Button, Button: Tips for Bringing Closure to a Pretty Sweater

The cute little Bolero from Interweave's book Feminine Knits is indeed done. I bound it off Wednesday morning, and then made some coffee, turned on an audiobook, and sat down to be a good girl and weave in all the (double-digit) ends. (It took two cups of coffee. There were a LOT of ends!)


Then a gleeful pawing-through of my button stash ensued, as the bolero needed a closure. The pattern called for a ribbon to be woven through the collar ribbing and then tied in front, but I wasn't really happy with the idea of a bow sitting center front at my bust.

My button stash is a small but enchanting place…a few dozen carefully chosen vintage and handmade buttons, made of glass, polymer, bakelite, shell, steel, and plastic. My stash is small, because I know myself too well: Let me loose in a button shop and I am likely to lose my wee tiny mind and wake up an hour later standing on the sidewalk with an armload full of bags of precious sew-on sparklies. Thus, buttons shops are forbidden territory for La Sandita; online button vendors are also (mostly) off-limits for me. However, if you are free to indulge your inner magpie, I encourage you to invest in a modest button stash, so that when that last end is woven in on a new knitted sweater, you can pull out your box of buttons and start playing matchmaker.

Tip #1: To really see how a button might look on your sweater, use a twist-tie or a small piece of craft wire to attach the button to your sweater. This method allows you to quickly switch from one button to another as you try to make your final decision! Be careful not to snag the yarn with the wire; if the ends of the wire are too rough, file them down with a metal file (or even a stray emery board).

The closure for my bolero has to be simple, as I want this mini-sweater to be a summer wardrobe staple; thus, no big funky-coloured buttons which might clash with half my little sundresses. That eliminated about half my button stash right away. (However, I might have had to lay out all my funky buttons first, in order to properly admire them and adequately judge their suitability. This admiration time might or might not have caused the clock hands to move halfway through the hour.)

I tried some small black vintage buttons, with loop closures; they seemed too fussy. I then tried some larger handmade polymer clay buttons by one of my favourite Colorado artists, Sarajane Helm, but discovered that a large button right at center front detracted from whatever necklace I happened to be wearing. That's important to me: I wear only handmade jewelry, either of my own design or someone else's, and I don't want my pretties to be overshadowed (even if the thing doing the overshadowing is a gorgeous handmade button!).

Tip #2: Pretty buttons, whether functional or not, are essentially jewelry. So if you plan on wearing a handknit item with a particular set of outfits and existing jewelry items, make sure the buttons on the handknits fit in. 

I found a small silver flower button that I really liked.
However, I was puzzled as to how to actually CLOSE the bolero if I used this single button. The fronts of the bolero don't overlap, they meet in front, so I couldn't use a buttonhole. I could make a crocheted loop, but I didn't like the look of it when I tried it.

Then I remembered that I have an assortment of decorative hooks in my beadwork stash–these hooks are meant to be used as part of a pretty necklace closure. Another bit of Happy Stash Time passed (I may or may not have gotten slightly distracted by some crystals along the way), and I found a silver hook embossed with a leaf and flower design. Laid next to my little silver flower button, it looked as though the two pieces, hook and button, had been made as a set from the very beginning.

The button-and-hook closure is still only temporarily wired on to the bolero, as I want to find two little squares of black grosgrain ribbon or woven fabric to sew to each side of the back of the collar's fronts, giving body and support to the place where the closure pieces will go. This will help prevent sagging and tearing of the knitted fabric itself, as well as provide a more stable and strong surface upon which to sew the closures.

Tip #3: If you are sewing buttons down the front of a cardigan, find a matching strip of grosgrain ribbon or other firm woven fabric and stitch it firmly to the back of your button band. Stitch the buttons through the knitted fabric to the ribbon. Not only will this give a more professional finish to your sweater, it will also provide stability and support for the knitted fabric you spent so many hours knitting.


Sources for Beautiful Closures

Where can you find beautiful closures and buttons for your handknits?
First, look at the ads in your favourite Interweave magazines, of course! There are several fine button vendors who advertise there. (Don't forget the bead magazines! You can often find some very unusual toggles and buttons in those pages.) Second, search through the handmade offerings at Etsy.com–support an artist! Third, haunt your local antique/thrift/secondhand stores, as well as flea markets and estate sales. Some people have been known to buy worn-out garments in the thrift shop only for the unusual buttons found on them. (But I have no idea who those people might be. Really.)

Do you know of any good sources for buttons? Share them in the comments! Of course, I am not asking for myself. No, never. That would be selfish and wrong. I am asking for button resources only as a selfless public service for my beloved fellow knitters.

I hope you find some luscious yarns to play with this week!

— Sandi

P.S. I have a summer project in mind. I have yarn. I have needles. I have the pattern…what will I cast on for next? Tune in next Thursday and see!


Sandi Wiseheart
is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets: alpacasandi.



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