Seams and buttons

Regular readers will recall that in October I was in a rush to knit the final sleeve of the Tinder cardigan.  This was so that I could wash and block all of the pieces before heading out to Tucson.  The cardigan is for my daughter Emma, who lives in Vancouver, and my other daughter Leah was planning a weekend in Tucson to visit me and her grandparents. My plan was to take all of the freshly blocked pieces of the cardigan (back, two fronts and sleeves) with me, and while there to do ALL of the finishing, so that Leah could take the cardigan back with her to Vancouver and give it to her sister.  I blogged about it here.


This plan failed.  I did manage to finish knitting the sleeve on time and get the blocking done (just barely).  However, the finishing kicked my butt.  There were a number of reasons for this.  First, I was enjoying spending time with my mom and going for walks, lazing by the pool, etc.  I didn’t want to be knitting like a maniac on my holiday.  (Yes, I know – that’s what holidays are for, you knitters are shouting at me!)  Second, this is a big cardigan.  It is tunic length and made of wool.  Tucson was having a record heat wave that week.  Sitting with a humongous pile of wool on my lap while I painstakingly sewed very long seams in mattress stitch somehow lost its appeal.  I mentioned both of these in my previous post.  There was an additional reason, however, which I have not yet shared: the seams looked terrible.

Let me be more specific.  The raglan seams turned out really good.  The instructions for the raglan edging were excellent, and the mattress stitch seams worked out perfectly. Here is a photo of my mom modelling the sweater so that you can see the shoulder and raglan seaming.  (Only one side of the garment was sewn together at this point.)


Likewise, the textured pattern stitch of the sweater was easy enough to use the mattress stitch on and the results are not too bad. A good blocking will sort it out.  (One thing I did change in the pattern was to move the decreases and increases farther out towards the side edges of the garments.  I couldn’t understand why they were set so far in.  Once I started seaming I could see the logic; if I were to knit this again, I would follow those instructions exactly.)


However, try as I might, I could not get the sleeve seams to look anything but sloppy.  I concentrated really hard and went very slowly, but they just never looked right. The sleeves are knit in reverse stockinette stitch, and for some reason, this makes it absurdly difficult to get a decent seam.  Having piles of hot wool on my lap and sweating in the record heat may have been worth it if the seams were perfect; but it really was a slog when I couldn’t get them right.  In the end, I gave up.  Here is a photo which shows the messy seam:


Just to be thorough, here is a close-up:


Aarrgghh!  It looks like a two-year old sewed this seam!  Oh the shame, the shame!

Christmas is soon to be here, and I will be heading to Vancouver in a few weeks.  It is past time to finish this cardigan, so I need to buckle down and get back to work on it.  I have been avoiding it however (and doing a bunch of secret Christmas knitting in the meantime) because of my frustration with the seaming.

Serendipity struck early this week as I was catching up on my blog reading and noticed that the fabulous Leah, of the Fashion: Yarn Style blog, just published a post about the difficulties of using mattress stitch on reverse stockinette.  Leah actually ripped out a reverse stockinette sweater, turned the pieces back to front, and re-seamed it on the stockinette side (thus producing a sweater with a totally different look) because she was so upset with the look of the seam.  You can read the post here.  What really struck me reading this post was the following passage:

“I kept redoing my mattress stitching in efforts to improve this terrible line, because the pattern explicitly called for using the mattress stitch! But no matter how many times I tweaked or pressed the seams, they looked terrible. A wonderful reader has now informed me that the correct way to seam reverse stocking stitch pieces together is to use slip-stitch crochet.”

Can you believe it?  Wow!  Ain’t blogging grand? Thanks to Leah, and her wonderful reader, I can see that the problem isn’t my lack of skill (or at least, not entirely) AND there is a solution to the problem: slip-stitch crochet.

So, dear readers, this leads me to dilemma number 1: should I rip out the sleeve seams and re-do them in slip stitch crochet?  Before answering, I beg you to notice that the seams are done in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, the break-iest yarn on the planet, the yarn that will break if you look at it.  Do I really want to rip that stuff out and try again? Should I give in to my inner perfectionist?  Does anyone ever notice the inside sleeve seam anyway?

