The case of the unfinished cardigan

The case of the unfinished cardigan

I keep thinking I’m right on the brink of being able to do an FO post about my blue Bellows sweater, but instead today I’m giving you the UFO version. Reader, I shelved it.

This is a classic case of “so near, and yet so far.” The sleeves and body were finished two weeks ago. I got more yarn for the collar, calculated my mods, then labored over that for a few nights last week, wrestling this blue wool octopus in my lap. This weekend was one of those rare cases where I actually had a couple of hours each on Saturday and Sunday that I could choose to spend knitting or sewing. Saturday, I dutifully finished up the collar. Sunday, I started setting in the sleeves. And as I was doing it, I went from thinking about how many other things I should be doing with that time (namely, the hats), to how many other things I wanted to be doing right then (uh, making myself a new pair of pants), to how absolutely devoid I am of any notion of what to wear this with. I’ve been saying all along that I imagined it would mostly get worn with leggings and slippers on the couch on bitter cold nights, and that’s all well and good. But I’m having to face the actual, stark reality that, other than couchwear, nothing. Blank. Nada single outfit in mind.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a killer sweater. It’s both bigger and bulkier than my first Bellows. I love my mods, and it seems like it will fit exactly as I intended. It’s just a surprisingly odd shade of blue. Beautiful, but odd. In my head, it’s the same light blue of the sample sweater. But in reality, it has green and purple undertones that make it weirdly hard to pair with anything else in my closet. It would be ok with ultra-faded denim … if I had any. With the dark denim I actually own, it seems kind of dour. (At least right now; that combo might seem fine next fall. Fingers crossed.) And it’s somehow just slightly off with everything else.

Given that the window is just about closed on it for this year anyway — I mean, there might be another day or two before spring officially arrives — I started genuinely resenting the precious time I was spending on it. So I stopped and assessed. The sleeves are set in and look fantastic. Still to do are seaming the sleeves and the sides, sewing down the pocket linings, giving it another full-sweater blocking to settle the collar and seams, weaving in the ends, and sewing on buttons. And at that point, I said to myself, “Self, put it away.” You can finish it and figure it out next year.

This is not like me — I live to cross things off of lists. Having an open item like this is enough to keep me awake at night for the next eight months. But I feel good about this decision. I’m putting this guy and the purple lopi sweater (still awaiting its refashion) into the closet, folded neatly and out of the way. And I’ve made a note on my calendar in October to pull them out and get them ready for the return of the cold weather. I can imagine how excited I’ll be to have two near-sweaters waiting for me then, like a gift.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts


PREVIOUSLY in Projects: The February hats project





61 thoughts on “The case of the unfinished cardigan

  1. I love the idea of *purposefully* putting away a nearly-finished project for your future self. Also, it sounds like the color is your main issue, and there’s always overdye…

  2. Karen, I think you are over thinking this. I would wear this with any denim wash jean and with a purple or green tee. It is a stunning sweater, and it will bring you joy next fall when you bring it back!

  3. How I understand this. I love that you have such a great sense of humor about it though. I will be laughing throughout the day at the thought of you “wrestling this blue wool octopus in my lap” – hilarious! Blues are so tricky wardrobe-wise that I find myself avoiding them lately rather than taking a chance.

    • See, I find blues to be the easiest, normally — my wardrobe is so blue-centric this seemed like a no-brainer. But I didn’t stop to hold the yarn up to my other clothes before deciding to make this beast! It’ll work out somehow …

      • Interesting. I don’t see your wardrobe as being very blue-centric. I see a lot of natural colors in it, grays, greens, blacks, but not much in the way of blue.

  4. I love that sweater! I groaned out loud when I read that you were putting it away. I am challenging myself to knit my first adult cardigan this year and I hate to think of not finishing. I fretted over second sock syndrome before attempting them only to find I don’t suffer from it. Maybe the same will be true for a cardi? Either way, I really like the quirky greenish/purplish quirks.

    • You’ll be fine! The only reason I’m not finishing this right now is I can’t use it right now, so it’s not a good use of my time. But it was actually really quick and I’d absolutely have finished it this weekend if it were only a month earlier in the season.

  5. This actually makes no sense. It is a perfect sweater to wear as a spring jacket alternative. You have khaki pants, white pants, black pants, which will all work well with this color, as will similarly colored or neutral tops, and you have made a lot of them in those colors. I would wear this shade with dark jeans, or olive colored pants, or with natural linen. Blues, like greens, often don’t go with each other because they have previously undetected undertones, but you have a whole wardrobe full of neutrals, just waiting for this sweater!!

    • Adding to my own comment: when I knit myself a sweater, after I have used the swatch for its intended purpose, i throw it in my purse so i have it with me when I am shopping and can start out early working on outfits, hunting for buttons, etc. You never know when you will find the perfect complement, and more importantly, it saves returning that thing you thought would work, but turns out to be dreadful when you get it home.

