Posted on February 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm
The hardest part of finishing a sweater for me is getting those buttons sewn on. I’d prefer to seam, to set in sleeves, to pick up stitches or knit miles of i-cord, long before I’d ever knuckle down and sew on a single button. I’ll put it off like paying the bills, and sometimes, I forget to do it altogether. Right now I have two beautiful, fully complete sweaters upstairs, lacking only the last step. And do they get worn, after all that work?
So don’t take this post as any kind of sign of smug button sewing going on over here. But I do have one little trick about my buttons that I thought to share, since people occasionally get very excited about the little felt circles they see on the back of my button bands.
I used to stitch buttons in with smaller – often clear – backing buttons. It’s a reinforcement trick from my sewing days that takes the stress off the fabric – and the thread for that matter – and in general makes a stronger button. But backing buttons can be a little awkward and stiff to manage. And you have to buy them, if you don’t have a bottomless button box like I do. And sometimes they grind against your belt buckle when you’re belly up to the kitchen counter chopping parsley. But I realized a little while ago that a felt circle was just as handy an anchor to buttons: they practically disappear into the knitted fabric, are soft like the surrounding knitted fabric, and are easier to wrangle in the needle and thread process.
I cut the circles smaller than the buttons in question, but don’t sweat this too much since they collapse a little and end up apparently smaller than their cut size. I make my first stitch through the felt circle, leaving the knot on the “wrong side”, then pass the needle through the sweater where I want the button to be.
The thread comes back through the button, the sweater, and out of the middle of the felt circle,
but before I snug the thread up too much, I generally use a spacer, in the form of the button card slotted like this,
just so the button doesn’t get pulled into the puffy surface of the knitting. I don’t generally make much more “space” accommodations for the depth of the buttonhole than this: I just let the button flush against the knitting. I keep the spacer there, to establish my thread tension,
really only for a thread pass or two, then finish up without it, using the thread stitches I’ve established as my guide for the remaining sewing.
The final button has a soft wear-friendly backing, won’t pull through the knitting, and will probably last longer than a button sewn on without it.
Hope this is inspiring. Now go sew on those buttons so you can wear that bloody sweater!