Ask Patty: Button Band Gladness

July 7, 2021

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  • Oh my gosh – thank you for this. One of the reasons I always knit top down, in the round sweaters is b/c of the details … like button bands. Soon I will have all the tools I need to be a “I can knit any pattern” knitter!

  • Brilliance and common sense at the same time. Thank you!

    • Exactly!

  • I do this knit 3 first all the time except that I increase 1 stitch to make knit 3 when I do the first row and increase 1 at the end.
    Putting all this info in a short page is wonderful too, thank you.

  • There’s a really easy, non-mathy way to position buttonholes using a tool called a Simflex Expanding Sewing Gauge. It has measurements and an accordion shape that expands and contracts to properly position buttons & buttonholes. I’ve had mine for years but assume it’s still available (or something really similar) from fabric stores or online from Nancy’s Notions.

    • I just looked this up. Still available, and very handy. Thank you for mentioning.

    • I have had my simflex thingy forever and I have wondered if anyone still sold them. They are the best !

    • Those are so cool, or, if you’re cheap (like me) . . . take a piece of 1″ wide, heavy elastic, then put a sharpie dot every inch. Pin it to a blocking board next to your sweater and STRETCH The dots will always stay evenly spaced.

      • Now THAT is really cool! I have a Simplex gauge tool, but sometimes it doesn’t stretch far enough.

  • I didn’t even know I have this problem uet because I’ve never knit a cardigan. Yet. But now I will!

  • I am pretty mathy so I already did my own calculations but the tip about the extra knit row is brilliant. That weirdness at the bottom makes me crazy and now I know how to avoid it!

  • OK, that’s all well and good. BUT, my button band does the same thing and it is knit as part of the front piece. There’s a column of stockinette stitches next to the button band of 8 garter stitches.

    “Establish Frontband: Row 1 (RS): K8, place
    marker, p1, k2, (p2, k2) 12(14-15-16-18) times.
    Row 2: * P2, k2, rep from * to 3 sts before marker,
    p1, k1, k8. Work even in pat as established until
    piece measures 3” from beg,”

    • Personally, I’m not a fan of a garter button band because they will never look right unless you sneak in short rows. Garter has a different row gauge than stockinette, so it will bunch up. I’d replace it with seed.

      • You are sooo right!

  • You

  • that is brilliant adding an extra stitch at the edge. Wow. Just wow.

  • Geez, I’m a cardigan knitter and when it’s time for the band, I get huge anxiety. Huge.
    All the tips in here, beginning with the first blocking of it, make perfect sense. Your mic drop was perfectly timed…I actually quit reading and stared at the print for a few seconds, wide eyed.
    This is the best tip yet, for me. Thank you!

    • ❤️❤️❤️

  • Wow. This was an entire conference class and one of those that was worth the cost of the entire conference. Thank you!

  • I always read your columns Patty, not just to learn something, but to have a good laugh (“Hello, is this thing on?”). I’ve never knit a sweater in my life, but have the best of intentions to do so. Bookmarking for the future.

    • I hope you come to love sweater knitting. I have plenty of video sweater classes full of help and tips.

  • Thank you. Delighted to have this information.

  • So this helps A LOT as I always end up with the dreaded “swoosh”. I want to know what to do if you are steering your cardie? Block then cut or cut and then block?

    • ooh, good question. Okay, here we go, full disclosure (looks around to see if anyone is listening) . . . I’ve never steeked (pause for gasps). Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, my knitters instinct says to block first then steek. The reasoning being, if you are a tight knitter and your fabric needs to relax, I want it to relax while all my stitches are still in place, vs. popping out if I am handling it too much once steeked.

  • This is me this week, too! (But unless anyone else is finishing up an 8 year old abandoned Acer, I’m not in a secret knot along either!) that swoosh is so accurate I thought it was my sweater. Today I pull the button band and block the sweater- I’ll start there. Thank you! Eight years is too long to not get it right!

