covered button tutorial

redrose

Here is a tutorial to make the covered buttons, used in designs such as my Richard the Roundhead Tam, and Scatness Tunic. (These instructions can also be found in my book Colours of Shetland.)
You will need: a plain button with a 1 in / 2.5cm diameter; thin cardboard (eg cereal box), sharp scissors, sharp needle, tapestry needle and a small amount of your choice of yarn.

STEP 1:

button1

Select a button with a 2.5cm/1in diameter.
On cardboard, draw a circle 5cm/2in in diameter (I drew round the lid of a spice jar).
Cut out your cardboard disc; measure and mark the centre point with a ruler, and, with a sharp needle, poke a hole through this point.
Mark numbers 1-12, around the edges of your disc, as if drawing a clock face.
With a pair of sharp scissors, cut shallow notches at each of the points 1-12 (notches should be no deeper than 5mm/0.2in)


STEP 2:

button2

Take your yarn, cut off a 3ft length, thread your needle, and draw up through the centre of the disc, leaving a short tail no longer than 1cm/0.3in

STEP 3:

button3

Draw the yarn across the front of the disc up to notch 1.

STEP 4:

button4

Draw the yarn across the back circumference of the disc to notch 12, secure it in the notch, then draw the yarn across the front diameter of the circle to notch 6.

STEP 5:

Continue securing the yarn into the notches by drawing it alternately across the back circumference, and the front diameter, in the following sequence:

6 ➝ 7
7 ➝ 1
1 ➝ 2
2 ➝ 8
8 ➝ 9
9 ➝ 3
3 ➝ 4
4 ➝ 10
10 ➝ 11
11 ➝ 5
5 ➝ 6
6 ➝ 12
12 ➝ 11
11 ➝ 5
5 ➝ 4
4 ➝ 10
10 ➝ 9
9 ➝ 3
3 ➝ 2
2 ➝ 8
8 ➝ 7

You have now created 12 front spokes, and 12 back loops.

button5

STEP 6:

button6

Draw the yarn from notch 7 to the centre, securing it around the centre of the spokes.
Bring your needle up between spokes 12 and 1 as close to the centre as possible.
Then take your needle backwards over spoke 1, turn forwards and travel under spokes 1 and 12.
Now take your needle backwards over spoke 12, turn forwards and travel under spokes 12 and 11.

STEP 7:
Continue weaving in this manner, working anti-clockwise, and drawing the yarn backward over 1 and forward under 2 spokes around the disc. This process wraps and defines the spokes, creating the ridged surface of the button covering. (If you run out of yarn, simply secure the old thread under the spokes, cut a new length, draw it up through the hole at the centre of the circle, and begin weaving where you left off)

button7

STEP 8:

When you reach the edge of the disc, turn it to the back, pass the needle under the loop between each notch, and lift it off the disc. Continue around the disc, lifting each loop off in turn, taking care not to let your yarn draw up too tightly.

button8

STEP 9:

Remove the button cover from the cardboard disc.

button9

STEP 10:

Place the button face down on the back of the button cover.

button10

STEP 11:

Carefully pull the yarn, drawing in the button-covering to conceal the back of the button. Make a few stitches across the back, securing, tightening, and neatening the button covering so that the button is completely concealed.

button11

STEP 12:
Ensure you retain a length of yarn long enough to secure your button.

button12

Buttons can be made in any size, using your choice of yarn or thread. Just make sure to cut your cardboard disc about 2.5cm/ 1in larger than your buttons. And watch out: once you start turning them out you may find yourself unable to stop . . .

buttoncollection

Have fun!

steeks and swants

anatolia
Anatolia by Marie Wallin

So, have you seen Rowan Magazine 54 yet? I finally got my hands on a copy yesterday and there are some wonderful designs in there. My two favourites are probably Anatolia by Marie Wallin – a beautifully luscious yoked sweater knit up in rich shades of Felted Tweed – and Sarah Hatton’s Melissa – a neat and eminently wearable wee gansey.

melissa
Melissa by Sarah Hatton

As previously mentioned, I have a design in the Magazine for the first time (woohoo!) and Rowan have also kindly included a profile of me and my work in this issue.

portrait

Me.

Additionally, I have written an editorial feature about knitting in the round and steeking, and produced a steeking how-to for this issue of the magazine. My tutorial includes instructions for crocheted and machine-sewn steeks, while my feature explores different technical aspects of chopping up your knitting, along with the history and etymology of the steek (did you know, for example that in Scots ‘to steek’ actually means to close or fasten, rather than to cut open?)

As part of my research for the feature, I had a chat with lovely Stephen West. I am a great admirer of Stephen’s approach to design, and really love his style, and I was blown away by the steeked sweater-pants that he began to make last year out of his Amsterdam thrift-shop finds.

swants2

For the feature, Stephen sent me some fabulous images of a pair of SWANTS (Sweater-Pants) that he’d whipped up from a vintage Setesdal sweater, but as these didn’t make Rowan’s final selection for the magazine, I can (with his permission) show them to you here.

swants4

For me, Stephen’s SWANTS really sum up the approach to steeking which I have tried to get across in the the feature – viz – to just go for it and have fun . . .

swants3

I love the SWANTS!

