Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Oops! I forgot a buttonhole!" (part 6 of a TECHknitting buttonhole series)

Forgetting a buttonhole
In this post, the sixth* in a TECHknitting series about buttonholes, we turn to correcting errors--what to do when you forget to make a button hole, but the buttonholes were supposed to be made "as you go."

Typical instructions for as-you-go buttonholes might look like this:
  • "...continue to decrease every 6th row at armhole edge, also remembering to work buttonholes as previously directed, and remembering also to work the six front edge stitches in garter stitch."
The trouble is, you might be so busy remembering about the armhole shaping and the garter stitch for the edge that the buttonhole might escape your notice.  Suppose you finish the whole front before you realize the error:  replacing the missed buttonhole now means a whole lot of unraveling followed by a whole lot of re-knitting. Discouragements like this are one reason why projects get abandoned, I think.

"I missed a buttonhole!"
Well, take heart! There are pretty good ways to fix this problem.  In this post we'll look at four variations on a trick for solving the missed-buttonhole problem without having to unravel anything. 

The heart of the trick
Underlying all four variations in this post is the same simple trick: sew a button down over each of the buttonholes already made, as well as over the spot where you missed making the buttonhole.*

The result will look just as if you had never made a mistake in the first place.  The buttonholes you did remember to make will be completely closed and completely covered up, so they'll become invisible, while the missed buttonhole is also covered up with a button, just like all the others.

Sew a button over the buttonholes you remembered
to make, as well as over the spot where you forgot to make one

However, as neat as this trick is, it leads to an obvious problem, namely, how to make buttonholes--or their functional equivalents--on the other side.

Variation 1: Decoration buttons with snaps beneath.
In this variation, the buttons you sew on are non-functional (decoration) buttons.  Best to use shank-less buttons (the kind with the holes through them, rather than the kind with a little stem or "shank" on the back).  Sew these decoration buttons on flat. Next, sew snaps UNDER these buttons.  Finally, sew the matching part of the snap on the OTHER front. VoilĂ --problem solved!

Decoration buttons sewn on over the already-made
buttonholes, as well as over the spot where the buttonhole
was missed.  Snaps then sewn under each button with
the corresponding snap-half sewn onto opposite front

On the upside, this is a very easy fix.  On the downside, snaps aren't usually very pretty, and can be seen when sweater is worn open. However, you can minimize this problem by using clear plastic snaps. (look for  jumbo snaps, better suited to knitwear than the smaller snaps.) Or, if you're feeling crafty, you might want to consider making cloth-covered snaps, which also look very well.

Variation 2: Functional buttons, switch sides for buttonholes
If you have not yet knit the opposite front, you can sew buttons on over the messed-up side, then knit the buttonholes when you do knit the other side, hopefully remembering all of this this time!  Remember that in this variation, the buttons are actual, working buttons, so don't sew them on flat.   Instead, use a shanked button, or a flat button sewn on with a thread shank.

If you haven't yet knit the other side of the garment
you can go ahead and sew the buttons onto the

messed-up side, then simply make the buttonholes
on the other side, instead
On the upside, this is an easy fix.  On the downside, switching sides changes the convention of button-placement-by-gender (men's garments traditionally have the buttons on the right band, women's on the left). This might be an issue for some, so heads up (!) on this potential problem.

Variation 3: Anchor buttons, hidden buttonholes
This variation is used under the same circumstances as variation 2:  when the opposite front has not yet been worked.  Like variation 2, the buttonholes are made in the as-yet-unworked front.  The difference between this variation and the one before it is that, when you sew each decoration button onto the messed-up side, you sew another button on underneath it.  Stated otherwise, each decoration button has a functional "anchor button" sewn onto the back of its band, shown in red on the illustration below.

It is this red hidden anchor button which does the actual buttoning through the buttonholes on the opposite band.  When the sweater is buttoned, the buttonholes are completely hidden.

 Each decoration button (green) is sewn
with an anchor button (red) underneath as shown
in the inset. It is this anchor button which is to
be pushed through the buttonholes made
on the other front of the garment.

