An Abandoned Cardigan Story

By Kay Gardiner
April 8, 2021
A fantastic knitalong is now underway for Mary Jane Mucklestone's designs in Field Guide No. 17—join us!

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  • You can do this! Great reductive reasoning there! It’s a beautiful garment and deserves to find a loving forever home.

  • Gorgeous cardigan! Give it to me, I’ll finished it, haha!

  • I hear you. These days I’m into simplicity too. No more 10-step recipes anymore. (Thanks for the sheet-pan ones!). And garter stitch can be very, very, lovely.

  • That’s not to say your lopapeysa’s aren’t all downright gorgeous and by now are probably just like garter stitch.

  • And then you can send it to me! 🙂 Gorgeous

  • I love your “I just don’t feel like it” attitude. I’m feeling that a lot lately!

  • I’m happy to help out here. I know it will fit ME! Or a member of my family. No rush – there’s time before winter weather returns.

  • What are these big snaps of which you speak?!

  • So glad this gorgeous sweater is getting the love it deserves.

    Maybe just a bit more…Authentic buttonhole and some handsome metal buttons. It has been very patient and is going to last a long time. I know you can do it.

  • I love your creativity in how to finish it off. I agree with Kaffe Fassett’s idea of joining a group of unfinished works to make a modern wall hanging. I hope to follow in theses footsteps.

  • How about pick up and knit a couple of small facings, sew them down, add a couple of frog closings – done!

  • Bringing back the snap closure! Way to take charge Kay. Love it.

  • My first thought is to just sew the steek back together, and voila, pullover! I often use snaps on cardigans though, unless the buttons I’m using are small. I’ve never found a way to make a largish buttonhole that doesn’t stretch out over time. Hookeyes can be even easier than snaps, and can be undone without pulling on the button band.

    • Almost every cardigan I’ve knit has buttonholes that have stretched a bit. Easy answer is just to sew them up a little with your leftover yarn. The button band that works best for me is knit on and vertical instead of the horizontal ribbed ones. Looks better longer too.

  • I remember these sweaters from the original posts you CAN do this.

  • I hear you and now I’ll be cheering YOU on!

  • I have often finished the button band with either a row of single crochet, creating button loops as I go, or by using a 3 stitch I Cord edging to accomplish the same thing. Its quick, neat, and it can accommodate any sized button.

  • You could crochet the button bands and just crochet a little chain for a button hole along the edge. It works really well and I saw some sweaters like that in Iceland. It you made the sweater out of unspun lopi you could hold a strand of mohair with the unspun lopi to make it stronger for the button bands.

  • I knit most of a fair isle sweater from Rowan Magazine No 28 in January 2003. It has hung around unfinished (only needing 1/2 sleeve, bottom and neck ribbings) since. I picked it up a month ago and it is sooooo close to finished. I have to say, finishing this project (and it still fits!) has taken a huge load off my shoulders, it just sat there, glaring at me for 18 years. Congrats on finishing your sweater Kay!

  • After my late MIL died, my sister-in-law and I went through her knitting stuff. There were three unfinished sweaters, two of which I finished! I gave one of them to my sister-in-law and the other one to my grandson. It was challenging matching my MIL’s gauge and understanding the patterns, but fortunately there was plenty of yarn and my knitting buddy helped me. Finishing those sweaters left me with many good feelings: I thought of my MIL and what a great knitter she was (even though she didn’t use great yarns) and how nice for others that her handiwork will live on.

    • OMG, what a beautiful thing to do in tribute. Not many would. I hope I fall within that small group of the fibre art. There is knitting, and then there is “knitting”…

    • When my brother was young he had a few long hospital stays. My mother would sit at his bedside and knit. Decades passed. Five years ago, when my mother died, I found the last afghan and pillow she worked during his hospital stays. The pattern had even come back into style! I finished it up and gave them both to him, from her, on the first Christmas she was gone. The pillow and afghan sit on a daybed in his home still and I know, somewhere, she is happy they are able to grace the home of her healthy son.

