Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Wednesday's Workbox - Simple Button Bands
This isn't the cardigan that I have at last finished knitting! I have finished it at last - but I haven't sewn it together yet. Above is a picture of another baby cardigan that I made a while ago. This one had coloured buttons on it as the mommy wasn't sure if she was having a boy or a girl, so that way it would do for either. It shows clearly the button band which is what I want to talk about today.
The button band is usually the last piece of knitting that you will do for a cardigan. Often the band is knitted directly onto the garment after the side pieces have been joined together at the shoulders. You start at the bottom right-side edge of the right side and pick up the stitches along the edge, across the neck and down the left hand side. With a baby cardigan this is fairly easy to do, as there aren't too many stitches per piece of the garment, so the total amount of stitches knitted up isn't huge. On an adult garment this can amount to many hundred stitches, and you will probably find you need a circular needle to do this.
However I prefer not to knit my button bands this way. Not only does this technique mean that you fetch up with lots of stitches to knit, it can also mean that the end result isn't quite as neat as you'd like. This is because you are picking up stitches from the side edges of the garment, and unless you knit very evenly this can result in the occasional loop or hole. These can be rectified by stitching around the button band on the wrong side of the garment with a needle and some of the same yarn that the garment is knitted with, and neatening up any loops (I tend to do this anyway, and sometimes use sewing floss in a colour close to the garment instead of yarn). But there is an easier way to get a nice neat finish, which I shall share with you now!
Rather than pick up and knit the stitches for the button band from the garment I prefer to knit the button band separately and sew it to the garment after I have pieced the rest of it together. It's easy to do this. In some patterns you'll find this is advised anyway, and you will simply be guided to cast on the correct number of stitches (either a few, and then you will knit many rows until the band is long enough to stretch around the garment, or many, and you will knit a few rows until it fits likewise). I find older patterns tend to instruct you to do this. The more modern ones I've used seem to prefer the more complicated version described above. But you don't need to have the instructions to knit the band separately to do this. Instead, all you need to do is read through the instructions for picking up the stitches and knitting them directly from the garment to create a button band as described above (an "instantly grafted" one rather than one that is sewn on separately) and add these up to find the total number of stitches described. You can then simply cast on that number of stitches, and knit the number of rows instructed, as if you had picked these stitches up and knitted them. Note the instructions for where the buttonholes are placed. Sometimes these are given as measurements, sometimes number of stitches. Simply follow the instructions as if you had picked up the stitches and knitted the button band - it will be just the same.
Once you have finished your button band, cast off and then pin it into place. Note that you should try not to let the edge of the button band overlap the edge of the garment, but make sure that you are pinning right side to right side, with the inside edge of the button band (the cast-on edge) lying against the outside edge of the garment, not the cast-off edge. This way you'll have it the right way around (it is difficult to tell with rib, which most button bands are).
You can also try to knit your button band by casting on just a few stitches (probably only 10 or so, maybe less, for a baby cardigan) and then simply knitting many, many rows of rib until the band stretches neatly all the way around the garment. This does result in a nice tidy band, but you will need to be able to estimate for yourself where the buttonholes are meant to be placed. If you start with the non-buttonhole side of the band, once you get so that the button band is long enough to stretch halfway up to the centre of the back of the neck on the garment, you can then count how many rows you have done, and calculate how many you need to do before you start doing the buttonholes on the second half of the band. Note that buttonholes need 2 rows when knitted this way - one for the cast-off (usually 2 stitches, maybe 3) and one for the cast-on. It's not difficult to do but if you haven't tried doing this before, have a practise with some spare yarn before you are confident. Buttonholes on button bands worked in a few rows of many stitches are of course worked in the same way (cast-off on one row, cast-on on the next) but you will have the instructions from the pattern to guide you as you will be working them by number of stitches, not length. Some patterns advise you to place markers where you want the buttons to be on the first half of the band, so you can always use this to guide you when you knit the second half. For very small garments like the one pictured above, don't use too many buttons as it can make the garment look crowded. They are for decoration really anyways. If you don't want to bother with buttons at all, just knit the band plain and add velcro or snap poppers for fastenings instead, which are easier anyway for new mommies than buttons when dressing a squirmy, wriggly baby! But you can get some very cute ones - which is what I plan to do for my latest creation! Hopefully I shall be sharing that with you next week!