      • That is a really great idea! I need to also do that with the fabrics I have for sewing that are now the “what was I thinking” category!

    • It’s really quite sensible, honestly. I know it seems like it should be simple, and go with all of those things, but you’ll have to trust me that it just doesn’t quite. For instance, I don’t really have khaki pants (except for my paint-splattered work pants) — I have clay. And not only does it not look great with that color, the shapes don’t go together. I don’t have white pants; I have natural pants, which are made to look quite yellowy by this color. My black pants are flowy linen and would never leave the house on the same days as this mega wool coat-sweater. And it’s way too thick and woolly to be a spring jacket here. It’s really fine for it to wait until next year.

  6. Great decision–and, apparently, a bold one for you! However, I can only imagine how very cool this might be with black or grey linen pants or white jeans and over a stark white top–say sitting on the dock at Squam of a cool evening!

    • It’s way too warm for Squam and way too huge to travel with! (Would take up my entire suitcase.) If I lived there and could sit on the dock in it while it’s still cold enough, I totally would!

  7. I will be very interested to see what you choose for summerweight knitted garments. We have the same issue in So. Calif.

  8. Spring really is that close? Wow. We’ve still got several feet of snow on the ground and Lake Ontario is completely frozen over. Probably explains why Canada is doing so well at the Olympics right now. We’ll be wearing wool right into May (and probably part of June, to tell the truth). Don’t feel any guilt about shelving your project; knit what you feel like knitting, and what you know you’re going to wear. My personal credo is that knitting should make me happy. Life is too short.

    • It’s already in the 60s here, off and on, with some 70s in the forecast. There are still cooler days (and it will probably snow once in early March, and melt the next day), but the cold has lost its bite.

  9. I think the problem is that you’ve knit it before and you aren’t as excited because it’s not new. I knit my Bellows in blue and then wondered why. But I put black buttons on it and it goes with all my jeans and black pants. I do feel limited on shirt colors. I’m a neutrals person and it looks fine with black, gray and white. It’s fine to put it away. We should be making what we want to right now. But finish it when the mood strikes. BTW, I wear mine when it’s not cold enough for a coat but I am chilly. That means perfect for cold spring days.

  10. It is gorgeous! I am sorry you aren’t feeling the love.

    How would it look with some pale natural or cream colored cropped pants (do I remember those from your seasonal wardrobe planning?) and how does it look over black? or tan? I think you will find you can use it next fall just fine. :-)

  11. It’s gorgeous! When you’re ready, try it with your white STATE smock and any color denim (agree with the commenter above, tho personally I prefer darker on the bottom :)) or even your camo pants for an off kilter pairing!

    • I normally love everything best with my camo pants, especially if it’s off-kilter, but this just plain doesn’t work with them. At all. It’s so sad!

  12. My first thought was over-dye it. But then again, sometimes distancing yourself from the project brings clarity later. It’s a really nice piece.

  13. I’m thinking it would look great with a pair of white jeans and a plain t. This sweater will have its moment, and whenever it is, I look forward to the photo of you proudly wearing it.

  14. What a relief to read this. I have been struggling with the decision to shelve a beautiful but heavyweight shawl in order to move on to a lighter shawl in a new yarn I want to try. I am so close to finishing, just really need to complete the border, but it is taking forever, and I am getting impatient. I love your idea of setting it aside, putting a note on my calendar, and pulling it out on at a later date. That’s it! Gonna do it and move on. Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. I like the color of the sweater. The muted shade probably can be paired with brighter colors. I like the idea of carrying a swatch to find material that will go with it. So good idea to shelve it till you can use it.

  16. It would look fab with black, and some other funky colours….keep an eye out this summer….carry a knitted square with you…you never know when you will encounter the right fabric colour to make something awesome to go with this gorgeous cardigan.

  17. Postponing something is not the same as chucking it altogether (although that has its place too, sometimes). Sounds like you made a smart decision. I also find myself putting off winter projects as spring sneaks up (where did the season go?).

  18. You may have just given me permission to drop something that I’m really bored with. I had high hopes for this beautiful skein of Noro sock but I’m just not feeling the love.


  19. I totally understand the time-out! (I think this color would look great with rust or chocolate brown, but I don’t remember seeing those colors in your prior clothing posts.) I have a sweater that I’m considering shelving for a bit while I contemplate a do-over on sleeves. I say shelve it and revisit it when inspiration strikes again. Or when you can’t stand it keeping you up at night any longer…

  20. Sometimes we just don’t get it right! I certainly have a few of those. Honestly, I don’t see either of those on you although I can understand the good intentions behind them. Move on to something you love!