On the upside, this preserves the gender orientation of the button placement. It also lends a mysterious couture sort of look to the garment: the button band appears to float because the method of closure is not obvious.

On the downside, it's awkward to button a hidden button into a buttonhole which lies under it.  You have to put your hand inside the garment to insert or release the anchor button from the hidden buttonhole.  Another downside is the bulk caused by stacking together the decoration button, the fabric of the buttonband itself and the anchor button.  Using very slim buttons, such as mother-of-pearl shell buttons can minimize this problem.

Variation 4:  Loop buttonholes
If variation 1 does not appeal to you because you don't like the idea of snaps, and if it's too late to use variations 2 or 3 because the other front has already been knit, a last variation remains available. In this variation, you again begin the cure by sewing buttons over the messed-up band.  Then, you make loop buttonholes along the edge of the other front.

There are two ways to make such loops buttonholes (shown in red below). You can either slip stitch a "chain" or use an I-cord attached along the edge.

Loop buttonholes (red) added along the opposite edge

The idea behind both kinds of loop buttonholes is the same: when you get to a position opposite where a button is sewn on, you detach the chain or cord to form a loose loop big enough to fit over the button--one loop per button.

Real life example of slip stitched chain loop-buttonhole
To see how to work a slipped stitch edge, have a look at this illustrated post (the post shows slip stitching along a garter-stitch edge, but the technique is the same regardless of whether the fabric edge is garter stitch or any other stitch). Remember to make a loose loop in order to create the buttonholes, whenever you get to the matching position opposite a button.

Below is a photo of a chain buttonhole in action, looped over a pretty little glass-rose button, on a lacy cotton jacket.

Slip stitched chain-loop buttonhole in action

As you see, the looped buttonhole was slip stitched onto a garter stitch band. (For a fuller view and description of this entire garment, you can go to its project page on Ravelry.)

Real life example of I-cord loop-buttonhole
Below is a photo of an I-cord looped buttonhole in action,  This particular I-cord was slip stitched on (same idea as the slip stitched edging, but the slip stitch was worked through both the I-cord AND the garment edge, from the front).  However, if the idea of combining I cord with slip stitch makes your head want to explode, you can attach the I-cord any way you like--sewing would be one simple way.

I-cord looped buttonhole in action

 Just remember to leave the I-cord loose of the edge, wherever the loop-buttonhole should go.


*Does the trick of sewing a button over a buttonhole look familiar to you?  It's actually a variation on a trick for baby sweaters, where you make buttonholes on both sides of a baby sweater, then sew the buttons down over the unneeded buttonholes once you know whether the new arrival is a girl or boy (scroll to third paragraph at link).

Good knitting! --TK


(Posts in this series)
.Buttonholes in hand knitting, part 1: lore and tradition plus some nifty tricks 

 (Related posts)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Horizontal buttonholes, including diagrams for the new "TULIPS" buttonhole (part 5 in a series)

This is the fifth in a TECHknittng series about buttonholes for hand knitters.* The first half of the post shows a traditional horizontal buttonhole; the second half shows an improved horizontal buttonhole called the "tulips" buttonhole, and includes, not just illustrations, but also a link to a video how-to. 

Simple Horizontal
  • Row 1: Cast off several stitches using the chain bind-off (in the below diagram, 3 sts are cast off, shown in red). Slip last chain to L needle. Next, use the running yarn to cast that same number onto the R needle, using a backwards loop cast-on (shown in gray). After cast on, knit sts on L needle, then turn work. 
  • Row 2: On the next row, every stitch is knit, including the looped cast ons, and voilĂ : the buttonhole is made. 

As you can see, the simple horizontal buttonhole is neither sturdy nor beautiful.  The lower right corner is particularly prone to stretching out and the buttonhole itself is asymmetrical top-to-bottom as well as side-to-side. 

To combat these deficiencies, traditional knitters added reinforcement via the buttonhole stitch (as shown on the simple vertical buttonhole, previous post in this series).  This strengthens the edges, and hides them, too. Yet, sewing is something of a pain in the neck.  It also looks clunky. So, here's TECHknitting's improved "tulips" horizontal buttonhole introduced last year. Tulips is self-reinforcing and symmetrical, requiring no touch-up with the sewing needle.

