Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

First off, a little apology: I know I told you the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong announcement was coming this week. Unfortunately, there’s a been a little snafu and change of plans. So I’ll let you know when I’m re-ready to announce!

Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

One thing we talk about all the time, and that has come up a lot in the #slowfashionoctober discussion, is that we’ve all made things that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out and go unworn. It’s a hard thing to face: all that time and yarn, just sitting the closet. Coming to accept that this happens — learning how to learn from it — is a big part of becoming a maker, I think. As is coming up with a strategy for dealing with it. I have so much admiration for those of you who frog things and reclaim the yarn and give it new life. For me, if it’s a perfectly successful garment that just doesn’t fit or suit me, I’d rather it went to a new home where it will be appreciated. (I have frogged things that hadn’t reached completion, for sure.) The only thing I’ve ever made that I couldn’t imagine giving to anyone else was my very first sweater, so I took it to a thrift store where I hoped some knitter would find it and feel wonderfully righteous and scornful about it! (I sort of hoped it might turn up on IG someday or something.)

There have been several things I’ve given to family and close friends. The one garment I couldn’t accept defeat on, or let go of, for such a long time was my Amanda cardigan up there. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t sit right on me and wasn’t getting worn, but it has so much history! And I’m so proud of the knitting, which is why I didn’t want to frog it. When it finally occurred to me I could use it to raise money to help people, that’s what it took for me to finally let it go — and to feel great about it. And I’ve put some other handknits up for adoption as well.

In every instance above, I love how excited the new owners are to have these garments — the very opposite of knitting something for someone and having them yawn. That said, I would love to someday find out what it feels like to frog a whole sweater. I imagine it’s the same kind of fun as sitting down in the stylist’s chair and saying “Cut it all off!” (One of my favorite experiences.) But it’s all got me wondering about different attitudes and approaches to the problem, so that’s my Q for You today: What do you do with your unworn FOs? And what about your muslins? Which is a whole ’nother ball of wax …


– The Slow Fashion October topic for this next week is: HOW. Let’s talk about your how-to skills and where they stand (from how to knit/sew, to thrifting strategies, to caring for your wardrobe, etc); how you acquired and improve on those skills; how you make time for making your wardrobe (however you go about it) …

– Tomorrow is I Love Yarn Day, so how might you pass those skills along?

– Ash Gremel has announced she’s hosting a clothes swap and has created a shared map so others can add theirs! Will you host one?

– And we’re here for you at Fringe Supply Co. with freshly restocked Bento Bag shelves (all colors and sizes) and so much more!

Have an amazing weekend, and thank you for reading—


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Want to have a worldwide clothing swap?


40 thoughts on “Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

  1. I have this dream that I can put out a call: “Hey, do you love pink or purple and have weirdly large shoulders but skinny arms? If so, have I got some sweaters for you!”

  2. I live in a city with really awesome consignment shops. I buy a lot of my clothes there and when I have things I don’t wear, I sell them there too — including a few handmade sweaters. I am happy to not only be finding a new home for my garments, but also supporting a local business!

  3. I had a couple of sweaters that I made in the 90’s – very cropped and wide. Recently, I felted them and then cut them up and made couch cushions! I even left the buttons on!

  4. I followed your knitting of the Amanda sweater and remember how proud you were of such a beautiful job and I also remember how lovely it is on you. Perhaps you need to rethink this and enjoy the gorgeous sweater.

  5. I love love love to knit. But I never wear what I make. I live south of Houston and it’s never sweater weather or even shawl weather for me. I knit using the best yarn and have drawers of knits never worn. I’d love any ideas anyone has.

    • I feel you! I live in Mexico City and it’s never big cozy wool sweater weather — I miss it so much! I’ve been trying to knit lighter things – considering linen, tried cotton and hated it, have a couple silk blends that I’m excited about – but knitting with wool is my favorite, and so is being all cuddled up all at once in a wool scarf/hat/sweater.

  6. I knit so prodigiously that it’s inevitable I’ll have many FOs ending up unworn at the bottom of the pile. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone my size I could gift them to. I’ve tried selling them online but no takers. I’ve put a few aside for my daughter but she is at least a decade away from being able to wear them. The rest I frog and reuse. I don’t regret the work and the time spent, as it is more pleasure than work for me. And I am just in awe sometimes of what can be rebirthed from such worn and familiar materials.