  21. For fall, seems like it could be really cute over a black dress or skirt, with boots. I’m also imagining the possibility of it and a tweedy brown skirt, though that’s not a thing you own (or maybe would be drawn to), and it might be hard to get just the right shade of brown. But I’m seeing a vision of a glamorized English countryside look, something Vogue would have put on Karen Elson in a gorgeous field of long grass!

  22. I like how mindfully you are while knitting (in that moment, not just plowing on through with ‘FO!’ flashing in your eyes, but asking yourself why the work didn’t feel satisfying) and about your knitting and wardrobe-building more generally. Not having knit for myself–just one hat in 20+ years–it’s been a revelation to me to read your blog and think about what my wardrobe needs, putting my beloved making time into that. (Gifts for others are wonderful and will always happen, right? 4 hats in February, say?) I also think pulling two nearly finished projects out of your closet, just when you are going to want them most: THAT seems like a gift to yourself. 2018’s FO list will still include these two, and you’ve listened deeply to yourself. Happy Tuesday to you.

  23. You know, I have a beautiful SQ of aran-weight cashmere yarn in this exact color that really really deserves some love (I keep in the freezer for safekeeping!), but I have the exact same qualms about the color. And so, it sits patiently, just like yours. I’m considering an indigo dye to get it to a nice navy, but it’s nerve-wracking with nice yarn! Either way, I really admire your restraint and thoughtfulness–I’m usually of the mindset that I’ll make now, think later, which is probably why I have some FOs that don’t get much wear!

  24. You know what works for you. I know exactly what you mean aboutthe color. Shelve it, and next year, consider finishing it and over-dyeing it, or even gifting it to someone for whom it works. I have done that with a fair amount of FOs lately and it’s a great feeling.

    • I agree! When I think about the wardrobe posts Karen has shared, she seems to favor lots of denim and chambray but not so much other blues. And denim/chambray is really its own thing, and works where other blues in other fabrics just don’t. It’s one of the mysteries of the universe. So I think it’s fine to send the Bellows on to its destiny with someone else, whenever that happens, rather than to force it to work in her wardrobe.

  25. Thanks for reminding me that I put a Bellows away – shy of some seaming and buttons – last Spring meaning to get to it last fall or so for this winter that is almost wrapped up! I’ll definitely try to add the calendar jot.

  26. Came here to post this Instagram pic which I’ve been obsessing over since I saw it a couple of weeks ago (and now planning a blue Cline), but now see from above it doesn’t go with you cream toddler pants. Boo! But this picture makes me think hope lies in that direction. Maybe your next pair of jeans?

  27. Karen the colour is gorgeous! you can wear it with jeans and the white shell top, or those lovely khaki wide leg pants and the white shell, in fact that’s one of my favourite colour combos, khaki green with blue. That said I totally understand the need to shelve something you’re not enthusiastic about and get on with something you are, I do it all the time. You need to be in the mood to do it right. :)

  28. This year so far I have shelved 2 (sewing) projects that were near completion. No, not shelved – abandoned. This was new for me but very similar thoughts went through my mind as yours. Good decision. I like the idea of the diary entry to remind you.
    I’m just taking up knitting again and knitted one gilet that I just can’t wear no matter what others say. Trying to decide whether to rip out now, put it away for a while or donate. I won’t wear it = taking up valuable space = no point in me keeping it as it is despite the work that went into it.

  29. I agree; it’s an odd color. Would work with black jeans–maybe you should consider making some?? Seems like it would be a good basic for your wardrobe. It’s also interesting that the two problem garments are not neutrals…maybe you’re just not comfortable with color right now. You could always finish it later and auction it off or gift it so it hasn’t been a waste of time. Good luck!

  30. I agree that blue is a difficult color other than navy. My husband loves blue but I seldom buy it because what do I pair with it? White or khaki in the summer are about the only things that go with it. I love navy blue; it’s like black without the harshness.

  31. You go Girl! Be the boss of your making. It’s a lesson I need to practice more often. When I do take the “bold” step of putting a project in time out, I’ve learned (the hard way) to take copious notes and pack them away with the project.

  32. What about…pairing this with white jeans and a heathered grey tee, or faded black (charcoal) jeans and a white top? On my screen the blue is pretty, like a colonial blue. (If that’s even a color; like a greyish blue.)

    I have a few UFOs but end up feeling like I failed instead of giving myself time to finish later. I start with a lot of gusto but if something starts to not feel right (ie like the color and how to wear it) then I lose all will to finish it. But I like your attitude better.

  33. At first, I felt incredulous that you aren’t finishing it when you’re so close. My inner child screamed, “Give it to meeeeee!” But then I laughed at myself because who am I kidding? My kids were in the pool yesterday. Sweater weather is gone from Houston…at least until they turn on the A/C.

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