Next I needed to plan the buttonholes.
I am always tempted to launch right in and try things on the real sweater,
and I did that this time, too, for a bit, and then ripped back. I needed more info. I often
perform technical tests with whatever yarn is handy. Because the button band
and buttonholes have to fit the yarn and gauge I’m using, I worked my test runs
with the real stuff on the correct size needles. The samples look weird because I used every ball I had handy, although that also shows the structure I am working with.
I plan to work horizontal buttonholes. I also plan to sew on the buttons with their shafts parallel to the
buttonhole direction. This means the leaves will be running sideways. I don’t know whether I’ll
run them all sideways in the same direction or will alternate them. My daughter
thinks I should alternate, so I’ll take that under consideration.
The horizontal buttonholes will come into being because I’ll knit tabs, or
the knitterly equivalent of slit tapestry sections, or unjoined intarsia bits,
or however you want to think about it, and then reconnect at the ends of the buttonholes. Because the front bands are
doubled, I’ll knit matching slits on both sections of the band so when I fold
the band to the inside the slits will match up. Then I’ll overcast or
buttonhole-stitch the edges of the holes together. Here’s a whole band swatch, folded out, with the paired slits showing.
Questions to be answered:
- How should I set up the buttonholes—with or without any cast-on/cast-off
stitch at start and finish?
- How long (how many rows) shall I make the tabs for the buttonholes?
- How many rows from the edges of the band shall I start and finish the
- How far apart shall I put the buttonholes? And how far from the top and
bottom of the sweater should I put the end buttonholes?
I actually knitted three test swatches for the buttonhole band, although
these photos show only the final one.
The first band swatch answered question 1, whether I would bind off one
stitch for each buttonhole before I knitted the tabs and then cast it back on
when I rejoined to continue knitting the solid band. That technique produced
not-very-neat slits that looked like they’d be way too big—a good solution for
another button, another yarn, another style. I’ll knit my tabs as straight
slits. (Makes the placement math easier, which is nice.)
Having decided not to “lose” any stitches in the buttonholes, I needed to answer
question 2, how many rows long the tabs should be. The resulting holes must fit
the buttons nicely so they won’t be hard to fasten (I like zipper speed, not
fiddling) and won’t pop open (or what’s the point?). I made sample buttonholes
that were 5 and 6 stitches long. The 5-stitch version won—shown here on the
final test swatch, folded over, with a button halfway through.
On to question 3. The buttonholes will not be centered on the band. When a
cardigan or shirt is buttoned, movement pulls the front halves of the garment away
from each other, so the shaft of the button comes to rest at the farthest-toward-center
end of the buttonhole. The buttonhole needs to be offset enough that its end
accommodates the button’s shaft so the button appears neatly centered on the
upper, as well as under, band.
The button on the photo below is upside down, so you can see how the shaft
will align with the buttonhole when the sweater is fastened. Or that’s the
plan. The white-headed pins are there to show the ends of the buttonhole. It’s definitely off-center.
Now. How far apart to space the buttonholes, and how far from each end to
At the bottom of the sweater, I want a button lined up with the middle row
of the lower pattern band. There’s a sweet spot 7 rows from the bottom edge,
thus 7 stitches in from the end of the band (since my stitch and row gauge are
At the top of the sweater, the button can be closer to the last row because
there will be a collar above that. I also would like the sweater to fasten
close to the top of the edge of the opening. I provisionally think I’ll put the
top buttonhole 3 rows/stitches from the top edge.
That’s 10 rows down, from a total of 112, leaving 102. I have 7 buttons,
which will mean 6 between-button spaces. Dividing 102 by 6 gives me an even 17
rows/stitches between buttonholes. I can’t believe it’s this easy, but I’m not
going to go look for trouble.
I do count out the intervals on the stitches that are on the needle ready to
be turned into a band and I mark them with split-ring markers.
Here’s the bottom:
Here’s the top. The placement isn’t perfectly aligned with the top green
pattern band, but it’s close enough for me.
By knitting tabs, I’ll be burning a few bridges: I’ll break and rejoin the
yarn for each tab, so if I want to back up and go a different direction, I’ll
have short bits of yarn (and will probably need to go buy another skein of the
black). However, I am feeling comfortable enough with this solution to turn the
remaining black yarn into short pieces to try it out.
I hope this makes sense. It’s been a wild day in the office with all sorts
of work avalanching unexpectedly onto my desk. It’s a miracle I’m posting at all.