Often the last line of a knitting pattern reads: Sew on the buttons and enjoy!
It sounds easy. But what if it's a loosely knit cotton. Or a chunky knit wrap. Surprisingly, the same techniques can be used for nearly all knits! Use these tips to confidently attach flat (non-shank) buttons to your handknits. (For shank buttons, use the same techniques, but eliminate stitching over the spacer.)
First, gather your supplies.
1. Choose your buttons. Have fun with the color and shape, but make sure the buttons do not overwhelm your knit in size or weight.
2. Find a needle that will pass through the holes in the button. The eye of the needle has to be small enough to fit through the buttonhole, yet large enough to be threaded with yarn or floss. There is no one right needle. Start collecting different sizes so that you have a variety of needles available.
3. Pick your thread. Your chosen fiber needs to be both thin enough to go through the eye of the needle and the buttonhole, and also strong enough to hold the button in place. Knitting yarns need to be multi-plied, smooth, and have a tight twist. If your knitting yarn is not strong enough, sometimes adding a doubled length of sewing thread will give it the necessary strength. I often turn to embroidery floss when I'm sewing smaller buttons onto fine-gauge knits. It comes in a wonderful array of colors and is strong and smooth. Separate the plies for tiny buttons. Why not just use sewing thread? Because it is so much more tightly twisted, it may cut through softer yarns. I would avoid using sewing thread on softly spun yarn.
1. Every flat button sewn to a handknit needs a thread shank. The shank allows the button to rest on the top of the buttonband when buttoned. The shank should be the same height as the finished knit fabric. For most dk weight or worsted weight projects, a wooden matchstick makes a great spacer. For sportweight or finer, use a thick tapestry needle. For big, thick, chunky knits, try a chopstick or a size 13 double pointed needle.
2. Thread your needle but do not knot. Leaving a 3" tail, take two tiny stitches on the front of the garment at the button placement. Then go up through the button, over the spacer, and down to the back of the garment. Repeat until the button is firmly attached. In general, three or four passes work well.
3. Have your last stitch exit under the button but above the face of the knit. Pull out your spacer, and pull the button up. Wrap your thread around the threads at the base of the button about three times to create the shank. Take two small backstitches into the shank, then pass the needle to the wrong side of the garment and take two or three more small backstitches. Clip this sewing thread and also clip off the tail from the starting stitches.
4. For extra security, add a small drop of FrayCheck to the last backstitches.
Now, button up and enjoy!
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