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Is there any suggestions for doing machine buttonholes on a knitted sweater, using grograin ribbon as a backing? I have seen it done and really like the way it looks. Do I use the ribbon on both sides of the sweater opening, inside and outside? Do I sew the ribbon on by hand or by machine? any help will be so appreciated.
Kathi Mc

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Comment by Vicki on August 28, 2009 at 1:35pm
There are good photos of the grosgrain ribbon process at http://knittingharpy.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/button-bands/

I would caution you on a few items:

1. You will certainly want to reinforce both sides of the cardigan with grosgrain, otherwise the tendency of knitting to stretch - which the grosgrain is specifically designed NOT to do - will cause the two openings to develop a difference in length over time. In other words, over the course of wearing your buttonholes and button bands will begin no longer to match up.

2. Do work your button holes in the knitted manner then make your machined buttonholes on the ribbon spaced to match them. You can much more easily discard a length of ribbon and start over than you can re-gauge and re-knit a button band to match the sewn buttonholes on the ribbon.

3. If you intend to sew the buttonholes by machine through the knitting and grosgrain at the same time, you will want to secure your grosgrain to your center fronts then sandwich the two pieces (grosgrain and knitting) securely together within a tear-away or wash-away stabilizer so that your feed dogs and buttonholer do not become entangled in your knitted layer. Be sure to adjust your tension so that your sewing thread does not produce excessive wear on your knitted fabric (see below.) Please note: while you can do the process this way, it's a touchy business to not damage the knitting you've worked so hard to produce and would not be my method of choice.

4. Be very careful in tensioning your sewing thread through your knitting. Where the two meet, there will be a tendency of the sewing thread, which is made to be very tough (think of the number of times it abrades through the eye of a machine needle without breaking!) to cut through the softer yarn. If your stitch tension is too tightl, the thread will wear out the knitting. (Some yarns are, of course, more vulnerable than others.)

5. Do sew on your buttons by hand. This will allow you to address the tendency of the sewing thread to wear against the knitting by using a relaxed tension and will also let you make a nice thread shank that will keep the button from depressing too deeply into the buttonhole when buttoned up. Good instructions are at http://www.craftstylish.com/item/3854/sew-buttons-securely-on-hand-knits

Best of luck with your project!

Vicki Stammer
Comment by Peggy Stuart on August 27, 2009 at 6:23pm
Kathi: I have done this once, so maybe you need other advice. What I did was make the cardigan without buttonholes. I sewed the grosgrain ribbon by machine to the outside of the sweater, right on the edge, with the right side of the sweater to the "wrong" side of the ribbon. Then I turned the ribbon to the inside and pinned it in place. I did the same thing on the other side. I figured out the size of the buttonholes (based on the buttons) and how far apart to make the holes. I marked the placement with basting thread. Then I made the button holes, cut them open, and sewed the buttons on the other side of the sweater. It turned out OK, but I prefer the organic look of knitted-in buttonholes. Good luck! --Peggy

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