Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Button, button

One way to avoid the 'homemade' tag

Espresso sweater
So, you've finished knitting something--a garment, accessory, table linen, whatever--and you heave a sigh of relief. You've spent dollars on the yarn and many hours planning and executing the project. And you're proud of it. BUT....it's rarely really and truly done.

You haven't finished it until, well, you've finished it. Those thread ends must be woven in, the  pieces seamed together and the edges finished--all the things that take it from the needles or the loom to a usable item. 

Shortcut the finishing processes at your own peril. No serious handcrafter wants to produce an item that screams 'homemade.' Although 'homemade' works well with jam and pies, it's a killer on handcrafted fiber items. Synonymous with second-rate and poor skills, it degrades the work. 

The importance of attention to detail in finishing simply can't be emphasized enough. It is often the difference between 'homemade' and 'custom made.' 
I recently received a high compliment from a knitting maestro who admired the sweater I was wearing and remarked, 'You could make that.' It was particularly sweet to reply, 'I did.'
Although every single decision--color, creativity, technique, etc.--a skilled fiber artist makes in producing an item contributes to the final product, finishing details are frequently the thing that  separates a 'homemade' look from the far more desirable 'custom,' 'designer,' or 'one-of-a-kind.'

Several years ago, I knit a sweater from Lisa Lloyd's Espresso sweater patternI rarely follow a pattern exactly, so it's no surprise that as I compare the original with mine as posted on ravelry, there are visible departures from her well-designed pattern. My changes were largely restricted to the edgings and finishing.

Since posting the photo, the buttons have garnered the most comments. The very simple directions for making the buttons are in the note section of on my ravelry project page, but I'm posting them here, as well, along with some additional thoughts on buttons.

Buttons: A closure or the focal point?

Dorset button
The distinction is important. Sometimes, you want to show off the button...and sometimes, not. Most often I want a button that complements, but doesn't distract. I want the focus on the garment. Usually, I make buttons from the same yarn as my garment. 

Probably the most commonly known handmade button is the Dorset button, which is worked over a plastic or metal ring. I rarely use this style as it's a rather large button when worked over most available rings. Sure, smaller rings are an option, but I find them  tedious and unless using very fine yarn, the resulting button can look unprofessional.

Espresso sweater, buttons
Most often I crochet buttons using the same yarn that was used to make the garment. Whether I make them using a button as a base depends solely on the yarn and the garment. Crocheting a button over a button with a shank and in a color that won't shout through the cover makes a button with a solid feel. 

The Espresso sweater buttons, shown at left, do not have a button base. They are roundish, soft and pliable. I first made the buttons over a button base, but didn't like the look, so I removed the button to achieve a softer look. Directions for both versions are below.

(You may also note that the finished edges on this sweater differ from the original pattern. The sleeve edges are finished in one row of single crochet and the front edges with multiple rows of Bosnian crochet, incorporating loops to accommodate the crocheted buttons on the right front.)

Ready to make your own buttons? Here's my very simple approach:

Directions for round crocheted buttons

[To make a button with a solid button base, you will need 3/8 inch shanked buttons, domed with a flat base]

Using a small crochet hook, appropriate for the yarn you are working with:
  • Make an overhand circle without a knot
  • Make 5 *SC in circle, ensuring that overhand is secure. Pull up to tighten.
  • Make 2 SC in the back of each of the 5 sts in prior row
  • Make 1 SC in the back of each of the 10 sts in prior row
  • Pick up 2 sts from back (1st from front, 2nd from back; crossed sts) and slip stitch to securely close.
[If using a button base, insert button and slip stitch to securely enclose the button.]

*SC, single crochet

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