Hot Tip: Off-center your buttons

Hot Tip: Off-center your buttons

Once you’ve worked out the specifics of where and by which method to knit the holes into a buttonhole band, it seems like an easy enough proposition to sew the buttons onto the button band in corresponding positions. And that’s not hard: Most people will line up the two bands, put a pin (or removable stitch marker) in each spot where a button should be sewn, and then commence sewing. But how often have you seen (or experienced) a case where, once the buttons are buttoned, the two bands no longer overlap correctly? You wind up seeing the buttonhole band plus 1/4 or 1/3 of the button band peeking out alongside it. It’s a common mistake: centering the buttons horizontally on the band.

What? How can centering the buttons be wrong? When a garment is on you (this applies to sewn garments and their plackets as well as sweaters and their bands), the two bands will naturally attempt to pull apart. The button doesn’t magically float in the center of the hole. Gravity and body mass cause the edge of the buttonhole to rest against the stitching of the button. So if it’s to anchor the buttonhole band directly over the button band, the stitching of the button needs to line up with the edge of the buttonhole. I used to have to stop and think about this every time, which direction to shift the button, but then I heard Pam Allen say it so plainly on a podcast: You need to sew the buttons slightly closer to the body side of the band. That’s all there is to remember. Sew the buttons slightly closer to the body side of the band.

ON A RELATED SHOP NOTE: These stunning blackened brass buttons I used for my vintage waistcoat are now available at Fringe Supply Co. I ordered a small batch of them awhile back to have a look at, and forgot all about them until I was digging around for the perfect buttons for this vest. I’ll be ordering more, but what I have on hand are now up for grabs! ALSO: the coolest little scissors you ever did see. Available in black, silver and gold.

Happy weekend!

NEW! Scissors and buttons at Fringe Supply Co.

PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tip: Mark your armhole depth

28 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Off-center your buttons

  1. oooh – love those scissors! totally unrelated… I’m having issue with gauge on Kate Davies patterns – we’re talking MAJOR – recommended US2 needle in pattern, I’m getting fairly close (but not quite there) on a us6! – I’ve spoke with several experienced knitters and we are all baffled. I’m typically a fairly typical knitter, generally using the recommended needle size or one size bigger or smaller – could there be a difference in the way we are doing “colorwork” that might account for this huge discrepency? Can anyone shed light? I love her patterns and am attempting her third (the other two both turned out smallish due to this issue) – working on Jazz Hands now, using a us6 would like to have them a little bigger but hesitate jumping up to a 7 or 8 using dk weight yarn. anyone??? happy knitting!

      • yes, we thought of that right away but her pattern is very clear about US numbering and mm measurements. I’ve got a note out to the designer (Kate Davies) to see if she can help. thanks for your input. hoping someone else may have encountered the same issue???? I feel like I’ve entered a knitting “black hole” – it’s bizarre!

      • wow – thanks, Ines. this might be part of the issue. I am using the exact same yarn but I’m not sure about needle material – who would’ve thought? I’m determined to get to the bottom of this – I love those Kate Davies patterns and want to work them without so much frustration. onward!

          • BTW, Ines – I just printed off your golden potsticker recipe – we’ve been making potstickers for my daughter’s birthday for years! It’ll be great to try these out – lentils…. what an awesome idea! Great “first sweater” too!!!!

    • I second Inês G. on the needle material having an affect. Are you using the recommended yarn? That can make a huge difference. What one manufacturer considers a DK, another sells as a worsted. Also, heathers tend to be thinner than solids, even in the same yarn line.

      There could also just be a typo in the pattern. Maybe check for errata.

  2. I heard the same comment by Pam Allen on and am applying the technique to a button band on a sweater I’m making. She also suggested making the buttonhole itself a little closer to the body of the sweater to also help reduce pull. I’m giving this a try, too. I’m always excited to fine tune my knitting and appreciate how our fiber community so willingly shares expertise!

  3. That explains why my buttons pull and expose the band when they are buttoned. What do you use to sew your buttons? I’ve been using the yarn I knit with and I think that might be wrong.

    • I generally use thread, but with my Bellows I did use the yarn, just because the buttons were so big. Not sure how long that will last, though.

      • I’ve been experimenting with sewing buttons first with sturdy thread (including the thread shank), then going over the thread with the sweater yarn in those sorts of cases (large buttons, chunky sweater). Seems like a good balance of sturdiness and appearance, but maybe there’s a downside I haven’t thought of yet! Time will tell, I guess…

  4. Brilliant suggestion about where to put the buttons. It may be the answer to many issues. I’m going to try it with a finished (commercial) sweater to see if the gap improves! Glad to know my own habit of fiddling with buttonhole placement (closer to the body of sweater, leaving a substantial margin near the edge) is officially approved !

  5. I’ve been admiring your beautiful button bands in the posts about this vest. I know knitting them took an age, but gosh they look perfect. Do you think they will be robust against that pulling/ripple-y thing buttonbands sometimes do? (Or is that not an issue with this vest, since the fit seems relaxed?)

    Also, I couldn’t find it noted anywhere yet — what method did you use to make your buttonholes? They came out looking so tidy!

    • A vertical band, especially if knitted at a nice tight gauge, is the best defense against the rippling, and why I’m such a fan.

      I did the buttonholes in this case as written in the pattern. I think I’ve now done a different buttonhole technique every single sweater. These look great to me.

  6. Great info shared Karen ~ thanks, and too, the lovely responses from all you ladies here…. great article too on the knit darling blog. …. and that perennially frustrating subject… gauge ~ be it needles or yarn!
    Just a question though to everyone here ~ in regard to a cardigan/vest pulling when buttoned, would that not be more of an issue relating to the ease in the garment, similar to when we sew a blouse or shirt? I have never had a cardigan pull when buttoned if the ease is correct.

    • Sure, but even on a perfectly fitting garment, the buttons are going to come to rest at the outer edge of the buttonhole (they won’t float in the middle of the hole), so if you don’t position the buttons accordingly, you’ll see a “gap” of button-side buttonband. The same button-positioning advice is usually given when sewing, in my experience (well, when making horizontal buttonholes, at least).

      I was one person who referred to pulling/rippling buttonbands above, but I didn’t mean pulling because the sweater doesn’t fit around the torso — I mean the ripply way some handknit bands flare when buttoned (this can be evident even with the sweater lying flat). That may be a matter of personal taste. I’ve heard plenty of people admire that look, just not me!

  7. I want that yarn. Your vest is gorgeous and understated so the details really make the thing. That yarn is special- and knitters will know even before they hear the story. Wow! Great button tip too!

  8. I must confess that I had to read this through a couple times before the lightbulb went on. Thanks! And I love the vest, by the way.

  9. Pingback: Blocking & Finishing |

  10. Pingback: Hot Tip: Mind your edge stitches | Fringe Association

Comments are closed.