If you’d like to have a go at steeking and refashioning your own pair of SWANTS, Stephen tells me that a tutorial or two will be forthcoming on his blog this Autumn. Thanks, Stephen!

steeks 4: your questions answered

Why do you weave in your ends away from the steek centre?
This is just a personal thing: I know that many knitters recommend just leaving the ends in the middle of the steek (as everything will be trimmed later), but I personally don’t like to do this. I want the back of the work to be as clean and firm and stable as possible before I begin the crocheted reinforcement. When one is working the crochet, one is poking and re-poking one’s hook through the fabric, pulling up yarn from the back of the work. It is all too easy to catch one or more of the hanging ends, and get oneself in a wee bit of a tangle. Also, in the pattern I’ve just written, the start of the round is one stitch to the right of the five steek sts. I find that it makes things much easier and simpler to just weave in all the ends off to one side, away from the steek stitches, before I start to crochet and cut.

Would you recommend blocking before steeking?

I tend to give the front and back of the work a quick steam before steeking (with an iron on the wool setting, without touching the fabric) just to allow it to relax. I don’t recommend blocking any more vigorously than that – if the stitches are stretched significantly before you work the steek, then they will be more likely to want to pop out of the crocheted reinforcement. (I have seen this happen . . . AIGH!) You can give your garment the full blocking treatment when you have finished it completely, with the steeks properly secured. . .

How about working with heavier yarns?

My new cardigan pattern is actually knitted in a worsted / light aran weight (can you guess which yarn I’ve used?!) My samples (and those of the test knitters) used sock yarn and a 3mm hook to crochet the steek reinforcement, and this worked really well. With all yarn weights I would definitely recommend using a finer, strong yarn that won’t snap, and a smaller hook for your crocheted reinforcement.

Does it matter what colour yarn I use for the crocheted reinforcement?

I used yarn in a contrasting colour for illustration purposes. I would say that, just as if you were sewing an invisible hem on a skirt with needle and thread, that it is probably best to use a yarn that is quite close in hue to the main colour of your garment. If (for example) you were knitting a white cardigan, and used black sock yarn for the crocheted reinforcement, then you would definitely run the risk of the reinforcement showing through between the stitches of the sandwich edging.

Where precisely do you pick up the stitches to work the edging from the right side?

I’ve worked quite a few of these ‘sandwiches’ now, and I would say that for the neatest result (ie, for the edging to sit properly flush against the main pattern), you should pick up your stitches in the gap between the outermost steek stitch and the first stitch of the main pattern. See the diagram below: there are two pattern stitches on either side, and five steek stitches in the middle. You pick up the stitches along the pink lines.

Several of you asked this question, so I’ll add this diagram to yesterday’s sandwich tutorial, to clarify things.

In relation to picking up the stitches from the right side, and my instruction to “make sure you push your needle all the way through to the back of the work, and draw the yarn through from the wrong side,” Donna asked: “are you creating new stitches thru the knitting rather than picking up stitch from the front ie the already knitted stitches?” The answer is: YES. It is is necessary to pick up through the fabric to get this effect on the back of the work.

This is the usual way in which I pick up stitches and it is clearly not everybody’s way (which is why I mentioned it). And in relation to the moot “fence post” issue Lynn raised in her question, logic would indeed suggest that there should be one less loop on the back of the work than the front but . . . having made multiple sandwiches, I have honestly never noticed this. I always check that the number of stitches is the same for back and front needles before beginning to knit them together and it always is… I have been told by my knitting buddies that I pick up stitches in an “odd” way, and I generally begin the process by attaching a slip-knot loop to the back of the work before starting to pull the yarn through. . . perhaps this provides me with an extra stitch? Your thoughts are welcome.

How do you work an i-cord bind off?
This is a very simple (albeit time-consuming and yarn-greedy) bind off. It is probably my favourite finish for a cardigan edge.
Here is how it goes:

Cast on 3 stitches using cable cast on. *k2, k2tog tbl. Slip 3 stitches from rh needle to lh needle. Pull the working yarn across the back * Repeat from * to *. At final 3 sts, finish by k1, k2tog tbl, slip 2 sts to left hand needle, k2tog, pull yarn through.

The result is a neat, raised, corded edge.

How does the sandwich facing relate to the button bands?

The beauty of this method is that the sandwich is the button band! You’ll see precisely how when I show you some photos of my new cardigan (hopefully tomorrow). Another fantastic thing about the i-cord bind off is that it allows you to create neat, integral buttonholes (by binding off a couple of stitches in the normal fashion, and working a couple of rows of plain i-cord over the top of the gap). It is (of course) an EZ method, and I use it on my Manu design, as well as on the new cardigan. It is by far my favourite buttonhole.

