we have achieved button bands

ok, i admit it, not the most earth-shattering news.
but i got nothin’ today! and for some reason, i can’t even get good photos in this house (or outside either); what’s up with that?

it’s not that i’m not knitting—i very much AM. but a lot of it is secret knitting and the rest is . . . well . . . button bands.

you know, they look like hardly anything right?
but they are the most time-consuming part of knitting a cardigan (in relation to their actual real estate).

first, you gotta pick up all the stitches—the same number on each side (so the ribbing works out right, for one thing and for another, so it doesn’t hang cockeyed).

and the stitches that you pick up have to be just the right proportion to the edges. if there are too few the button bands will pucker up and if there are too many the front edges will splay and the neck will flop.

of course, you won’t really know if you got the proportion right til it’s all knit up and bound off.
trust me, even the experts have to re-do a button band or two in their knitting lives (and they will, because the thing that makes a person an expert is not that they do everything perfectly the first time, but that they can see it’s not perfect and are willing to work at getting it right).

and then once you have all the stitches on the needles, with everything divided equally and properly, you have to knit it. and we are talking a LOT of stitches—three hundred and fifty something for this small-ish sweater.

it takes me quite a while to get around that row in twisted rib—just sayin’.

plus, there’s mitering at the corners. i’m not crazy about the way mitering looks in this situation, but i’ve tried to do button bands without it (as recommended in some patterns) and i just can’t walk away from that solution feeling like it’s a good one. so i do some mitering; it sorta mostly gets covered by putting a button in that spot anyway (but i know it’s there).

and then—THEN, you have to remember to do those buttonholes on the right row or you will be ripping back a LOT of ribbing. (i didn’t forget this time, but i surely have in the past—WHEN is someone going to invent that alarm that goes off in the pattern signaling the buttonhole/increase/BO row??)

but even with all that, it still feels great when it’s done right; there’s nothing—nothing—like fine finishing work. i’m crazy for it.

(the bands still need to be steamed but i’ll do that when i’m ready to seam—i can’t find my mom’s ironing board, haha; probably a good sign)

38 Responses to “we have achieved button bands”

  1. Adrienne says:

    Lovely!
    And appropriate to my own knitting lately- I’ve got a sweater that I knit two years ago, and have since knit the buttonband three times! I”m now on the fourth. I didn’t know about mitering until recently (it wasn’t in the pattern instructions) and I think it will be the answer to my buttonband woes. Fingers crossed!

  2. Mary Pat B says:

    Wow, Anne, your blumchen cardigan is beautiful. Well, your reminding me of the button band sure makes me think twice about making a cardigan for the hubby. Fortunately, the rene sweater that I will be making for my son will be the pullover style. I like myself better in cardigans, so I will have to go down that path someday with blumchen, but until then, I can admire your incredibly gorgeous workwomanship. I wish I was as passionate about finishing work as you, and certainly that is the devil that’s in the details. Someday, I hope I get a chance to have a class with you! If you liked Canada, you’d like Minnesota! Ha!

  3. Michelle says:

    That looks gorgeous. And I guess I’m an ‘expert’ knitter (or at least on the road to becoming one), because there is a button band calling my name to be ripped and re-knit!

  4. Ellen Norman says:

    I love this sweater! I need to make one for myself this time….Best wishes to your Mom!

  5. mari says:

    Anne every time I see Blumchem grow I smile more and more. I totally understand the ripping out of the button bands, and I have done it more times than I care to think about, thankfully mostly on children’s sweaters of late, but its still aggravating and necessary to get things to lay flat.

    Can’t wait to see the buttons on the cardi!

  6. Marilyn Nance says:

    One of my friends took out her (dusty) iron and her husband said “whose iron is that?”

  7. That’s the part that scares me away from knitting sweaters and such…the finishing!
    I do need to take classes with you Anne :-)

  8. Liz in Missouri says:

    Well – if it’s any consolation, one of the things I love most about your pieces is how well finished they are. Your blog and the photos of your finished work have taught me great lessons in the difference it makes to take the time to do things correctly. I’ve slowed down and payed attention and Oh My Goodness!!!!! Thank you Anne for helping to set the standard a bit higher.

  9. Jody says:

    Ooh! Pretty! You are the project finisher extraordinaire! I swear, sometimes it feels like the button bands take as long as the whole sweater….

  10. As Mom always said, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right” (that’s it, isn’t it?). You definitely raise the bar in the finishing department and it makes us all better knitters (at least we try to be better knitters!).

  11. Renee says:

    Sigh, yes, it’s totally worth doing until it looks right, and when one is new to it, it isn’t the first time, generally. I’ve knit a long time too – and sometimes you gotta let her rip. The other tip for newbies is don’t count on the pattern with regards to the stitches needed for such bands- depending on the fiber used, it can make a difference.

  12. Nik says:

    I love this. Especially the waist shaping.

  13. Susan says:

    Love how this is turning out! Could you use short rows on the button band instead of mitering? You would get a softer turn but it might be less fiddly.

  14. Susan says:

    I love how there’s a little (or rather, big) knitting lesson in each of your blog entries. Finishing has a love/hate relationship for me, kinda like running…hate doing it and love when I’m done. So time consuming to do it right, but SO worth it. Looking forward to taking your finishing class some day. Meanwhile, my Sea Pearl will arrive soon, and I can’t wait to cast on!