The editor of Interweave Knits, Eunny Jang, made a video about the tulips buttonhole, and you might want to follow along with the video as well as the diagrams--tulips is a bit difficult to work the first few times, because it uses techniques not usually found in knitting. You can click the link above to view via you-tube, or there is a direct link at the bottom of this post. 

Oh, and before we get to the nitty gritty, the name "Tulips" came about because in stockinette, the buttonhole looks like TWO LIPS.  However, in garter stitch or other textured stitches, this buttonhole looks quite refined, as Eunny's video shows. 

I've written these instructions as though you were going to make an 8-stitch-wide practice swatch.  Once you get the process, you'll see that a minimum of 7 stitches is required (three for the buttonhole itself, and two on each side) but there is no maximum number. 

* * *
CO 8.  The buttonhole is made on center 4 sts (pink), worked in 6 steps. (Although tulips can be worked in garter st, the drawings and instructions below are for stockinette, so you can tell for sure which side things are done on.)

Step1: set up to bind off. 
Using dpn’s, knit several rows in stockinette, end purl row, turn work. Next row: Knit 1. Wrap running yarn (red) clockwise around next st (green) as follows * Bring yarn to front. Slip st to R needle, bring yarn to back, return st to L needle, bring yarn to front again. Return st to R needle. * Per illustration Tulips-A, the green st at the working tip of the R needle now has the running yarn wrapped clockwise around its neck but it has not been knit. Drop the running yarn, it will not be used again until step 3.

You don't actually cut the red (running yarn).  I just illustrated
if short to give the idea of simply letting it hang there without
using it. The red represents the yarn running back to the skein
so in reality, it's quite long

Step 2: bind off bottom edge. With L needle, snag the loop you just made, draw it up, untwisted then slip it onto R needle. Next, slip a stitch from L to R needle. As shown on illustration B, counting the drawn-up loop, there are now 4 sts on R needle.

*With tip of L needle, draw the second stitch (red) over the stitch (pink) on the tip of the right needle—this is an ordinary chain bind off. Repeat from * until 1 st remains on the L needle. Slip the last st on R needle onto L needle to make two sets of 2 sts. As shown on illustration C, there are 2 sts on R needle, 2 sts on left needle, and a stretch of bound off stitches between the two groups.

Step 3: set up to cast on. “Park” the L needle by shoving it upright anywhere through the left side of the fabric—now it’s out of the way and those stitches won’t slide. Slip the 2 sts on the R needle onto a dpn (light blue) at least 3 sizes smaller than the main needles. Now, unwrap the top leg of the red running yarn from the green st at the R needle tip, then re-wrap counterclockwise as follows: slip green st onto L needle. Slip the running yarn to the back and return the green st to the R needle. Draw the running yarn up firmly, but not so tight as to remove all slack. * Bring the yarn to the front. Return the green st to the L needle. This has re-oriented the red running yarn in front of the green stitch instead of behind. Now make the additional loop shown in gray as follows: bring the running yarn (now shown in dark gray) to the back, return the green st to the R needle, bring the yarn to the front again. One more time, slip the green stitch to the left needle, then bring the yarn to the back, then slip the green stitch to the right needle where it will finally remain, as shown in illustration D.

Do you wonder where the dark gray yarn came from?  It is
actually just part of the red (running) yarn, now colored dark gray so you
can tell it is the part you work the top wrap with

Step 4: cast on upper edge. Insert a small crochet hook (light green) upwards into the gray loop created by the last full wrap. * Wrap the running yarn around the small dpn counterclockwise. Catch this yarn on the crochet hook, and draw it through the gray loop, as shown in Illustration E. *

Do you see what you’ve done? You have actually crocheted a single crochet stitch (sc) with the upper leg of the sc wrapped around the needle. (You may have seen this before: this the same manuver as the provisional crocheted cast on, when that is worked around a knitting needle.) Repeat within the stars 3 times more for a total of 4 stitches cast on—6 stitches on your right needle and one loop on the crochet hook.

