Knitted Covered Button Tutorial

Recently, I needed a button for a new cardigan I knitted for an upcoming Brooklyn Tweed Wool People collection (sorry, no pictures allowed yet). The button needed to be sort of plain, because the design is very clean and modern, but also compliment the warm coziness of the BT Loft yarn I used. Of course, I have some of the very best button stores at my disposal here in NYC, but why bother when I have the power to make the perfect button, right here in my living room?!

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button1

If you’ve never made covered buttons before, you’ve been missing out. It’s kind of amazing because they open up a whole new world of interesting button possibilities–including of course, hand-knitted buttons.

Covered buttons are especially great for using with lightweight hand knits that require larger buttons. Big heavy buttons can pull on delicate hand knits and distort them over time. I learned this the hard way, of course, so I’m very sensitive to gravity’s effects. Covered buttons are pretty much hollow, making them more lightweight than standard plastic buttons. This is exactly what I needed for my BT cardigan.

As I created my buttons, I thought this is just the kind of thing my Knit Darling readers would love to learn about! I’ve made a great number of covered buttons over the years, so I have a lot of knowledge I can share. Before I get into the instructions though, I have a few things you should consider.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button2

ONE
I’ve never successfully made a tiny knitted covered button. Because of this, I suggest you use a medium to large sized covered button kit. I like to use the kind of covered buttons that feature comb-like teeth on the underside because they are perfect for grabbing the edges of knitted fabric. I’ve used Dritz brand half-ball covered button kits with great results.

TWO
Select a very lightweight yarn–fingering weight works best. Most covered button kits are designed to be used with thin woven fabrics. Thicker yarn doesn’t work because it prevents the back plate from snapping into place properly.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button3

THREE
Use a smaller needle than suggested to create a very dense fabric. This is more of an aesthetic thing. The piece of fabric you knit has to stretch over the shiny metal button, and any little gaps between your stitches will become very obvious. I always use size 0 needles.

FOUR
Contrary to the kit instructions, make your knitted piece only barely larger than the button itself. This will reduce bulk inside the button, which will make snapping the cover into place much easier. Again, the kits are designed to be used with woven fabrics that fray near the cut edges. We won’t have that problem with our custom made knitted covers, so ignore the pattern on the back if the package.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button4

INSTRUCTIONS
You will be making a little octagon that is just big enough to wrap around the top if the button. You might like to measure the button to determine this size, but I’ve also done pretty well just estimating it as I go.

Cast-on about 4-8 stitches, depending on the size of your button (about 1/3 the width of the button). Begin knitting the piece in whatever stitch you like, and cast-on one extra stitch at the end of every single row until the piece becomes a little wider than the button itself. At this point, it should be about 1/3 of the total length that you need. Now, knit straight without shaping until the piece is about 2/3 of the total length that you need. Then, begin decreasing one stitch at the beginning of every row until the piece is the right length and bind-off.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button5

ASSEMBLE THE BUTTON
Look at your knitted piece and determine if the fabric is dense enough to hide the shiny button to your liking. If not, it’s okay to paint the button with a matching color (use nail polish, acrylic paint, or enamel spray paint).

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button6

Now, place the knitted fabric with the right-side facing down on a table. Position the top of the button, rounded side down over the fabric. Pull a bit of the fabric around to the back so it catches in the teeth. Take a bit of fabric from the opposite edge and stretch it so it catches on the teeth on the other side. You want the fabric to be tight across the top of the button, but not stressed, if that makes sense. Make adjustments to center the fabric now, because it becomes practically impossible later.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button7

Continue attaching small bits of fabric from opposite sides until the fabric is completely secured. Trim the ends about 1/8″ from the fabric.

Then, the only thing left to do is snap the back cover plate into place. Refer to the package to see which side is “up” on the back plate. This maneuver is always a little tricky, and occasionally I find it necessary to employ a hammer, but usually I can just use the edge of a table to press the plate into place.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button8

Of course, there are lots of opportunities to get creative with your covered buttons. Try different stitch patterns or stripes. I think it could also look cool to paint the button cover a contrasting color, and let that show through a lace stitch pattern.

