A promised, here is the much-requested tutorial for adding Petersham ribbon to the button band of your handknits! This is a little trick I’ve done for nearly all my handknits since I started cranking ‘em out… it’s not 100% necessary for finishing your knits (so please don’t be freaking out if you’ve never heard of this technique before!), but it is super handy if you wear knits with negative ease and have problems with the button band/button holes gaping open. We are basically going to take a firm woven ribbon and sew it to the inside of the button band, so it will stabilize the knit and prevent it from stretching and thus gaping open.
I know there are a million ways to do this particular technique; this is my personal favorite TNT. It involves hand sewing and machine-worked button holes (although they are not sewn through the sweater as done in (Tasha’s tutorial from a few years ago). I personally like to use Petersham ribbon as my stabilizer – it’s relatively inexpensive, wears well and feels luxurious. You can also use grosgrain ribbon, seam binding, firm lace, satin ribbon, or even fabric selvedge – whatever you want! I ain’t here to judge :)
You will need: your finished+blocked cardigan, a length of petersham ribbon (this will vary depending on the length of your sweater, but aim for approximately the length of your button band x2 plus a couple inches to fold under), and your buttons.
NOTE: I am using 1″ wide petersham for this particular sweater. The width of your petersham may vary, depending on how wide your button band is. Always measure to be sure!
OPTIONAL: You may want to interface one piece of the petersham, so the button holes are reinforced. Just cut a strip of interfacing on the straight grain and fuse it to one side of one piece of ribbon. Set the non-interfaced ribbon aside for now.
** Yes, your interfacing will show slightly on the outside of your sweater, if your gauge is loose enough. If this is a concern (obviously it’s not a concern with this sweater; but I could see how using white interfacing+black sweater miiiight look a little weird!), you might consider making a Petersham sandwich and using two lengths of the ribbon with the interfacing in between. I haven’t personally tried this, but it makes sense in my head. Also, now I want a sandwich. I just ate breakfast. Fuck.
Pin the interfaced ribbon to wrong side of the button band with the button holes, interfacing side on the inside, and fold under the top and bottom edges by 1/2″. Try to center the ribbon so that there is about a stitch’s worth of overhang on the outside edge of the button band.
Use a marking tool to mark a small dot in the center of each button hole, on the interfaced side of the petersham. You may want to use chalk or disappearing ink; I used a sharpie because I’m a terrible person with no morals.
Take the petersham off the button band and, using your sewing machine, stitch button holes at each of the markings you made. Dab each button hole with a drop of Fray Check (this is optional, but I think it makes for a cleaner/non-hairy button hole) and allow to completely dry. Carefully cut all the button holes open.
PROTIP: Test your button hole size first on a scrap of interfaced petersham so you can be sure that your buttons fit the holes! Ain’t nobody got time for wrong size button holes.
Open your sweater up and pin the petersham to the inside of each button band. Match the petersham with the buttonholes to the button band with the button holes (being careful to make sure that each button hole is aligned so that they can be used!), and match the other petersham on the button side of the button band. On both bands, fold the petersham under 1/2″ at the top and bottom. Again, try to center the ribbon so that there is about a stitch’s worth of over hang on the outside edge of each button band (this is just so it looks nice :) ).
Now is a good time to check and make sure that the button bands are the same length on your sweater. If one is longer than the other (which can totally happen if you stretched the button band while pinning everything down), unpin and readjust until they are the exact same length.
Here’s another photo of the handstitching. Try to keep your stitches evenly spaced (this will give them more strength, in addition to just looking nice!) and try not to gouge a big chunk your sweater yarn with each stitch.
Don’t worry about stitching around the edges of the button holes. I always leave mine loose, and I’ve never had a problem with the buttons getting stuck and/or not being stabilized enough. I imagine if you were using super huge buttons – like, 2″ big buttons – you might want to sew around the edges, but for buttons smaller than 3/4″ it’s fine to leave them unsecured.
And here’s the sweater on me! (Hetty, in case you missed the post!) Notice that the lacework is nice and open, thanks to the negative ease – but the button band is strong and secure and there is no pulling at the button holes. Oh petersham, how I love you ♥
Aaaaaand, that’s it! Told y’all this was an easy technique :) Now, go forth and conquer that button gape once and for all!