Step 5: join cast on with bind off. Bring running yarn to front. Slide loop from the crochet hook onto R needle (7 loops on R needle). Put the crochet hook down and retrieve your left needle from parked position. Now slip the next st from the working tip of the L needle onto the R needle, 8 loops on R needle. Using tip of L needle, draw the second stitch from the R needle tip over the stitch on working R needle tip (chain bind off—7 loops on R needle, 1 loop on L needle). Illustration F.

Step 6: finish up and work back. Work the last st and turn the work. The buttonhole is finished (it is a 1-row buttonhole) but how you work back depends on what fabric you are creating. If you are making the buttonhole in stockinette fabric, you simply purl this entire next row. If, however, you are working in garter stitch, the next row is worked k2, p4, k2. If you are working any other patterned fabric (seed st, for example) you should swatch this both ways and see which you prefer. This improved horizontal buttonhole can be worked over more or fewer stitches, and the surrounding fabric can be (should be, actually) made wider because illustrations show only the minimum possible surrounding stitches—two on each side.

Good knitting, TK

PS:  Remember, there is a video of Tulips available.  Here is a direct link


*(Posts in this series)
.Buttonholes in hand knitting, part 1: lore and tradition plus some nifty tricks 

 (Related posts)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vertical buttonholes--part 4 in a series

In this post--the fourth in a TECHknitting series about buttonholes*--we're going to look at vertical buttonholes. The first half of the post covers traditional (simple) vertical buttonholes, as well as the traditional sewn reinforcement: the buttonhole stitch.  The second half of the post introduces two new kinds of vertical buttonholes: intarsia and sewn strip.  

Some of this material was previously published in Interweave Knits magazine, some of it is new.

Traditional simple vertical
Traditional simple vertical buttonholes are made in two stages:
  • part 1: The side adjoining the garment is knitted with the running yarn, shown in lighter gray. 
  • part 2: The outer side is made with a scrap length of yarn shown in darker gray
The two parts are then united above the buttonhole, the resulting vertical slit is as shown below. (Of course, in a real garment the two sides of the slit are made with the same color yarn.)

These vertical buttonholes are somewhat fragile. You can see that a single strand of yarn has to take the strain in various places: at the top and the bottom of the slit, and also along the side edges. In addition to being fragile, these buttonholes are also messy: two loose ends (shown in pink and in red) have to be worked in for each buttonhole made.

Reinforcing the slit with stitches top and bottom, as well as the buttonhole stitch
Traditional knitters learned to solve the messy-problem while at the same time solving the fragile-problem with a real lemons-to-lemonade solution. The trick developed was to leave the two ends rather long.  At finishing time, one end would be threaded onto a dull needle, then used to add a sewn reinforcement to one half the buttonhole--a couple of stitches sewn at the end of the slit, then a "buttonhole stitch" reinforcement up the side, as shown below. The other end was then threaded and used to reinforce the other half of the buttonhole. At the end of all the sewing, the ends were skimmed in, using a sharp needle. (For more about dull vs. sharp needles, see here and here.)

Intarsia improved vertical
By using two balls of yarn, it is possible to make vertical buttonholes with no sewing at all, and no pesky ends to work in at each buttonhole. The idea here is to create the buttonholes via intarsia, by actually knitting two separate strips of fabric, interlocking them via the knitting process.

Intarsia is the trick of knitting two side-by-side columns of fabric at the same time, interlocking them as-you-go. Intarsia has you cast on several stitches across the bottom of fabric with one ball of yarn, then cast on the next several stitches using yarn from a different ball.  As you knit across the fabric on the first row, you'll come to where the different yarn was cast on.  Dropping the original yarn, you pick up the strand of the neighboring yarn from underneath and knit the rest of the row with the second yarn.  Picking up from underneath in this manner twists the new yarn over the old yarn.  By continuing to interlock the yarns on every row at the point where you switch from one yarn to the other, you get interlocked fabric columns made from two different balls of yarn.  