KnitDarling-Knitted-Covered-Button9

Do you have any cool ideas, or maybe some tips of your own? Please share in the comments section below!

 

Machine Knitting 101

Since I finished writing the manuscript for my book, I’ve been trying to use my extra time to expand my skills. I’ve had a lot of fun doing so many different things like video production, web design, and even exercise (I’ve been working up to doing a push-up, and somehow discovered that I like running- nobody saw that coming, especially me!).

I’ve been all over the place doing things that have very little to do with knitting, but last weekend I brought it home (a little) by taking a two-day intensive machine knitting class at the Textile Arts Center.

KnitDarling-MachineKnitted-Lace KnitDarling-MachineKnitted-Hem

The class was taught by Mandy Kordal, who has her very own beautiful independent knitwear line. She taught us 3 cast-on techniques, how to make eyelets, some simple shaping techniques, and a few different ways to bind-off. By the end of the class, everyone had made a simple slouchy beanie. Here’s mine:

KnitDarling-MachineKnitted-Hat

I used two strands of yarn knitted together to get a marled effect. Here’s what it looked like right before I “casted-off”:

KnitDarling-MachineKnitted-Hat-InProgress

Of course knitting by machine is very different from hand knitting, but I was definitely able to apply my design skills. I have to admit, sailing through a 100 stitch row of stockinette in about 2 seconds was pretty exhilarating. I couldn’t help myself when I saw we had some extra time at the end of class, and I whipped up this simple top.

KnitDarling-MachineKnitted-Top KnitDarling-MachineKnitted-Top-Detail

I think owning a knitting machine would be pretty useful because I could quickly test out unusual shapes for my knitting patterns. But the machines are pretty expensive, so unless I find time to produce and sell my knitted items, I’m not sure it makes sense to buy one. If I ever saw one for cheap at a garage sale though, I would snatch it up in a heartbeat!

Have you ever owned a knitting machine? Did you use it much?

A Genie Named Safari

As a creative and curious person, I’m always trying to figure out how things work. That’s why I design knitwear, why love learning about quantum mechanics, and why I spend so much time watching video tutorials on the internet.

How websites work has always been a bit if a mystery to me. I have to admit, the Internet seems like a magical place. I don’t actually believe there’s a genie in my laptop named Safari, but the web still delights and impresses me on a daily basis.

I’m very fortunate that Brian, my web-developer husband, has always taken care of my website needs. But lately, I’ve been curious to find out for myself what makes my website GO. As a first step I’m learning a bit about front-end web development, starting with HTML code and CSS design.

KnitDarling-Code-KDIt’s been interesting, and not surprisingly, the more I learn the more I feel like I’m using my knitting pattern design muscles. I’m organizing information, using special abbreviations, and formatting elements in a way that reminds me of writing a knitting pattern.

I became curious about this stuff because I’m currently in the process of designing a shiny new website for Knit Darling. The process has gone something like this for me:
*design a few things, consult with Brian, find out that I’m crazy, go back to the drawing board, repeat from * until (what seems like) forever. Needless to say, I think more like a painter than a programmer! KnitDarling-NewSitePreview-KD

I’m under no illusion that I will soon have the skills to code any of my new website design for real, but I’m starting to understand how it all works together. So maybe I’ll have a few less of those “repeats” in my future!

 

A Sneak Peak at Graphic Knits

For those of you that love being first in line, I’m excited to announce that my book, Graphic Knits, is now available for pre-order! Both Interweave and Amazon.com have posted the book for sale on their sites. 

Pre-order sales are very important for authors because those numbers are what drive big orders from large retailers. Of course big orders mean a bigger audience, so I hope you’ll check out my book and order yours today!

business-cards-KD

Even though the release won’t be until September, I’m really starting to feel the excitement! I just received a big box of business cards, and I can hardly wait to get out there and start meeting new knitters.