  7. One of my slow fashion October goals is to frog a couple sweaters that don’t get worn enough! I already have ideas for repurposing the yarn. My conundrum is my beginner sewing projects, I have a few dresses I would wear more if they were better made/fit better, and while I don’t regret them since I learned so much in the process I don’t know what to do with them. You can’t really make another garment with them they way you can with a frogged sweater. Will be watching this thread to see if others have suggestions!

  8. I recently took a giant leap and totally frogged a sweater I’d knit about five years ago. It was a huge ordeal to frog, but I love the yarn (hated how the sweater looked on me) and look forward to weaving the yarn into a shrug or top. I also ‘unsewed’ a top that I made earlier this summer and resewed it into a new top that I just adore. It was a challenge to place the pattern pieces before cutting, and in some cases I had to sew 2 pieces of fabric together in order to have a large enough piece of linen for a new pattern piece. That makes my new top even more interesting. It was well worth the effort.
    I don’t know what to do with old muslins. I’ve made a few ‘muslins’ out of fabric that I’ve had hanging around for a long time. One turned out cute enough to actually wear!

  9. My first sweaters were all chunky and bulky knits as they seemed easiest for a beginner. Some wool, some wool blends. They were too hot mostly-even in Portland, OR-so I donated them to a homeless place asking they be given and not sold. I also gave away hats and scarves as I made a lot.
    I am now really trying to fit my sweaters and knitting with lighter yarns.

  10. With knits it’s easy–I frog it! Unless I know someone who would like it, I don’t hesitate for a moment to just rip it all out. It’s actually not that satisfying, though, because it takes forever and there is often a little friction felting or other yarn damage. Sewing is harder. I do donate to thrift stores sometimes, but usually not. There’s such high volume in SF, and I know sometimes they don’t keep anything that doesn’t have a brand and size label. I have several silk tops waiting to become lingerie, and several dresses that I’m totally stumped about.

  11. I just donated a bag full of old hand knits to Goodwill yesterday! I had quite a few pieces that just weren’t quite right or never got worn. I had them sitting in a bag for ages thinking I’d frog them, but eventually I just admitted to myself that there are so many amazing yarns and patterns out there (and in my stash!) that I am more excited about now, and that my old choices of yarns from years ago don’t quite reflect who I am now.

    I’ve done quite a bit of work defining my style recently with Wardrobe Architect and that has helped me accept that it’s okay so say “it’s just not me” and move on to pare down and wind up with fewer amazing pieces that I can’t wait to pull out over and over again.

  12. For good and for bad, I knit up a storm every year and it’s impossible to keep everything. But I come from the north of Sweden and my best friend who is still there is about my size and she has been a single mother of 2, without much money, for about a decade. Both she and her now teenage daughter LOVES all things knitted. They used to buy cheap acrylic knitwear in the stores before I started giving them both my sweaters and accessories and they wear them to bits. My new sister-in-law also appreciates knits and I make for her as well. I feel so fortunate that they love and wear them. I don’t know what I would do otherwise. I occasionally frog something when I think it is unwearable for anyone.
    So far I’ve only made wearable muslins out of really old fabric stash that I don’t care as much for and almost all have become wearable garments, if nothing else they’ve been great to wear at home.

  13. So far I bring them out every fall when I switch out my warm and cold weather stuff and put them in the drawer, hopefully. I rather like your idea of selling them for a cause. I think I’ll have to consider that this year.

  14. You did a beautiful job on that Amanda sweater! To answer the question, I first just put the item away for awhile. Sometimes when we finish working on something, we are too emotional about it in the moment, and also sick of it, and our expectations are over the top. I have had pieces that I’ve put away for awhile, and then when I pull them out again, I can’t remember why I was so frustrated or unhappy with them, and they fit fine, and then I get use out of them. But if that doesn’t work, then I look for a new home for them or I frog them. I love the idea of raising money with them though – that’s something I’ll keep in mind for the future. :)

  15. There have been so many comments about frogging knits, mind if I ask a question (or six)? How do you get the yarn to, uh, un-kink so that it can be used again? Or does it matter? Will it eventually straighten out if it is wound into a ball? What if the item had been blocked before frogging? Does that make a difference? Thanks for any tips. I have a few items I can frog, but would like to know how I should handle the yarn.