Although this trick is traditionally used to create neighboring vertical stripes of different colors on a garment, you can make buttonholes using this trick, too. Specifically, when you come to where you want the buttonhole, you simply work each side with its own skein of yarn for a certain distance without interlocking. When the buttonhole is as long as you want, you close the top of the slit by going back to intarsia,  until you reach where you want to put the next buttonhole. 

On the upside, intarsia buttonholes are a pretty slick trick because they eliminate all the ends you otherwise have to work in.  On the downside, not having those ends to buttonhole-stitch with means you're back to a somewhat fragile buttonhole. 

However, here are a couple of tricks to improve the situation:
Improved vertical: Sewn-strip method
With this trick, vertical buttonholes are made by sewing on a strip of knitted fabric, leaving slits for buttonholes. The major advantage of this trick is that you can try on the finished garment, then place the buttonholes EXACTLY where they ought to go based on your custom-fit.

The easiest and quickest way to proceed would be to make the inner portion of the buttonhole band as a self edge.  In the below diagrams, this means that the inner part of the two-part band (medium gray) is knit at the same time as the fabric of the sweater itself (light gray).  The outer strip (dark gray) is then attached afterwards. By this method, there is only one strip sewn on: the outer strip.

Another variation has you knit BOTH halves of the buttonhole band after the sweater is done, then sew the inner (medium gray) to the sweater fabric (light gray) and then the outer (dark gray) to the inner (medium gray).  By knitting both halves of the band afterwards, the total width of the sweater can be adjusted after the main part of the sweater has been knit and assembled.  If the finished garment seems a bit snug, a surprising amount of fabric can be added with these afterthought bands.

To attach the strip(s), swatch to see which the method which best suits your work. The overcast stitch (shown on both diagrams below) works well when the stitches will be hidden: on a fuzzy mohair, for example. (The link shows the overcast stitch used to attach woven fabric to knitting, but the exact same stitch, made the exact same way, can be used to attach the strips of knitting here.)

Note: do you wonder how to sew up both sides
of the buttonhole slit?  
See comment #3, in the comment 
section below, for details

The simple overcast is not the only way to attach: a slip stitch works well with ribbing in a smooth yarn. (The slip-stitch at the link is shown worked on a garter stitch background as an edging, but the identical procedure is used to attach two pieces of fabric--the hook is simply inserted through both pieces, then the same slip-stitch is performed.)  Or, use any sewing or attachment method you, personally, prefer. 

To sum up, there are three real advantages to the sewn-strip method.  
  • A very reinforced buttonhole is possible, because you can easily strengthen the edges and tack the slits top and bottom as you are going by with the sewing needle, as shown in the second diagram above.
  • Flexibility in creating the total width of the band  you can want to wait until you're done to knit the buttonband in two (long skinny) halves, and then attach them--the inner one to the sweater, then the outer one to the inner one. You would then knit the opposite band the same width, and attach it to the other garment front. Quite a lot of fabric can be added by this trick, yet the bands will never look like an afterthought. 
  • Flexibility in placing the buttonholes Not only can you control the total width, but, perhaps even more important, you can also choose the button spacing which best suits the finished garment.  Stated otherwise, you can try on the sweater and experiment with different button placements until you like the result, then sew on the strip(s), leaving slits for buttonholes as required. 
On the downside, the sewn-strip method can take a LOT of messing around.  Whether the advantages outweigh this disadvantage depends on the degree to which you are driven by perfectionism (or anxiety?) 

For a real-life look at this trick in action, have a look at this beautiful gray lace sweater which had the buttonholes made in exactly this way. The fourth photo down is a close-up of the band. The seam from the sewing-on created the furrow down the middle of this ribbed band: it is located where the button is inserted.
* * *

Good knitting--TK


*(Posts in this series)
.Buttonholes in hand knitting, part 1: lore and tradition plus some nifty tricks 

 (Related posts)

.Tulips buttonhole: the video (and an interview on Knitting Daily)You have been reading techknitting blog about vertical buttonholes, the buttonhole stitch for hand knitters, the intarsia vertical buttonhole and the sewn-strip vertical button hole.