Dilemma number 2 concerns buttons.  Just before going to Tucson, I raced to the store to try to purchase buttons.  I went to the John Lewis in Reading and was highly annoyed to discover that my first 6 or 7 choices in buttons were out of stock.  I finally, after much grumbling, picked out the only remaining possibility.


I initially rejected these buttons because I think they are a bit too too small (also, I was aiming for wooden buttons).  I decided to buy them anyway, just in case I wasn’t able to find a better match later on.  They have since grown on me quite a bit.  In fact, I really like them.  But I still worry that they will be too small.  The button bands will be knit in 2×2 ribbing, the same ribbing as the bottom bands against which they are photographed.  Here is a longer distance shot to give some perspective on the actual size:


(Note: now that I look at the pattern photo on Ravelry, here, I see that these buttons are the same size as in the pattern photos – 3/4″.  They still look small to me, however, compared to the ribbing.)

So, what do you think of dilemma number 2: should I keep these buttons or go back to square one and shop again?  It is Christmas time and I try to avoid the stores.  I hate crowds.  I like these buttons.  On the other hand, they were about my eighth choice.  I don’t remember the other buttons, but maybe they were much better.  On the other hand, they may still be out of stock: having a second such button-buying experience would lead to more than mere grumbling.  Add in the Christmas crowds, and I may just have a melt-down.

So, dear readers, what do you think?  Should I stick with these buttons or do I brave the shops?  And should I indulge my inner perfectionist and re-do the damn seams???? Inquiring minds want to know!

37 thoughts on “Seams and buttons

  1. First, it is a pretty knit – can’t wait to see the whole thing. I would leave the seams. When wearing and your arms are down, they are not visible. When moving about, I don’t think anyone will be trying to examine sleeve seams. A little imperfection shows it is a hand knit. As for the buttons, I think I agree that they are too small and, for my preference, I think wooden ones suit the style of the yarn better – a little rustic. As for shopping, why not look online first? Maybe you can order some.

    Thanks for sharing your knitting ups and downs with us. Enjoy your trip to see your daughter. Merry Christmas you and your family.

  2. Definitely keep this seaming that you used as it will not often show I do like buttons but because of the type of yarn, nubby/tweedy,I would go with a natural color larger wooden button. These look like they should go with a smoother type of yarn.

  3. As a fellow perfectionist (and from your blog, perceiving that Emma might also share this tendency), I would bite the bullet and re-do the seaming. I like the buttons you have chosen, but looking at the pattern photos, I think the reason the buttons look small is the vertical spacing. I might choose to use more buttons, closer together.

    • Hi Katherine. I finally got Emma on the phone and asked her if she had read the post and had an opinion. “I agree with Katherine,” she said. “Clearly she has perceived my personality correctly.” Well, I can’t argue with that!

      • Having just read your most recent post, I am glad (but not surprised) to read you have ripped the sleeve seams. I hope to hear of a successful re-do! Have a wonderful Christmas with your girls!

  4. Great post on knitting quandaries, especially finishing! Finishing reverse stockinette stitch patterns has caused me difficulties and I’ve ripped out entire sweaters. My last thought was to try doing the selvage stitches in stockinette stitch so the mattress stitch seams would look more professional looking (anyone tried this?). My vote is to redo the seams with slip-stitch crochet. Thanks for sharing this tip! The buttons? Well, they are nice, however wooden buttons would perhaps look better. My first thought was to trying shopping online to replace them, however at this time of year, you may want to go with the buttons you have and get it done before your trip. Great sweater and whatever your decisions are, it really is beautiful …. Emma will love it!

    • Hi Karen, Selvage stitches certainly help. I think the problem here is a combination of the reverse stockinette and trying to sew a seam with the Shelter. Thanks for your comments. It seems as if there is a consensus regarding the buttons.

  5. Knowing the quality of your knitting, I wonder if those seams might haunt you later. The buttons do seem a little at odds with the yarns (modern vs. rustic) but I was wondering how they would look with the bar going vertically to contrast with the horizontal ribbing.
    But most important of all, enjoy Christmas with your family!

    • Yes, I think the crux of the issue is will I be obsessing about it always? That is a good idea about changing the orientation of the buttons. I will try it out, but fear tht the size issue will still remain. Thanks a lot for responding, Leigh.

