Knitting Fail: the Top-Down Turtleneck Cardigan

This is the first knitting project I’ve done where I finished and said, Huh.  I don’t really like this.  And that’s a little sad.

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Let’s start by saying that this post is NOT about: this post is not about my out-of-focus cell phone photos, or my frowny face (mostly cropped) from the sun being in my eyes, or my lack of ironing on my tunic.  Stay focused, my friends.  This post is about the fit of this sweater.  Last summer, in anticipation of our Big Trip to Scotland, which I learned during my pre-trip research was going to be 30 degrees cooler than Atlanta, I knitted two sweaters: the Georgia sweater and the Top-Down Turtleneck Cardigan.  Both are made in the same Purl Soho Mulberry Merino yarn.  One is yellow and I lurve it.  The other is…this one.

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The color is divine.  The feel of the yarn is a dream.  It’s the fit that I don’t like.  At all.  I should point out that this sweater has not been blocked, a practice I am still a little scared to pursue, despite the fact that I knitted (knit?) seven sweaters last year.  And so I’m wondering: is that the problem?  Or is it that I just don’t like this shape on my body?

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Because here’s the thing about this sweater: the armholes are WACKADOO.  I mean, like sooooooo low.  Can you see that in these photos?  I generally prefer a higher armhole anyway, and looking back at the design and still photos of this pattern from the Purl Soho website I don’t think that the error is in my knitting or in their design–it’s just that it’s hard to really appreciate that the armholes are way down the body when the sweater is lying flat.  You don’t really see it until it’s on.

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And y’all, they are WAY down the body.  Like, almost my waist.  Certainly way below my bustline, which you can clearly see in this photo above.  Granted, my waistline is higher than the average person, but also: holy smokes.

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The yarn is BEYOND spectacular.  It’s a wool/silk blend and it’s completely amazing to work with, the kind of yarn that makes it hard to purchase yarn ever again, because once you’ve gone fancy it’s hard to go un-fancy.  And I think the knitting is pretty good work, if I do say so myself, and I do.  But in the photo above, you can see that the armhole stitches start to veer off?  I think the armhole should end about where the seam changes direction.  And it doesn’t.  It goes on for another, what, six inches?  INCHES?  On my body, that’s hugely unflattering.  I’ve learned through years of sewing that certain shapes will NEVER look good on me, no matter how great they look on the pattern envelope–it’s one of the toughest things to ever learn about sewing, honestly, that your body WANTS some shapes and will STRONGLY REJECT others, and that it’s OK.  Transferring that idea to knitting is trickier than I thought, because a sweater is just a sweater, right?

Nope.

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I love the *idea* of this sweater.  It’s a turtleneck cardigan, and speaking those words together give me joy: TURTLENECK + CARDIGAN.  I love the simplicity of the construction.  I loved the near-mindlessness of the knitting, even the short rows on the neck for shaping.  But I do not love the final fit.

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I MEAN, YOU GUYS.  LOOK HOW LOW THESE ARMHOLES ARE.

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I don’t feel pretty in this sweater.  I feel frumpy.  I haven’t blocked it, true.  I haven’t added buttons, also true.  But I am not motivated to do so, because currently, I am pretty bummed that the fit isn’t flattering.

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So here’s my question for you more experienced knitters: if I’m considering taking the whole thing apart and recycling the yarn (I believe the technical term is weeping frogging), should I block it first just to be SUPER SURE that I hate it?  Or do I call it now and just stop the hemorrhage?

Suggestions warmly welcomed, y’all.  I’ve had this experience with sewn garments before, and it can really derail your progress.  I made this sweater on purpose to pair with a lined vest, and there’s no chance it’s going to fit under those armholes as it is now.  Can it be saved with blocking?  And if not, will blocking make the yarn less usable for another project?

Side question for you SUPER experienced knitters: what measurements are you checking on the knitting pattern to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to you?  On a sewing pattern, I know just how to look for that information, and how to apply it–there must be some parallel in knitting patterns, but I need help finding it.  Thank you, internet friends!

17 Comments on “Knitting Fail: the Top-Down Turtleneck Cardigan

  1. I think it’s likely to grow when you block it, so if you hate it now because it’s big, you will probably hate it even more. It’s painful, but if I were you, I would take it apart and start over with a different pattern or different size. You owe it to the yarn.

  2. FROG IT. Ijust recently had this revelation and I’m not even using mega expensive yarn! If you don’t love it, frog it and make something you LOVE. You should have heart eyes emojis every single time you look at something you knit!!! FROG IT!!!

    • This is what my gut is telling me. Honestly, I think I would have pulled it apart already but I wanted to document the make first, for myself as much as anything, and so I’d remember the Very Valuable Lesson I learned here. And you’re so right: after this much time and effort (and no small financial investment, because this yarn ain’t cheap), I should LURVE it every time I see it. Thank you!!

  3. I knit the exact same sweater in the same purl soho yarn (which is lovely) but the fit after blocking was not improved. I don’t recall seeing the finished sweater on a live body on the purl soho website. Besides the low armholes, I’m not crazy about how the neckline sits. Too much of a flat drape, but the yarn is dreamy so I think I might unravel it and try something new. Frogging? That’s something new? Let me know if you end up knitting something else from the yarn-would love the inspiration.

