Sometimes I start a project with the pattern I plan to make. Other times, I choose the materials first. It usually works out fine, especially with yarn. Ravelry has really wonderful filters, and I use them to my fullest advantage.
In this particular instance, I knew I wanted to knit Mike a cardigan. I had some really beautiful army green Debbie Bliss wool/cotton stashed, and I thought it would be perfect for the project. Since I already had yarn chosen, I began filtering my way through patterns on Ravelry looking for a suitable match to pair it with. I narrowed the field: Male, Sweater, Cardigan, Sport, and I honed-in on the Lewis sweater by DROPS. It seemed perfect. Oversized. Textured. Shawl Collared.... By now, (especially if you didn't link to the Lewis pattern), you realize that this isn't the sweater I knit. Well, except I did. Mostly.
I knit the entire body and half way through the second sleeve of the Lewis before I admitted that I did not have enough yarn to make it to the end. The additional length I factored into the body and sleeves to cater to Mike's height ate-up my yardage, and I wasn't going to make it. I could/should have figured it out sooner. But, yarn chicken is a strange game of denial.
When I finally conceded defeat, I decided the best course of action was to immediately start knitting a contingency sweater. I might have lost the battle, but I intended to win the war. I went back to the stash and came up with two contrast colors. My solution, stripes. I also eliminated the textured stitch pattern.... and the shawl collar.... made it raglan.... and V-neck... and, well, it's altogether a different sweater.
There's no pattern for this sweater. It was all very "by the seat of my pants". I used what I know about sweater knitting to improvise along the way; it worked out. Except, I hadn't used all the yarn I knit into the first attempt by the time I finished. There were still a dozen rows of rib remaining in addition to a partial skein. I was determined to disallow reentry to the stash. Those little balls add up over time and begin to take-up as much space as the stash itself. Truth be told, most of my leftovers don't make it out of the stash or into a new project.
I borrowed a play from Steph's book and decided to knit the stragglers immediately. Lucky Michael ended up with a new sweater and a new hat in the same motion. It's probably a fair deal considering the number of projects I've knit and sewn for myself since the last time I made him something. He's been wearing them both constantly; the ultimate demonstration of gratitude and surest way to secure future goods.