Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mandarine: Buttons

I finally finished Mandarine last night.  I spent quite a bit of time carefully seaming and sewing on the buttons.  On the last few cardigans I've made, I've used a method for sewing on the buttons which allows me to sew through the knitted fabric but not onto it, by placing another, smaller button on the inside and knotting the thread underneath it.  I thought I'd share it here in case it is useful to anyone.  I feel this helps the buttons be more stable and pull at the fabric of the sweater less.

I just sort of made this up - so if there is a name for this technique, I'm not aware of it!  Also, I'm sorry for the poor quality of the photos.  I was doing this at about 9:30 last night, so needless to say, the quality of light wasn't fantastic!

OK - here we go!  First, I carefully mark the placement of the buttons.  I like to use scraps of constrasting color yarn:

Next, I thread a sewing needle with a quadruple strand of sewing thread.  I cut off about 60" of thread from the spool, then fold it in half.  I thread the two cut ends through the eye of a needle and bring the needle to the center, then knot all four ends together.  This way, I don't have to make as many passes through the button.

I bring the needle through my knitting at the place marked for the button from the back to the front, leaving a tail of about 3 inches:

Then up through the button:

and back down through the button and through the fabric to the back:

and through a smaller, flat button.  Note that the tail remains - I'll use this for knotting later.

From here, I go into the other side of the smaller button on the back side, then up and down through both buttons (front and back) three times.  Make sure to keep the threads all aligned nicely - with four strands it is easy for them to become unruly.

After three passes through both buttons, come back up to the front, but don't go through the button.  Rather, bring the needle out between the fabric and the button:

and wrap the thread around the base of the button three times then pull tight, to form a shank for the button.  (If you are using a shank button, you don't need to do this.)

Bring the needle back through the fabric and out between the back button and the fabric, like so:

One thread is on the left side of the small button, and one thread is on the right. Wrap the left thread once around the button counterclockwise, and the right thread once around clockwise.  Next, we're going to tie a square knot:

BUT the second half of the knot will actually be a surgeon's knot:

Pull the ends of the thread tight and then snip them off close to the button.  And voila!  Nice, neat, sturdy buttons inside:

and out!

I'm interested to know if anyone finds this helpful, or if it has just taken me this long to figure out what everyone else already knew!

** Many of these pictures are clearer if you click on them :-)


  1. So clever and so simple. Brilliant idea and I had never seen it done before. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I've used a button behind a button before, but it never occurred to me to save the thread end and tie them together like that. It's great! I'll do it that way from now on! Thank you.