Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buttons - a how to

I always just sew on the buttons, you know, as I was taught to, using a few ticks that I've picked up along the way. I've never given much thought to sewing on buttons, but Crafty Gryphon asked if I could do a button sewing on tutorial, and yes M'am, I can. So today lots and lots of photos, Bear wasn't around to hold the camera so its a photo essay not a video. This also means that TYC is done, finished and worn, I'm wearing her as I type! Soft and warm - modeling photos to come, soon I promise. First up is EZ one row no turn button hole, I love it! neat, simple, not fussy to work,in short the epitome of EZ's approach to knitting. And yes - you spotted my fav cast off edge along the long edge of the button band, an i-cord bind off - again, its thin, flat, and a nice stable edge.

First sewing on buttons, before you start you need to gather a little equipment, the yarn you plan to use, either fine strong yarn or matching cotton (or contrast colour if you prefer), a suitable needle, some pins (not shown) and a 2 mm dpn.

About buttons, there are lots of different ones, but here I'll discuss those with a shank and those without. Shank buttons have a little stalk or neck with a hole thru which the button is sewn onto the garment, the shank allows for the thickness of the garment under the button, so these are usually used on thick fabrics, or tailored garments. Buttons without a shank are made for thinner garments, but you can 'sew in a shank' if you need to. I need to do this here, so I'll show you how. Shank buttons can be heavier, and can sag when not buttoned up, a bit of a problem for knitwear, one of the reasons I decided not to use them on this cardigan.

Thread, I'm using the yarn I knit with, its fine and strong, and constant so won't snag on the needle as I sew, but you can use any thread that works. Cut a nice long length, 60-70 cm, and thread it thru the needle. If you cut it longer you run the risk of knots and tangles. I was told 'no longer than from elbow to finger tip', and that is a pretty good guide. Don't knot the end, and pull it so one end is longer than the other, we will be sewing the button on with a single thread - you can use two, but it causes problems, more knots and thickness and loops of different sizes as you tighten the stitches. Remember no knots in the yarn this stage, the knit fabric is to loose and they will just pull thru - the yarn has to be secured via other means.

One of the first things to do is mark where the buttons need to be sewn, I do this with long T-pins. I match up the two edges, and put a pin thru the top end of each button hole, remember buttons slide to the end of the button holes they don't magically float in the middle. This is one thing my students seem to regularly misunderstand. So where the button holes are vertical, the button hole will hang off the button, so the button will slide to the top of the button hole. Where the buttons are horizontal, the button will slide to the end nearest to the edge.

Then I carefully pull the two layers apart and reposition all the T-pins to mark the exact spot I need to stitch on the buttons. Some people use smaller pins, or clover hooks, or safety pins, or even waste yarn, use whatever you like, I like T-pins, they are large and easy to spot and I don't tend to hurt myself on them.

Then I start sewing on the buttons, these ones have 4 holes, so I'm stitching in a cross pattern, but I could have stitched two short bars like and equal sign, or in a square. Its all personal preference. Leave the tail of the yarn loose, it will be knotted and woven in latter - yes knotted, I don't want these buttons to fall off.

Now if I was just to stitch the button on there would be no room for the layer of knitting to fit under it when I did up all my buttons. That layer of knitting needs to be allowed for, so I plan to make a thread space long enough for it to sit easily under the button when done up. You can see the thickness of a layer of knitting, if you don't allow for that you kinda get a look like a stuffed sofa - not really flattering or good on anything other than a duvet or a sofa.

So I am using a dpn, a 2mm dpn, if I was stitching thru thicker knitting, I would use a thicker needle. In dressmaking and tailoring I was taught to use a toothpick or a matchstick, I have a smoothed bamboo skewer that I keep in my sewing kit, but a nice polished dpn is perfect here.

On these buttons, I over stitched the holes twice, if I was using finer thread I might have stitched more. I pulled the thread firm each time, knowing the 2mm dpn was providing the space I needed under each button. Because this was the first button, and I had the tail of thread I was able to secure it with an overhand knot - you know from girl guides - right over left and under, then left over right and under. I wove in the tail and trimmed it, but left the needle thread untrimmed because

I planned to snake the thread from one button position to another. This is a trick I was shown for making shirts. Rather than stitch each button on individually and cut and knot behind each button, you can run the thread from button position to button position. I think this makes for a stronger attachment, and stabilises the front edge a little.

I finish behind each subsequent button with a half hitch, just to stop the thread from pulling tighter and distorting the button position. To make a half hitch, make a little tiny stitch thru the fabric just behind where you have sewn the button, and thread the needle and thread thru the loop - pull firm.

Once the buttons are all on, you can see on the reverse of the button band that there isn't much trace of the yarn woven from button to button. If needed I could have woven in the yarn along the picked up stitches or the cast off edge. And if you need to start new thread, just cut a new length and begin again, weave in all the ends after and knot just to secure, I hate it when buttons fall off, they tend to fall off when I am in a hurry or away from my sewing kit.

and finished, with buttons, all waiting to be worn
pictures next time
I promise


Knitting Linguist said...

This is a great tutorial - thanks! It's got lots of information I hadn't thought of before, but am so glad to know...

Saffron said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! :)


i was beginning to wonder if you would make it...guess it took two of asking! and as always, great job! i wish you would also post it on you tube but that may be asking too much.

thanks again...i feel much better about doing buttons now.