Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How do you

sew on a button to a knitted garment?

I want to finish the baby sweater I knit for MIL's dear friend and ship it out before the little bugger is too big to wear it. I knit the baby kimono from MD knitting, adding button holes in a straight front panel (instead of the wrap-around, which seems too girly for a boy). So, the sweater is done. Seamed. Blocked. Perfect.

Except for the buttons.

How do you attach buttons? Do you knot the thread when you're done? How do you make sure the buttons don't pull the knitting?

I quick google search didn't turn up too much. I read a few tips --

- attach felt to the back of the button on the other side of the knitting
- attach another small button on the other side of the knitting to essentially sew two buttons together
- use regular thread and knot 3 times

All of this seems OK, but how do you actually sew it on? Do you go down, through, and around the knitting from front side to the wrong side, or do you use a sharper needle and sew through the yarn (as if you're weaving in thin, split yarn tails that ravel easily)? My ONE book -- Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques -- doesn't talk about sewing on the button. (I know, I know I need to catch Julie's lust for reading and researching so I can learn how to knit the right way, be it by borrowing books from our beloved library, purchasing my own, or a bit of both).

Thank you for any suggestions you have!


Cyndi said...

Wow - good question. I haven't sewn a button to a knit garment before, but reading your post made me realize that I need to sew buttons on my Salina sweater after I seam it. And, all of the questions you have are darn good questions! Thanks for the timely post!

(Sorry this wasn't a very useful comment - hopefully someone will have some tips for you!)

Amy Lane said...


1. Buy buttons with shanks, use a tapestry needle (you can get them pretty small) and the yarn you made the sweater with--it only goes through a couple of times, but it is a mighty tough sew. This has the benny of being able to weave the yarn into the back of the button band like you were finishing off the sweater too.

2. If you're using little buttons, use thread, still use a tiny tapestry needle (because the ones that cut the yarn fibers just snag and weaken your lovely stitches) and, depending on the stoutness of your knitted fabric, put either a continuous strip or little stitched squares of a matching fabric behind the button band. (I've only done this with something that came out REALLY fine...otherwise, the knitting/crocheting can usually back up the button itself.)

Whether I'm using thread or yarn, I usually tie a knot in the back of the button band when I'm done, and THEN weave the ends into the band--again, just like when you're finishing the sweater.

However, this is all shit I've learned from trial/error, because, like you, every finishing book I ever read assumed I knew how to sew clothes before I learned how to knit them...which is stupid, since knitted fabric behaves not at all like cotton or cotton poly so the whole thing makes me want to chew yarn with my teeth! Anyway, hope that helped...

Amy Lane said...

Oh yeah--I tend to go around a couple of knitted stitches--one or two--and not through the yarn itself...I start from the back, come up, pass the needle through the shank of the button holes, pass the needle back down and grab a hold of the end that's dangling behind the fabric before I repeat the whole process...if you can tuck that end under your stitching as you go, it helps make your finishing stronger.

And if I didn't just totally confuse you, let me know...my technical writing is sort of my weak suit.

Julie said...

There's no wrong way to knit, you know, so long as it doesn't unravel.

When I sew on buttons I use matching embroidery floss and put the needle down through two or more strands of yarn, where they cross to form stitches. That makes them stay put a little better. If the knitting is REALLY loose, I use a circle of felt on the wrong side and sew the button to that, THROUGH the knitting.

I also skip buttons altogether and either make frogs or tie closures or use shawl pins.

Julie said...

Oh, and the looser the knitting, the lighter and smaller the button you should use. I like wooden ones, or plastic. Metal can be awful.

Mary said...

I think you got some good ideas. I usually leave a long tail and sew the button on and then go back down through and tie both of the ends together and weave them in. Putting a piece of felt on the back might also work if the fabric is very loose. Also, tell them to wear it unbuttoned.