and preventing you from feeling cold. It’s ideal for those extra cold days.

Shawl Coat

Finally, the shawl coat. This piece is similar in style and thickness to our shawl collar cardigans, the difference being its length. It is also designed to be slightly thinner than the shawl collar cardigan – this is to allow the shawl coat to drape better and have some “swish” when left untied.

But make no mistake - this is flimsy robe - it is still knitted in a robust lambswool yarn that is far thicker than most knitwear, retaining a weight of about 1.2 - 1.4 kg due to the extra length so overall, it is no lighter than our superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan. The two overlapping front panels can be adjusted depending how tight or loose you want the shawl coat. Given that the back panel is knitted slim, with larger overlapping front panels, the shawl coat is able to retain a flattering, slim silhouette when the belt is tied.

The shawl coat ends just above the knee, providing extra warmth for the wearer around the legs – a great benefit to those who feel their legs are sometimes neglected when only their top half is warm. It’s a great piece for days where you’ve got lots of walking outside to do - especially as the collar can be flipped up when there’s cold wind to protect the neck.

The fit of the shawl coat is even more generous compared to our shawl collar cardigans as it is designed to be a layering piece and to act more as a coat.

A very versatile garment, the coat can be dressed up or dressed down. Wear it on its own over another piece of knitwear such as a rollneck or a crew neck, or layer it over a sport coat – the arms and armhole are designed to be wide enough in order to allow the sleeves to go through.

The quality of Scottish knitwear, of the yarns we use and of the craftsmanship of our knitters in Hawick is highlighted in these cold weather pieces.

View our range of heavy duty knitwear in our superfine lambswool collection and cashmere collection.