Monday, July 15, 2013

Tips For Better Button Bands Part 1

Many knitters are afraid to take on the challenge of knitting cardigans because the thought of creating the bands is overwhelming. However learning these skills are necessary as bands are essential in the finishing of knit garments. Bands counteract the structure of knitting which tends to roll at the edges or stretch out of shape. 

Bands should be knit in a smaller gauge to be firmer to support button weight and sweater fronts. Bands can be created for garments in many ways. They can be knit at the same time as the garment is knit or they can be picked up and worked out in the opposite direction. Bands can be knit separately in the same direction and joined to the garment as they are completed. Bands can be knit separately and sewn on. They are often best worked in flat, non curling types of stitch construction like garter, rib or seed stitch. Bands should be a controlling factor on the garment; they should keep the center front edges in alignment and pull the garment in, ever so slightly, around the neck of the wearer. A too loose band will ripple and stretch the garment out of shape. A too tight band will make the garment pucker and in the case of neckbands, make it difficult to put on or take off. Wool lends itself to the creation of excellent bands due to its elasticity and good response to blocking. Other fibres have their own properties to be considered. Making use of different techniques and swatching to test for the best method can solve any difficulties that other fibres create.

Buttons should sit at the center front of the garment. The centering of buttons will add to a garments symmetry on the body. In order for this to happen, the bands are extended beyond center front and they overlap. The overlap should be slightly larger than the diameter of the button. This creates an ideal proportion between the button and the edge of the garment. The accepted standard is, when the garment is closed, the amount of knitted fabric that shows beyond the center of the button should be roughly equal to the radius (half of the diameter) of the button plus ¼ inch. These standards come from the sewing world, however in knitting we are ruled by gauge, so often knitters need to fudge the rules a little. 

Generally it’s best to go with less not more band showing when evaluating the possible options. To size the band the usual method is that the front of a garment should equal ½ the width of the back minus ½ the width of the band. Knitting patterns tend to bend the rules a little. Again the constraints of gauge enter into the calculations and pattern drafting for knitwear is simplified as compared to drafting for woven fabrics.

Vertical buttonholes are used when a garment fits closer to the body, and horizontal buttonholes are used on heavier weight, looser fitting garments. Horizontal buttonholes prevent slippage in the opposite direction, keeping the garment bands aligned at the top and bottom. Vertical buttonholes prevent horizontal slippage, keeping the bands centered on top of one another. Occasionally there is a combination of the two varieties; most often when a final top buttonhole in a neckband is added after the vertical bands have been completed. Horizontal buttonholes are worked so the outer edge of the buttonhole is centered on the garment. This is because while being worn, the button pulls to the outside edge of the buttonhole. This off center placement keeps the bands aligned.

I'll be writing more on this topic in the weeks to come. The links to the next parts are listed below.

Part 2

Part 3  

Part 4

Part 5

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  1. thank you for sharing this! I don't like knitting the bands on cardigans, hopefully this will make it less stressful! :-)

  2. Thank you. I was looking for confirmation that I should use the smaller needle size for the band, as I did for the neck and hem.