  • Or could you use large hook and eyes for closure, eliminating the need for bands? Beautiful sweater.

  • I just had to laugh when I read “I just don’t want to” in your search for possible fixes. How well I know this feeling, especially after this Pandemic Era. When possible, if I don’t want to do something, I now can let myself off the hook much more easily, saying “life is too short for X (fill in the blank)”

  • That Sweater is gorgeous! Are the gaping holes under the arms a design feature?

    • LOL they get grafted, and in the years this sweater has languished, I learned how to graft!

      • No day would be a good day to graft those underarms! That would be enough to leave your beautiful cardigan in my unfinished pile!
        I have had a two-colour all-over fair isle cardigan done except for the sleeves for more than twenty years. The double breasted cabled button(hole) bands are done, but that 34 stitch repeat which reverses in the centre… I can’t memorize it… some day, I tell myself.

  • Order the zipper, find your neighborhood commercial alterations person, hand over UFO and zipper and modest remuneration and outsource!

  • I like the way a nice cardigan looks, but I don’t like wearing one with the front open. It hangs funny, or goes floppy, or something. I sew plain button bands together and sew nice buttons to them – a nice cardi, but not hanging funny. I will look forward to seeing your solution!

  • In two of the sweaters I have that were my late mothers – one made in the mid 50s (and I have the pattern book) and one from the 60s – they would (the knitting store) sew grosgrain ribbon down the bands and then make machine buttonholes. The ribbon stabilized the edges. She kept up the practice later only for baby sweaters – sewed snap tape inside (sometimes put pretty buttons over it).
    Something we don’t do today.

    Beautiful sweater. Will it fit you or your daughter?

    • That’s exactly how I do it. Ribbon Bands are the best!

  • Long live snaps!

  • I have more than once been tempted to trade UFO’s with someone! Like, trade a sweater that’s on zipper-island for one that’s on sleeve island, for instance.
    What a great sweater! This inspires me to dig out an UFO of my own starting (also with a cut steek). If I make a “fake button band”, and sew the cut edges to it, and put some buttons on it, maybe I can use it as a pullover!

  • That is a gorgeous sweater!!

  • I have at least 20 of these projects. Gloves missing 1 finger, sweaters needing one sleeve, pieces needing assembled, you name it. Too many near completion but hit a mental snag. I really need to be more aggressive about both my finishing and my efforts to complete before starting another. I think I have a breakdown in my process somewhere. Maybe I need a sphycological intervention. 2021-I will make an effort to do better.

  • Oh my, it sounds just like me, a great big UFO done on that same moment in time: the black-with-gray+white-patterned Lopi sweater, a cardigan which was steeked . . . and then abandoned, staying lost in the corner, waiting for the button band to get something. But it’s spring, the outside is calling me, planting time!
    But perhaps if I put it in the living room, right next to that new blanket for the baby boy grandchild needing to be done in three weeks. Three!
    Oh, . . . dear me.

  • Kay, I’m pretty sure it will fit ME!!!!!!! Or, if you must, finish it and give it to a follower who makes a comment. Like this one. ME!!!!

  • I kind of love finding unfinished projects. I recently went through all my project bags (my husband thinks there’s something wrong with that sentence; no one here does), and I found a few unfinished cardigans. I knew why I’d stopped on some and forgot why I left off with others, the way you forget an argument with someone worth keeping in your life. I’ve had a great time re-doing a cardigan that will be perfect for spring. Reading this was lovely–I feel seen!–and I love your plan.

    • I love that, Suzan: “the way you forget an argument with someone worth keeping in your life.”

      Ann says when you find a UFO like this it’s an almost-instant FO, just sitting there.

  • I have paid someone to install a zipper. True confession.