    • This makes me feel better–it’s not my imagination, right? And I realized the same thing (after I was done): I never saw this design on an actual human person, so it was tough to really get a feel for the overall fit. I suspect there are plenty of folks who would adore a slouchy sweater, but I was really looking for something more chic. I know I chose the right size, because the sleeves fit well until you get to the join with the body, and the length and shoulders are great. It’s just that armhole! Oh, well. Am planning to take it apart and considering the Shinobi sweater–do you know that one? Also designed for a wool+silk yarn, and looks so lovely!

  4. Frog that baby. Blocking will NOT make any party of the sweater smaller or improve the fit. The color is way to beautiful not to make something you love. Try winding the yarn back onto a swift as you pull it out to avoid tangles.

    On a raglan sweater like this there is usually a measurement that shows the depth of the raglan “seam” from the top/neckline to the underarm. Measure this on a raglan sweater you have that fits and you will have a better idea of what you want.

    • Aha! I’m sure I have seen patterns with that number before, but they didn’t really register. I guess nothing does, until you’ve made a mistake and really GET where you would plug that info in to get the results you want. Chalk one up to lessons learned–am taking it apart (which is its own kind of fun) and planning something new! Thanks for your help!

    • The color is just so good, and the yarn is so wonderful. Not worth it to leave it trapped in a sweater I don’t love! Thanks for the advice!

  5. Can you just frog the sleeves and redo them? Or frog part of the sweater, get someone to help you fix/tighten up the body to sleeve transition?
    If you’re not going to wear the sweater, you should definitely frog it and find another use for it – I hate to waste good yarn. You had the pleasure of the knit, you should have the pleasure of a good finished project too!

    • I think because of the way this sweater is made, I’d be taking out about 80% of it to get back to the sleeve join, and at that point, don’t I just want another sweater? After reading all the comments, I have swung back around from thinking I would block and re-evaluate to wanting to just have my yarn back. It’s a bummer to make something and not love it, but I feel like I learned something useful and can move on!

  6. It is lovely yarn. I read some good advice once—–be wary of knitting patterns that aren’t pictured on a live model OR those that have the model camouflaging a part of the sweater with their hands etc.

  7. Only one thing to add to advice about live models: Consider looking at finished projects modeled on real people on Ravelry before casting on another project. You’ll see the results other knitters have had and probably save tons of time. Learned this one the hard way!

  8. Hey there Sweater Knitter!
    Let’s talk :)
    Let’s approach this whole thing using a safe analogy… like SEWING! Yup, let’s go there!
    When you are going to sew a dress, as in AFTER you find the perfect yarn—or fabric as the case is–you bring it home and prep for making your amazing new piece. You just lay that fabric out and stick that folded up pattern right on it and cut cut cut! Right? Wrong!! You (and my mom who is a seamstress from the old school) say “prep the fabric” and during one of your classes I had to stitch around the edges of the fabric and then wash it and then dry it AND THEN you got me all BFFs with my iron to iron it. You also had me iron the pattern pieces :) which was actually not as bad as it seemed. Here’s where knitting differs… you did your swatch (you’d better say yes girlfriend!), checked the measurements, knit the sweater and now the part that prepared the fabric first for sewing is what we do last in knitting for wearing. Blocking can be so rewarding and so often *hugely* alters our final product. The drape, the smoothing out of stitches, the overall lie of the fabric… it all has a final opportunity to transition and come together nicely. Before you commit to frogging, which you very well may do in the end, >>finish the sweater<<. In order to finish the sweater ~~*you must soak and block the sweater*~~
    Finish the sweater, then and only then can you evaluate it properly and even more importantly, learn from the experience completely. And accurately. Most knitters that finish a shawl with lace work edging for the first time feel glum. It doesn't look *right*……But a soak and proper block and WOWZA. They see what kind of genius they really are!
    Soaking and blocking your sweater is similar to wrapping up the hem on that gorgeous evening gown and then giving it a proper steaming or ironing. Would you wear the gown you just finished hemming after hours and hours of smooshing and mashing and whatever else one does in the creation process of making a gown… would you wear this gown without finishing it? Without a steam or a press? Would you evaluate it wrinkly and crinkly?
    I think not.
    Now, another thing to consider: the intent of this sweater. It may have been created for an oversized fit so you could wear something heavier or looser underneath, so the armholes provide room. It could just be the cut in order to give a chilled out vibe… Go back to your original pattern and look over the pics to see if you like that look on the mod. Is it not your usual style? Could it be fun to add to your look though?
    There are lots of ways to adjust this sweater before frogging—not that I'm against frogging. But finish strong first :) evaluate properly, based on the real nature of your knitting– which can't be done without good soak and block (rather than steam blocking)

    One last thing to give a think over… the yarn you used and its composition of fibers: do they differ from the original fiber content of the yarn used in the sample or suggested yarn used in the pattern? If so think of that as part of he evaluating 🤔. Like using silk for the gown vs jersey cotton or silk for the sweatpants vs jersey cotton…

    All this I share bc I knit a lot of sweaters and I've made so many mistakes. Swatching properly and finishing completely are the most costly of those mistakes. I can share more on that another time. This phone is so tiny to type all this already!
    Frog without regret. In order to do that though, you need to see it through (in this case to soak & block. The sweater is already finished being knit. You've got nothing to lose and so many amazing lessons to learn regardless of wether this stays in your closet or not…)

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