  6. I think i would not worry overly much about the seams- change them if you have time, fix them, not if you don’t. Buttons- I agree- those are nice, wood would be better. I also agree, if you stick with these, use more of them. Can’t wait to see this one finished!

  7. Hi Kelly, I’m sorry, you’re right about the buttons, they’re too small and if used to do the cardigan up they will slide out of the buttonhole. Your gut is guiding you correctly. And you must redo those seams, it’s the kind of thing people won’t wear gifted hand knits because the seams are clunky.
    If it’s any comfort, this year I have redone a dozen garments I never wore for this kind of reason. I’m staring at a winter cardigan with Short Sleeves (why??) and deciding what to do with it as the extra yarn I need to lengthen the sleeves seems like a massive expense for something I have felt ‘meh’ about.

    • Hi Jen, thanks so much for the advice. In my teaching, I am always telling people to listen to their gut; clearly I should take this on myself. As to your winter cardigan with short sleeves, there are too many things to knit to invest more time and money in something “meh” – I say re-purpose the yarn.

  8. I vote to keep the seams. I recently finished a cowl knit in BT Loft – you had to seam the two ends together with Kitchener and even though I thought I did it right, I must have got my needle placement mixed up, because I ended up with a garter stitch seam, rather than the stockinette. I too couldn’t bear to rip it out but after soaking and blocking, the seam didn’t felt, but in the blooming of the wool, it seemed to merge more into the rows on either side. It looked SO much better and I was glad I left it. Give it a block and see if you are happier with it.

  9. Your sweater looks beautiful! Hope your daughter really appreciates all of your hard work! I vote for slightly larger wooden or mother of pearl buttons, Kim Hargreaves often uses those with tweed and they are very pretty. 🙂 Thank you so much for the link to my blog! You know, I found once I ripped out those seams and resewed them I was so much happier with the project.

    • Hi Leah! Your post really gave me the will to finish this project. I can always count on you for good advice. Thanks for putting so much effort into your blog. I think I just need to bite the bullet here and re-do the seams.

  10. Oh dear, I almost hesitate to weigh in here because it’s only my humble opinion after all, but without reading through other comments, I’d personally vote – easy for me I know – to redo the seams. They will spoil an otherwise immaculately knitted garment, through no fault of your own. The buttons are absolutely adorable – I’m a sucker for a pewter finish button – but I really don’t believe that they suit this time. Partly owing to the shape, as much as the size, I think that they will slip out of the holes. A little chunkier, possibly a little larger? I think the tweed makes the garment have a traditional feel, so I think the simplest, 4-hole style in a similar patinated metal would be AMAZING.

  11. Speaking for myself, I can’t leave anything that I am unhappy with. It would be all I would think about every time I saw the article being worn. Would drive me nuts. I do commiserate with you on ripping, I love Shelter, am knitting with it now, have had to frog/rip stitches and know how frustrating that is. Go slowly and grasp the yarn close to each stitch and as you know…don’t tug too hard! But you know that already… I have a love/hate relationship with Shelter!

  12. Personally, I would redo the seams. Why? You have put a lot of effort into the knitting of this garment and it will help get rid of that little voice that will forever remind you of those less than stellar seams on your daughter’s cardigan. A tip, use a different yarn (similar color) to do the actual seaming the garment (I saw this somewhere with regards to seaming garments made from Shelter) as it will be easier and stronger than trying to seam with Shelter.

    The garment looks rustic and I think you should follow that initial idea of wood buttons that are a bit larger than the ones you have already purchased.

  13. I’m going to agree with the redo the seams gang. Do twist the yarn before using it for seaming, or look and see if you have any sock yarn that would work. I like the buttons. I like the textural contrast. Why not knit the button band and then lay an assortment of buttons on the band and see what you think? And when looking at buttons on a sweater, I think one also needs to look at them from a distance, not just up close.

    • Hi Susan, as always, good advice. Plus, I noticed on Ravelry yesterday that you were busy ripping out a pullover you knit on size 0 needles – an original Bohus nonetheless! Who am I to complain? (By the way, the Den Rutiga is going to be spectacular! I am green with envy!)

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