    • Testify! And feel no shame. I pay tailors to hem my pants, because life is too short for me to live with my own less-than-professional results in these matters. 😉

  • Last fall I started knitting again after a hiatus of 25 years. From my stash I first made a very large blanket from handspun (by me) that had been languishing, 3 ear bands, 3 hats, a pair of fingerless mitts, a handspun (from Lesotho, not spun by me) infinity scarf, and am currently working on a mohair cowl.
    I retired last September. Not a coincidence.
    And yesterday, I tackled the WIPs that had been in suspended animation all that time, and were probably one of the reasons I stopped knitting. I had primarily been a sock knitter, and bought bamboo needles as soon as I saw them, thinking I would love them and they would change my like. Well, they did, but not for the better. They ruined my gauge, my trusty formula no longer worked, and they didn’t fit. Frogged them yesterday. The sweater knitted up to the yoke that didn’t fit after I gained weight. I’ve lost the weight, but realized that what I need is a cardigan to slip on when I sit down to read. Frogged it yesterday. It will become a cardigan. With a steek. Pitched socks that I just never liked that were too felted to frog. Preserved the cotton baby sweater started for my goddaughter, who now has kids of her own. I really don’t like cotton, but it’s close to done. I can do it.
    So now the guilt is almost gone. I am free. I can knit again.
    And now there’s the Internet, and an LYS, and a way to learn new things that I lost when I moved back to the US and lost my German and Swiss mentors. Onwards!

    • I think the key point here is that you kept your stash for 25 years of knitting hiatus! As a fellow just-in-case “saver,” I can’t tell you how much I love that.

  • It looks like it might fit me…Just saying.

  • To hell with the snaps! Send it with a nice shawl pin and have done with it! Good for you for just getting on with it!

  • I love using big snaps instead of making buttonholes! I put backer buttons on the inside and a decorative button on the outside for strength. I prefer the metal snaps but have used the plastic/nylon ones also.

  • In 1970 while in university, I knitted a simple, pullover, mohair vest to match a wool skirt. I completed the back and front in March and never sewed them together. They traveled with me and languished in climates that rarely dipped to 60 degrees, then finally to the mountains. I started knitting again a couple of years ago. In 2020 I finally sewed back to front. It is light and warm and the perfect layer on cold days while xc skiing.
    Finally, my confession. It only took 50 years and a pandemic for me to sit down and sew a few short seams, nothing complicated. There’s hope for every knitter, and unfinished projects.

    • That should indeed give hope to everyone! What a great story— I’m so glad you are now enjoying your vest!

  • Snaps are a brilliant idea! Godspeed!

  • “Turn the stash” is so funny, so accurate. I’ll think if this turn of phrase every time I settle in to turn my stash!

  • I think that’s a great idea!! I’ve done that on sweaters designed without closures.

  • This week I finally gave up on my first Log Cabin knit blanket. I had knit 8 squares and I finally put all the squares in a nice bag with the pattern and some personal notes and have it ready to take to a thrift store for someone else to finish. Just couldn’t do it any longer (and it had been in the closet awhile before I took it out a month or so ago). So I feel your pain. Your sweater is beautiful- definitely finish it and get it out of your mind!

  • When I consider my many UFOs, I realize I typically stop when it’s time to do something I simply don’t want to do… I can do it, but I’m not in the mood. Sigh. Sometimes you are done with a project before you’re finished with it.

  • You have saved the day! I knit a cardigan with zip closure and, after 3 attempts, have been unhappy with how the zipper and sweater get along. Snaps are the perfect solution!!!

  • Please reconsider a button hole band. This gorgeous sweater deserves one. The snap idea is a sell out…….. Dig a little deeper!!

    • I totally agree. The incremental effort of buttonholes when you are already doing a button band is minimal. If it is just about calculating the spacing, I am sure one of you very talented MDK team members can assist. And the effort of sewing on buttons would be less than snaps. You only need to do one side with buttons.

  • Yay you! Sounds like a great plan.

  • I don’t know if you’ve ever tried Pearl snaps. Personally I think they look great and I have had good success ( one time) using them in a knit instead of a sewn fabric item. The beauty is that you Hammer them on! It’s so fast and easy and fun. Think about it.

  • Maybe there could be a place in the Lounge where people could offer up their UFO’s to the first taker, no questions asked.