    • Here’s the secret – it’s NEVER YOU – it’s always them. It’s always the stitches fault.

  • I have been knitting for 30+++years & you are a brilliant gift ! And your Sunny Mother must know my mother who would die before wasting her time with knitting. Your teaching method has answered so many questions over time not unlike “how to eat an elephant” one bit at a time. Many, many thanks !

  • You know Ann is excited when she says “Shut up!” I can just hear her.
    Thanks for the hot tips as always, and the permission to do the thing that seems like it makes sense, like comparing the bottom rib to the body.

  • It is brilliant! Thank you! I’ve been knitting sweaters for a decade and that is the first I’ve heard why that occurs. Now I can improve upon future cardigans, Thank you!

  • There must be excitement few well-written patterns because I’ve never seen a pattern yet you to block before they tell you to pick up stitches for a button band.

    • Really. I’ve never seen one that hasn’t. Just looked at every knitting book on my shelf and about, a dozen professionally written pdfs, and 1/2 dozen magazines and can’t find any that don’t have you block before pick up, but yes, there are many knitters who sell patterns that are not professionally tech edited, it’s true.

      • I think it is also cultural. I have knitting books and magazines in Estonian (all professionally tech edited) and I checked and not one asks to block before button band. Maybe it has to do with a fact that 9 months of a year it takes at least two but often three or four days for the sweater to dry (I remember waiting for my jeans to dry a couple of years ago, the waistband still damp on day three). I’m rather curious, what does EZ say? I have a few of her books but I can’t get to them right now.

        • Many patterns from other countries come from a culture where standard knitting knowledge is assumed. I remember talking to a knitter from Russia once who thought the level of detail in American patterns was bizarre. In many cultures, a pattern would be written assuming all knitters know to block their pieces before picking up stitches, so things like that would never be written out in a pattern.

  • Do you need to add an extra stitch on the other bottom front side of the button band? Thanks

    • Only if you want them to match

  • “What am I, your mother?”
    Yes. My knitting mother.
    Thanks for the (usual) genius!

  • Thank you, thank you! Recently I tried to find out whether or not I should block before picking up stitches for a band. I should have known that your answer would be “of course”.
    Should I block again after knitting on my band?

    • If you think it would make it look nice, you could totally hit it with a bit of steam or spray with water and give a smooht.

      • Thanks Patty, I’ve been knitting for 64 years, and one of the things I love about it is that there is always something new to learn. It had never occurred to me to block before adding the button band!

  • Absolutely brilliant! Thank you.

  • I always enjoy reading Patty Lyons! Thank you, Patty, for your funny writting style (as in many other MDK entries, by other contributors), and your very useful, clear knitting tips!!!

  • Thanks so much, Patty! So many questions answered, especially the pick up and knit thing. Sometimes I SUSPECT a certain answer to my problem but don’t do anything about it until you come along and hit me over the head with it (like burrowing around for that Real bottom stitch).

  • Great tips… I have a question.. if you start the cast in with 3 stitches I assume you end the other side with 3… probably know the answer to my own question but needed to check,,,
    Love all your great advise.. my fav so far is the simplified ssk.. Thank you Patty

    • The point of the extra stitch is for it to roll in at the start. So, when you say “end” I think you are asking about a button band that is picked up all the way around in one piece. If that is that case then it starts and ends.

  • Brilliant tips! There’s a similar and really neat demonstration of calculating edge stitch spacing using the gauge within your pattern in this video, starting at minute 46:10 – – it’s crochet but identical principle 🙂 I always use this technique on borders now!

  • Excellent article.

    One other reason I noticed that a band looks short at that edge is slipping a stitch to make a selvedge treatment. Same solution: add an extra stitch there.

  • Ha! I have always done the extra stitch at the bottom on edge ribbing, feeling pretty clever that I came up with a Patty Lyons level fix 😉 Ultimately it means that 2/2 ribbing just means pick up divided by 4 (sts/4 +2 +2) – anything to simplify the maths.