Sunday, November 09, 2014

Border Security

I've never been happy with the button band on the Fine-Knit Cardigan I made last summer and this weekend I decided to do something about it.

I'd known all along from the sample pictures in the pattern book that this button band would be a bit gappy. In the original bamboo yarn it was even more of a problem. The fact that the band is ribbed only exaggerates the gaps. As you can see here, the effect isn't very attractive. I'd gotten to where I wasn't even bothering to button it while wearing it at work.

So I did a little research and consulted with my friend Abbe Saturday morning about some options. I ran by the fabric store and got some matching 5/8" grosgrain ribbon to back the band. After watching several YouTube videos on the technique, I sat down to work.

What I don't know about sewing. Geez. I decided to just run the ribbon continuously up the button band, around the inside of the neck, and then back down the placket. I pinned it flat and whipstitched (new skill for me!) it all the way around. It went more smoothly than I expected, although rather slowly. Today, when I finished, I had to figure out getting buttonholes cut into the ribbon. Ideally, I should have put the holes in with a button hole attachment on a machine before attaching it. Yeah, I know. Seems obvious now. Grosgrain frays terribly when cut, so I thought I should try to sew button hole stitch around the openings by hand. After several hours of practicing I realized this wouldn't be happening anytime soon. I had just about given up ever buttoning this sweater again, when I ran across another frustrated crafters solution.

Super Glue. Don't judge me. It worked. I just dabbed a bit on the back of the ribbon opposite the buttonholes, then carefully cut slits through the glued parts. No fraying. It's not beautiful on the backside, and if my skills ever improve, I can try buttonhole stitching over the glue-discolored sections -- maybe with individual plies of yarn rather than thread?

I'm happy with the end result, though. The edge is much sturdier all around. It drapes from my neck better, and the button band doesn't gap any more. I'm glad I went outside my comfort zone and tried this. I learned a lot -- maybe more about what NOT to do -- but I'll have a better idea how to approach this next time.

I really need to get a machine and learn to sew.


  1. They make a product called Fray-Check that does the same thing as the superglue without being, y'know, glue. :)

  2. Remind me to bring the sweater Snowden made me to show you some ribbon action.

  3. The difference in that sweater is amazing! I love the idea of fixing a niggling problem with a garment you're otherwise happy with!

  4. I would have used duct tape -- solves the whole sewing issue completely.

  5. Hmm. The one time I've used ribbon, I put it on the back of the BUTTON side of the band but not the BUTTONHOLE side. I don't think ribbon is the answer for every handknit cardigan, but it sure worked well for yours. Good MacGyvering there.

    You know if you have sewing questions, Joan is just up the road!!! And she has Fray-Check.

  6. Excellent result!! I have a vintage bought cardigan which has grosgrain ribbon and (I just checked) the buttonholes look just as if someone used the buttonhole attachment on a sewing machine.

    Anyway, I think it looks much better and very handsome.

    Coincidentally I also have the sewing machine out to sew the lining for my fairisle tote bag! It was only upon reaching the end that I realised that the instructions are somewhat lacking in detail, but it doesn't look too bad as long as you don't look *too* closely.

  7. Funny - the best cardigan I ever had had grograin ribbon down the side with the button holes. One of those details I never paid attention to 'til I read this post. Of course, I was a sophmore in high school, so I didn't really pay attention to such things. I wish I were this crafty (no pun intended).