  • Another possibility – if you really don’t want to do it, pay someone to finish it for you! LOL

  • If I wanted to gild the lily, I would make a set of Dorset buttons and connect them with crocheted loops. But that’s me. Cardigan looks amazing, though! Can’t wait to see it finished.

  • Mail it to Patty to use as a learning object?

  • I’m pretty sure that sweater would fit me!

  • Forget the snaps. Finish the bands without buttonholes and buy some of those beautiful metal hook clasps that you see on many of the fancy nordic sweaters.

  • I think that too many of us abandon a project – knitting or other – just before it’s finished because we intuitively know that we’re not going to love it for one reason or another. I’ve come to the philosophy – rather late in life – to “do one hard thing every day”, sort of as a character building exercise. (For me, most days, that translates into actual exercise ) I have spent too much of my life avoiding or abandoning things because they’re going to be difficult, unpleasant, take too long, etc., and then feeling sad about not finishing. The exception is if it was just a bad idea from the beginning, then there’s no reason to waste more time on it. Currently, my one hard thing is to pick up the cardigan I’m working on and knit for at least ten minutes. I’m on the second sleeve and so close to finishing, but I’m at the point of wanting to start something new. I would not recommend changing the design of a project, from zipper to snaps, for example, just because it’s easier. I would only do it if you feel that snaps are a better choice for that particular sweater. Personally, I would do buttons instead of zipper or snaps, but that is an individual preference. But I wouldn’t make that decision based on what is easiest.

    • I really really love this! Thank you for sharing 🙂

      • Thank you, Rachel W! 🙂

  • Good for you. Now tell me what to do about a cardigan knit in a lovely wool yarn that I never wear because it doesn’t make me happy. Nothing about it is really right except the yarn and the color. It’s a beautiful hand dyed dark red DK. Do I unravel it out and knit something else? How do I do that successfully

    • Susan, I completely understand your dilemma. I had made a beautiful Harmonia’s Rings sweater in MadTosh pashmina. Every time I put it on I found a reason not to wear it. But the candlewick color and the yarn were sooo pretty. After about 5 years i pulled it out of the cedar chest and enlisted my husband–a master frogger and yarn untangler–to frog the sweater. He did. I skeined the yarn, washed it and now am happily knitting a Sally Melville L’enveloppe for a dear friend. I will have enough left over to knit something nice for myself too.

      PS, take some pics of your sweater before frogging. Kind of a Victorian gesture to take a pic of the soon-to-be departed garment.

  • Ah, I’ve just discovered… snap tape! It was mentioned in a vintage crochet pattern I was working, and I thought, “Brilliant!”

    It’s polyester tape with embedded snaps. Just sew it on both sides of the cardi, a stabilizing tape and closure mechanism all in one! I’m just about to put it in a crocheted coat, so I can’t attest to its use, but it’s worth trying rather than spacing out the placement of snaps, buttons, and the like. Plus non-functional gorgeous buttons can be placed on top of where the snaps are.

    Here’s a link to what I purchased:

    Hope this helps someone.

  • I think you can have your local tailor (I found someone great who works at the dry cleaners) put in the zipper for you – this tip care of Keith Leonard of Knits All Done. However, there is nothing like finishing something yourself…

  • I don’t want to! During this time I’ve been giving myself permission to not do things if I don’t want to. Well, aside from normal life stuff. I’ve beel slogging away on the first sleeve of an Effortless cardi, started about 10 years ago. It’s in a beautiful Madelonetosh DK color named Envy. For 3 months I kept telling myself, it’s just the sleeves, I should finish them, then I am done. I would knit a bit, then put it down for a few days. Yesterday was so freeing! I put the whole project away in a bag and moved on to something interesting. I will finish it someday, just not now.

  • Thank you for the revised plan! I have a cardigan in a similar state, and I was going to try a zipper, but it’s also my first steek, and it just seems like too much. Getting buttonholes and buttons to line up also seems like a lot. Switching to the Snap Plan seems like it will get me started again!