I’m going to start organizing a blog tour for the book soon, so I’d love to know what your favorite knitting blogs and podcasts are. Please share in the comments below!

Needle Set And Pattern Giveaways

If you read my last post, you know why it’s useful to possess a variety of knitting needles made from different materials. With that in mind, the folks at Knitter’s Pride have generously offered a deluxe set of their interchangeable Karbonz Needles for me to give away to one lucky knitter!

KarbonzDeluxeIC copy

But wait, there’s more!
In addition to that, I’m also doing a pattern giveaway for three of my favorite patterns: Delancey Cardigan (regular or plus-size), Brewster Pullover or my Rosendale Slouchy Hat.

Knitdarling-Delancey-Giveaway Knitdarling-Brewster-GiveawayKnitdarling-Rosendale-Giveaway

Here’s how to enter: 
Leave a comment on this post telling me which is your favorite pattern from the list above. Please share this post because the more people that comment, the more patterns I will give away :)

The grand prize will receive the Karbonz needle set, and all three patterns. Runner-ups will receive the pattern mentioned in their comment.

One entry per person, please. I will email winners next weekend (March 23, 2014), so keep an eye on your inbox!

PS
If you’re a fan of free patterns (and who isn’t?!), you’ll love this new thing I’m doing with my email list. For anyone who signs up, I will send you a free copy of my Cabled Dad Hat pattern as a thank you gift (just for a limited time). The sign-up form is in the right column of my website.

Cabled-Dad-Hat3

 

NOTE: COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED FOR THIS POST

Needle Material Affects Gauge

Recently, I got a new carbon fiber interchangeable needle set (Karbonz from Knitter’s Pride). As you can imagine, I already have an extensive needle collection, so you might ask why I need a yet another set. The short answer? Gauge.

Each of my needle sets are made from a different material, which can affect both stitch and row gauge. I was curious how I would knit with my new needle set, so I designed an experiment.

I began with a ball of 100% wool yarn (Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted) and 4 sets of size 7 needles, all made from different materials:

1. Plastic Resin: Denise Interchangeable Needle Set
2. Wooden: Knit Picks Harmony Needle Set
3. Metal: Addi Turbos
4. Carbon Fiber: my new Karbonz Interchangeable Needles

I knitted up a stockinette swatch (30 sts x 45 rows) with each needle type, then blocked them all very, very carefully to be sure they weren’t stretched.

Knit-Darling-Needles-Gauge-Swatches

After the swatches dried and kind of mellowed out for a while, I took careful gauge measurements. Then I used the results to figure the dimensions for an average sized sweater that is 200 sts wide and 150 rows tall.

I was shocked!

The results really surprised me: if I knitted a sweater with one kind of needle versus another, I would have about a 2″ variation in either width or length. That’s a big difference!

Knit-Darling-Needles-Gauge-01

I was also curious about differences in my “flat vs. circular” gauge because I’ve had trouble with sleeves not matching the sweater they are attached to. So I got to work on a circular swatch with my wooden dpns.

Results? There is a difference, of course. If I knitted my 200 st x 150 row sweater with a circular construction, it would come out 1.5″ narrower than if I knitted it flat with the same wooden needles. Surprisingly, the row gauge was unaffected.

So what’s the take-away from all this?
While your results would certainly vary from mine, I think it’s important to be aware of how your tools can affect your finished objects and to use this knowledge to your advantage:
1. Knit your gauge swatch with the same needles you plan to knit the garment with.
2. Knit circular swatches for circular garments.
3. The more stitches in a row, the more a difference in gauge affects the finished measurements of the garment.
4. If you need to connect a circular-knitted sleeve to a flat-knitted body, make a separate circular gauge swatch. If you knit like I do, you might need to go up a needle size or switch to a needle made from a different material to get the correct gauge.
5. And for goodness sake, make large gauge swatches! (6″+ is a good rule of thumb)

I hope you found this post informative! I know I will probably reference it often in the future. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.