  15. Josée says:

    This is such a gorgeous pattern. I have enjoyed seeing its progress documented on your blog. Your waist shaping is beautifully done…love how two cables merge into one and back to two…genius!

  16. Beth in Maryland says:

    A post like this is so helpful to me, it gives me the will to try the *$@% thing one more time. My stuff will never but never look like yours, but that also means there’s lots of room for improvement! Thanks, Anne.

  17. katiedo says:

    B-E-A-Utiful!!!!

  18. Bekky says:

    You already know how much i love this pattern, finished my whitfield shorty last night, taking Hazeline to Beijing with me – in flight knit, so I’m looking forward to starting this when I get back in a month :) no pressure to publish though – perfection takes time!

  19. Kelly says:

    You certainly make me feel better! The one and only time I did a button band it was tight and caused the body to pucker. It was a dark brown wool and noticeable, but I didn’t even think of ripping and redoing :) Then I had a happy accident – put it in the washer in warm water…oops! But, out came a slightly felted sweater with no puckers! Yay!

  20. Nathanne says:

    Thank you so much for telling us about your tribulations with finishing. I thought I was the only one who messed things up on button bands. It’s always this dilemma of,
    “Can I get away with a little pooch or pull without anyone noticing or caring?” But yes, I always know it’s there, and after all the work of the sweater, it’s a shame if I slack off on the finishing. Your sweater is gorgeous, and you did a wonderful job. All the best to your mom.

  21. josiekitten says:

    I don’t like doing the button bands one little bit! Yours looks great, even without steaming. Can’t wait to see it all finished and being modelled.

  22. Beverly says:

    I agree with you about perfection. I will rip and rip until I get it right. I also work hard to make sure my finishing is as perfect as it humanly can be.

    I come from a sewing background and can remember ripping many a seam to get it right. I apply the same skills to my knitting.

  23. Brandi says:

    I’ve been able to do fairly well with button bands so far. I’ve only done them on baby cardigans but you have to start somewhere. I am a bit nervous about doing an adult sized one.

  24. Traci F says:

    Anne, your work is exqusite! You are such an inspiration for “keeping at it until it’s perfect”. Sometimes in the wake of extreme frustation, it’s easy to negotiate with yourself that it doesn’t really have to be perfect. You are the poster child for why it’s so worth the extra effort it takes to rip out the hat a third time and reknit it because you want it to look just right on your daughter, who will fight you about wearing it in the first place … Sorry, I guess I’m a little empassioned at the moment! :)

    Gorgeous work!

  25. Dianne says:

    I’ll admit I was skeptical about the swatch for this. But when you blow it up to sweater size??? WOW! Really lovely! Even with all those twisted stitches! I may have to make one of these too, as well as the Sprossling I have on my needles :-)

  26. Kim says:

    Really nice Anne. . . . looks just fabulous. And I too love finishing on a sweater! It’s so much fun! (well, now that YOU taught me how to do it right. . . .)

  27. Gina says:

    it’s gorgeous!

  28. Michelle (missymarie) says:

    Anne, your blümchen cardigan is coming along beautifully. I just love your attention to detail and finishing. Since I know how much you love buttons and to go button shopping, I cannot wait to see what buttons you have picked out for the cardigan.

  29. Ann says:

    Your button band is perfect & so neat. I always dread picking up stitches.

  30. Jill says:

    I’ve tried knitting the buttonbands in as part of the fronts, but I’ve never liked the way they look. My next sweater, the current one, is being knit from alpaca (I even met the critter who gave the fiber!) and I want the finished sweater to look worthy of it’s fiber so I’ll be picking up miles of stitches for those front bands. Hope mine turns out as beautifully as yours did. Thanks for the inspiration to do it right this time.

  31. “… the thing that makes a person an expert is not that they do everything perfectly the first time, but that they can see it’s not perfect and are willing to work at getting it right.”
    One of the most accurate things I’ve heard.
    I learned that lesson back in my quilting days. If something bugs me the day after I do it, it’s going to bug me 10 years from now, at least as much.

  32. Mo says:

    You have now scared me off buttonbands forever :p

  33. kyrie says:

    So true on the buttonholes – it’s such a dammit moment when you realize that you forgot to put them in! LOL

  34. Eleanor says:

    This one is going to be hot! This time I have the yarn and the buttons have arrived from Moving Mud (thank you for the referral) and am ready to cast on. Blumchen looks great.

  35. JenD says:

    I’ve never knitted a button band, or anything with sleeves yet for that matter, but I can clearly see that you have done a beautiful job!

  36. Elizabeth says:

    This looks lovely! I am looking forward to the pattern. I have knit several of your sock patterns and also Highlander which was such a fun project-the pattern was so well written that even putting it together was a breeze! After tidying up a couple of UFOs, I have Rene next on the list.
    Thanks for all your lovely patterns.

  37. Jocelyn says:

    I am loving the way this one is turning out!! And I hear you on the button bands – they’re a real pain, but they can make or break a sweater.

  38. Pat owell says:

    The bag is beautiful. It can also hold a couple of my scarves that I have not found a home for.