  16. I only started knitting for myself relatively recently, still knit a lot for others, and agonize endlessly over anything I make for me, so I actually don’t have any handknits that I don’t wear (yet!). I have one sweater that suffered an unfortunate dye bleeding incident on its second washing, but once I got over the heartbreak I decided that it was more obvious to me than to anybody else and carry on wearing it anyway.

    Some ideas for unsuitable sewing projects and muslins where there’s not enough yardage to refashion into a new garment:
    – Do you know any small people you can sew for? Baby clothes often take 1/2 yard or less (depends on fabric suitability… babies don’t wear much charmeuse! Though even that could be part of a great lovey/sensory toy…).
    – Do you know a small person who would like the garment as part of their dress-up bin?
    – Patchwork or appliqué housewares (dish towels, placemats, napkins, pillows, pot holders, etc) — if you think you don’t like patchwork, check out the beautiful designs coming out of the “modern patchwork” community. Even dressy fabrics can work as an accent strip of piecing or appliqué on a background of linen, e.g.
    – Make reusable gift wrapping bags, or furoshiki, pieced if necessary.
    – Piece fabrics together and sew into azuma bukuro bags (the “bento bags” Karen sells are an example of this traditional Japanese design — they’re super simple and fun to make, a bit like a magic trick)
    – Overdying disparate pieced fabrics can bring them together into a coherent whole
    – The time-honored solution: cut up and use as rags and dust cloths.

  17. If it has been rarely worn and is still stylish, I try to re home it. We need to he realistic about what we try to re home because no one wants a pilled or shabby looking sweater. And pulled, worn sweaters produce poor quality yarn when frogged. A number of sweaters that I once loved have become bathrobes, including my first Kaffe F, an early Alice Starmore (no one really wants those dropped shoulders with super wide sleeves which require shoulder pads to be wearable, no matter how classic they seemed in 1992!). But there are some that just don’t work, and I donate them to thrift shops, trying to choose those ones where things are more likely to be sold within the community, and I don’t wait till they are so out of date.

    A bigger issue for me is trying to choose projects carefully, and to try hard to use the yarn on hand, and not buy more. Curbing the impulse is really the most sustainable thing that I can do, and still the harder challenge.

  18. One of my goals this month is to frog my first sweater I knit (the Reine cardigan). I learned many lessons. The yarn is just not right for the cardigan and the shaping is not flattering in me at all. I’ve worn it around the house a couple times when I was cold. But I am excited to frog it and try some natural dying with avocado pits on the yarn and hopefully knit something else for myself this winter! Part of the reason for frogging and not being sentimental about it is I just don’t have the money for the yarn I do want to buy! The yarn I used is all grown and manufactured in the USA and I want to take advantage of it.

    That Amanda cardigan is beautiful. I wouldn’t be able to frog it even if it didn’t fit right. I think you made an great decision to pass on to some one who will love it and wear it!

  19. I’m a happy frogger ! I think I frogged a few of my first project, and there are some more on my pile. My first sweater was a disaster in a beautiful alpaca blend, I frogged and knit a beautiful Flax for my son who wore it until it was too small. Recently I frogged a cotton cardigan and reknit a full sweater that I’ve already worn a lot (it was my third Summer of Basics project). I have gifted a couple of hats to a friend who admired them. And I have the most gorgeous pink shawl in fingering yarn that I never wear: this too is in the To Frog pile. I have no regrets and never fret about the hours spent knitting something I don’t wear: they made me a better knitter and I am slowly getting better at choosing the right project.

  20. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve accumulated some handknits that I don’t wear much. Finally today I took some quick pics and sent instant messages to a few close family/friends offering some scarves/swraters/cowls for free if anyone wanted them. I also included a statement that if they didn’t want anything it wouldn’t hurt my feelings (I felt a little vulnerable putting my stuff out there!). But within minutes, most of it had been claimed and I’m happy to have made other people happy. I forget not everyone makes their own handknits!

  21. I’m involved with a few organizations that do auction fundraisers and I have donated a few things to them. Usually they are items that were fun to knit but not my style or color, and I couldn’t think of the right gift recipient.

  22. I have a small yarn budget so I have frogged quite a few sweaters that didn’t fit the way I liked and sometimes I redye the yarn makes it feel like something new!