Could I use a different bind off?

Yes, of course. Use any method you like. For example, you could simply complete the sandwich by grafting or working a three-needle bind off when you are knitting the back and front stitches together. I am intrigued by the Dale-of-Norway three-needle bind off / picot facing method that Lisa mentioned in her comment. It sounds lovely – I will have to try it.

Could I knit the loops of the crochet reinforcement together with the back and front stitches?

I’d say not. You do not want to put any strain at all on that reinforcing chain. If you tug or pull at it in any way then you run the risk of the cut edges popping out. Don’t do it!

Thanks for all your questions and comments! I hope I’ve covered all your queries.

steeks 3: the sandwich

In this post, I’m going to show you how to further reinforce (and cover) the cut edges of your steek using a techique that I’ve called “the steek sandwich.” There are many other methods of binding / covering steek edges – but this one works well, I think, for a steeked cardigan. The front edges of a cardigan generally see a lot of strain because of the opening / closing action of buttons and button holes – and this method provides a strong facing as well as a stable edge where the garment needs it most.

Above, you can see the wrong side of the swatch where we left it yesterday, with the steek cut, and the crocheted reinforcement holding the cut edge. In the steps that follow, I’m just going to describe exactly what I’m doing, and provide a little more explanation at the end.

First, with the right side of the swatch facing, pick up and knit 3 stitches for every 4 rows, plus an extra 1 stitch each for the top and bottom edges. (I’m using yarn in a contrasting colour so you can see what I’m doing).

For the edging to sit flush against the main pattern, you should pick up your stitches in the gap between the outermost steek stitch and the first stitch of the pattern. In the diagram below, there are two pattern stitches on either side, and five steek stitches in the middle. The pink lines show you where you should be picking up your stitches.

When picking up your stitches, make sure you push your needle all the way through to the back of the work, and draw the yarn through from the wrong side (this may sound obvious, but people do pick up stitches in quite different ways . . . ) So, when you have finished, you should be able to see the backs of your picked up stitches on the reverse of the fabric.

The backs of your stitches should resemble a line of sewn running stitch. And just as a running stitch would, these stitches are further securing and holding the cut edge of your steek. That steek is going nowhere!

Now, beginning with a purl row, work in stockinette for four rows.
Keep these stitches live on the needle: don’t break yarn.
Here are these four rows from the right side.

And here they are from the wrong side, with stitches 1 and 2 of the steek, and the chain of the crocheted reinforcement visible behind them.

Sitting underneath the steek, you’ll see the back loops of your previously picked up stitches.

Now without knitting, pick up each of these loops and place them on a second needle:

Bring the working yarn round from the right side, and work in stockinette for 3 rows, beginning with a knit row.

Keep these stitches live on your needle: don’t break yarn.

The sandwich is now forming: four rows of stockinette on the right side, three on the wrong side, and, in the middle, the steek stitches and their crocheted reinforcement.

This next step is a bit fiddly, so take your time.

Turn the work to the right side.
You have two sets of stitches running parallel to one another: one set on the front, and one on the back needle.
Bring the working yarn around from the back and, with a third needle, knit one stitch from the front needle together with one stitch from the back needle, covering and containing the steek stitches and the crochet chain. When you have knitted each front-needle stitch together with its corresponding back-needle stitch, you end up with this.

A neat stockinette facing!

And here’s what it looks like from the wrong side:

All that remains is to bind off the live stitches. Here, I’ve used an i-cord bind-off (knit 2; knit 2 together through-the-back-loops) (particularly useful if you are working a button / buttonhole band).

Here’s the finished sandwich from the right side . . .

. . . and the wrong side.

Voila! the steek sandwich.

I particularly like the fact that:
1) if you work an even number of rows from the right side, and an odd number from the wrong side, you never have to break yarn
2) Because you just pick up the reverse loops from the right-side stitches, you end up with two perfectly aligned stockinette flaps that can neatly be knitted together.
3) No need to worry about whether you’ve picked up the right number of stitches on either side: the number of stitches is always, inevitably the same!
4) You can weave in your ends by pulling them inside the sandwich.

Points of note:
:: You can of course, work more rows to create a deeper facing. I’ve worked the minimum here: just enough to fit the steek and and its reinforcement inside.
:: I worked the i-cord bind-off from the wrong side. Personally, I like the way this looks.
:: The ‘sandwich’ is formed from three layers of fabric and, as you’d imagine, has a solid, almost quilted appearance. I think this is great for the front openings of a cardigan, where a facing is often necessary anyway. It also works well as a blanket edging, but because it adds bulk, would probably not work so well elsewhere.

If this rain ever stops, I’ll soon be able to show you how the sandwich looks on a finished garment!

Also, I noticed that there were some good questions on my previous couple of posts. I thought I’d answer a few of these (those that I can!) in a final installment of this steek series tomorrow, so if there is anything you want to know that I’ve not covered, or that seems unclear, please say something below.

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