I’ve recently finished knitting a cardigan, which is extremely pretty. Cardigans have, historically, been a problem for topographical reasons. They often gap open in a terribly unflattering way, which is vexing and lowering to the spirit. In designing my own personal cardigan, I resolved that none of that nonsense would be allowed to go down.
I did a few things to avoid gappage:
- Included two inches of ease in the final product, to minimize pulling.
- Used horizontal rather than vertical buttonholes.
- Used shaping at all the topographical high-points in my landscape.
- Placed a button at the widest point of my bust, the place most likely to gap.
- Reinforced the button-bands by sewing on grosgrain-ribbon facings.
It is of this last item that I want to talk about today, mainly because that’s the thing that I took pictures of. If you’d like to learn how to add ribbon facings to cardigan button-bands, sweater necklines, wavy hems or any other garment element that could use some stiffening-up, read on.
You will need:
Thread that matches your yarn (look at how closely these match! I was amazed!).
Grosgrain ribbon. It has a ribbed-ish texture and is shiny and a bit stiff. The stiffness is important.
A knitted item that has been blocked or washed and is in its final shape. Obviously attaching non-shrinky, non-stretchy things to a knitted fabric that is going to change shape permanently later on would have dreadful consequences. Don’t do it.
Step 1: Pin the grosgrain ribbon onto the back of your button bands with straight pins, making sure a bit of knitted button-band extends over the side of each edge of the ribbon.
If the ribbon is too wide, I recommend folding it over. Grosgrain ribbon frays madly when cut, so if you must cut it, leave some extra to fold over. My button band is done with a double thickness of ribbon, as the ribbon was exactly twice as wide as the button band space. If you have a double-ribbon thickness, I recommend folding it and ironing the ribbon as folded before pinning it into place. From what I’ve learned reading sewing blogs, the rule is Measure Twice, Cut Once, Iron All the Time.
Step 2: Once you’ve pinned in the ribbon, mark where the buttonholes are (use chalk, perhaps) and cut them open using a flat cut– you’re making slits, not holes (X-acto knives are handy for this). You may have to un-pin to cut. After cutting (keep your buttons close at hand and make sure your buttonholes are large enough. Knitting stretches, ribbon does not.), reinforce the sides of the buttonholes (which will fray) using the buttonhole stitch.
Step 3: When this is done, repin the ribbon where you’ve unpinned it and start stitching around the edges with the matching thread. Bigger stitches on back, little tiny ones on visible knitted front, but make sure you’re catching yarn all the way. You don’t want to look back and realize you’ve merrily stitched the grosgrain ribbon to itself this whole time, missing the knitted fabric entirely.
As you can see from the first photo I posted, you should reinforce both sides. If you have a severe and awful ribbon shortage, you might be able to get away with reinforcing only the buttonhole side.
Step 4: When all is stitched, iron again, and (presuming your knitted buttonholes and grosgrain buttonholes are in the same places) you’re done! A good reinforced facing is invisible from the front side of the garment, so if yours isn’t, unpick your stitches and try again. You don’t actually have to attach the ribbon and knitted buttonholes to each other, though you can if you like. The stiff ribbon adds starch to the stretchy knitted fabric and will prevent unsightly pulling.