  23. I frequently regift knits that come out well and don’t fit me or I don’t wear for other reasons. I guess I’m fortunate to have friends that greatly appreciate a gifted handknit, and I’ve been able to do this in several big clear-outs when I’ve moved. Otherwise, if I am particularly attached to the yarn, I happily frog away. I am currently in the midst of re-knitting a sweater that I know I will be much happier with in it’s completely revised life! I have also modified a few things to make them more wear-able. The first sweater I ever knit was a vest, that I added sleeves to create a cardigan in an attempt to make it more wearable, but when that failed I gifted it to a dear friend who much appreciated a very warm cardigan, and when the neckline wasn’t suitable for her, I bought another skein of yarn and had a lot of fun creating my own modification to adapt it from a deep U-neck to a lovely crew neck that keeps my friend’s chest warm, along with her torso and arms!

  24. I rip out any project that I am not wearing. I have only donated one project that I knit, because although I loved the sweater, I just did not love the feel of the yarn.

  25. I’m not a prolific enough knitter to have this problem, especially since I just had a daughter, which means less time, as well as another person to knit for.

    Professionally I’m a patternmaker, which means I end up with A LOT of waste muslin from draping and mock-ups. I started saving the muslin and after a couple years I cut it all into strips and made big neutral rag rugs to use as black-out curtains. I love that I have the beginnings of so many runway shows hanging over my bedroom windows!

  26. I do a lot of test knitting and occasionally, no matter how careful I try to be when choosing projects to be a part of, they just don’t suit me. (This usually happens with sweaters.) I usually set them aside for a while and if they still don’t speak to me after a cycle through the seasons, I’ll make something new out of the yarn. I like to help out independent designers and be part of the process, plus the pattern was free in those cases, so it’s not like I lose out… I got to help and the yarn gets to be something new.

    I also tend to need knitting to keep still while watching tv or riding in a car, so the time spent isn’t necessarily a problem for me and I don’t consider it wasted if I the finished garment doesn’t work out. I always need something to do anyway, I may as well be knitting.

  27. I have frogged four complete sweaters after wearing them and am considering frogging a fifth. Two of the sweaters I’ve frogged were poor matches between pattern and yarn (using a merino-silk single-ply in a big boxy seamless topdown sweater that relied on relatively large gauge for drape and lightness meant that the sweater ended up droopy and baggy by the end of the day; using a sturdy/springy yarn in a sweater requiring lightness and drape meant the final garment didn’t hang right at all) and two were just poor choices of pattern for me (one because the shape just didn’t flatter me at all (all over ribbing – what was I thinking???); one because the design required strategic layering and in the end just looked more rustic/boho than fits with my personal style). It’s pretty satisfying to recover all that yarn (although when I’ve had to alternate skeins, frogging is a huge pain), although I haven’t actually reused any of the yarns yet because of the lure of SHINY and NEW.

    If the garment isn’t working for me I would much rather frog and re-use the yarn, in part because I’m selfish, in part because I’m cheap, and in part because I don’t know anyone to gift the items to. For some reason thrifting a homemade sweater just doesn’t compute for me, mostly because I don’t think I would EVER buy a homemade sweater at a thrift store (keep in mind, though, that I hate thrifting so am not representative of anything). I’m much more a product knitter than process knitter, so if I don’t like the final product, I want to end up with one I like better! (But I’m enough of a process knitter not to regret frogging and starting over, at all.)

  28. I have a cowl that is destined for the frog pond. It was the second I had knitting from the Willow Cowl pattern on Rav, and my modifications backfired. Not sure what I will do with the reclaimed yarn, though. It really doesn’t go with anything in my wardrobe. Food for thought…

  29. I have never frogged a finished hand knit. I’d much rather move on to the next new project. I have found that hand knits make excellent auction items for benefits. I’ve also donated extra hand knits to families that have suffered fires or other catastrophes.

  30. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently as I have several handknits that have not only moved house several times, but have now immigrated to a new country. A few have small things “wrong” with them that I could probably fix (including one that I think just needs some backing buttons on TWO buttons so the fastening doesn’t flop around — why not fix that already, self?) Others I’ve just never gotten into … or my clothing taste has changed, as has my taste in fiber. I should probably try donating them – maybe someone else would like them or would unravel them for the yarn!

  31. Pingback: Q for You: What’s your picky fit detail? | Fringe Association

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