Today’s theoretical knitting design is something of an anomaly. For this one, I actually have yarn in the stash (and have for years), and am completely unable to decide what to do with it. This very seldom happens, and when it does it very seldom lasts for very long. With this sweater, it’s been a long, long time.

The yarn is Cascade 220 superwash, and I bought it at the Fiber Gallery in Seattle, so it’s been in the stash since at least 2009 (probably even earlier). I bought it on sale, and I bought enough for a sweater, because I had a very specific colorwork design in mind. In fact, I spent quite a while designing that colorwork pattern.

I designed my motifs, carefully arranged all of the colors, and completely loved the results. Then, I went to swatch. And that was when I realized that my yarn is utterly the wrong gauge for this design. I hadn’t been planning on something so intricate when I started out, so the worsted weight of the yarn didn’t seem like it would be a big deal. But by the time I was finished, I had a design with something crazy like 60 stitches to the repeat, and it just wasn’t going to work unless I used a finer yarn.

I do still intend to knit that sweater someday, because I love the colorwork to pieces. But not in this yarn. So, it went back on the shelf.

I have gone to use it up a bunch of times. I’ve even swatched for other things a couple of times, but somehow it still really wants to be a sweater, and somehow I haven’t yet managed to make that work.

For over a year, I have been tossing around the idea of simple stripes. It works with the heavy gauge yarn, is a fun and fairly mindless knit, and would go pretty quickly. It would also work with the current distribution of colors; since I have a relatively small amount of each one, it would be hard to do anything in solids.

Over time, my vision of this sweater has morphed into something like this:

A very preppy, simple striped vest. In my mind and on paper, I love it. But here’s the rub: I don’t wear vests.

I’ve tried. I like the look, and I have a couple. I’ve had even more in the past, and I never, ever wear them. I think it’s because I’m always cold: I need the arms of a sweater to keep me warm. (Even in the summer. I have been freezing to death in my office lately; if there’s an AC on, I’m cold.)

But now that I’m sporting the professor look, I’m wondering if it would work to revisit the vest. Maybe combined with a jacket to give me back my sleeves. I do like the way that square neck would look with a collared shirt. Though I think it would look pretty good as a scoop neck, too:

Of course, I could knit it with sleeves; I have plenty of yarn. But I really wouldn’t want stripes on the sleeves. I thought about solid sleeves, in the dark green:

That sketch is wholly unappealing to me, though. Of course, I think I also lost a little of the fitted look while I was at it, so I tried again:

I like it better with a bit of a boat neck rather than the lower scoop, but something is still off. (To be fair, it’s quite possibly the sketch.)

But still, I just don’t like it as well. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about this design that is very stubbornly vest-like in my brain.

So, okay. We go with a vest. Then we need to talk about the other hurdle: stripes. (Really, this is how design negotiations sound in my head.)

I like stripes sometimes, and usually on other people. They have to be artistically done, visually interesting, and flattering all at once, and that’s a pretty tall order when you’re putting horizontal bars across your torso. But let’s just play with this for a while, because in this design I do really really like the idea of stripes.

Here is where I get myself into trouble. Because, you see, there are just so many options. Once I start heading down this path, I get stymied by all the choices, and end up not doing anything. (This is the downside of my tendency to overthink. I usually consider my analytical mind to be a strength, but there are times that it comes back to bite me.)

For today, let’s limit ourselves to just a few choices:

In #1, everything is very simple. All the stripes are even, everything is regular, and it is easy and brainless to knit. Doesn’t look bad, but I’m not sure I love it.

For #2, I’ve made things a bit more interesting. I made the dark “background” stripes wider, and used varying widths in the accent stripes to mix it up. I like this better.

#3 is a riff off of 2, using just one accent color rather than two. This evens out the colors a little bit. I’m not sure if I like this one better or worse. Having all the narrow stripes in the same color makes them more pronounced, but it also quiets the design a little (#2 can look a little too busy if you’re looking at the image close up, though I like it from a distance.) For #3, I’ve also been pretty deliberate in where I place the wide and narrow stripes to emphasize the bust and waist.

For #4, I did almost nothing differently, except to switch the width and spacing of the accent stripes at the bust and waist. The wide stripes at the waist make this one too bottom-heavy, in my opinion; I think the spacing on #3 is better. I was worried at first that the heavy accent band near the hem in #3 would emphasize the hip too much, but it actually does a pretty good job of offsetting the wide band at the bust, and it keeps the eye moving (in #4 my eye settles on the waist and stays there; stasis is usually not what you want in a design).

#5 has a fixed width for all the accent stripes, and the only thing that varies is their spacing. I do like the distribution, but compared to the other versions this one looks a little flat to me.

In all, I think I like #2 or #3 the best. They’d require a lot more planning to make sure that the stripes I knit turned out like the stripes I planned, but I do think they work well.