When I wrote the Pullovers for first-timers post, I planned for it to be quickly followed by “Cardigans for first-timers.” I’ve basically been writing that sequel for a year. Obviously the difference between the two — what makes a cardigan a cardigan — is that a cardigan has an opening down the front. Which seems simple enough, but there are a thousand different approaches to that opening. Are the front selvages straight up and down (leading to a crewneck) or sloping (leading to a v-neck)? Are there closures — buttons, toggles, a zipper? Are those closures attached to a button band? And if so, how is that button band created? And not every cardigan has bands or closures — in the past few years, there have even been a flood of sweaters designed to be worn right-side up and upside down. In other words, cardigan construction is a little bit complicated to talk about.
When we kicked off the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, I debated about whether to address the button bands up front or at the point where they’re actually worked in the Amanda pattern, which is at the end. I decided on the latter — even though those of us knitting Amanda had to make a decision up front about whether or not to knit the bands as written. We’ve spoken of that decision in a couple of posts so far (meet the panel and progress report), and it’s been brought to my attention that for the thousands of you reading along rather than knitting along, you don’t know how it’s written.
I’m not sure what I was smoking last week when I said Anna was almost to the join and would hopefully be able to photograph it soon. She is working on her third body piece (she’s done with the back and one front; now knitting the other front) but still has sleeves to knit before she can join the pieces at the underarms! Duh. So while we all keep knitting, let’s pause for a minute and talk about those button bands.
Button bands, like I said, are complicated, but since the Amanda cardigan has straight fronts and a crewneck, this is the easiest type to talk about. Typically, with a straight selvage like this, you would do the bands in one of three ways: 1) Knit them at the same time as the body of the sweater, all of a piece. Generally in that case the “band” stitches — and inch or two of stitches at each front edge — are worked in garter or seed stitch or something relatively firm. Ribbing generally requires a smaller needle than the main fabric, so is not such a good choice for this approach. 2) Pick up stitches along the selvage and work 2×2 ribbing perpendicular to the sweater. For an example of that type of band, take a look at my Acer. 3) Knit two separate vertical bands of 1×1 ribbing and seam them along the fronts. Tightly knit vertical 1×1 ribbing is very clean-looking, and that seam provides stability, but not everyone wants to seam their bands on. (Of course, there are more than these three basic options. And a v-neck cardigan is a whole different can of worms.)
The way Amanda is written is a hybrid of 1 and 3. You cast on all of your front stitches and work the ribbing on the smaller needle. When you’re ready to switch to the larger needle and start working the main fabric, you set aside the button-band stitches on a holder. I asked knitalonger @dxlcarson if I could borrow her pretty photo above, which gives us a really clear look at this. Once the sweater is completed all the way up to the neck, you put those band stitches back on the smaller needle, work the bands to the same length as the fronts, and then seam them on. Again, the reason for not just knitting them concurrently with the body is that the smaller needle creates a tighter, firmer rib, and also creates a difference in row gauge, which you can finesse when you’re seaming them on. So the decision we were each making up front was whether to go ahead and cast on those button band stitches at the outset, or leave them off and do the bands a different way later on. Jaime is actually knitting hers along with the body. Kate and I both opted to leave them off. I think Kate is considering doing picked-up bands (#2). I’m doing separate vertical bands (#3) and am planning to back them with ribbon for a really traditional look, which will also negate the kind of gaping you tend to get with handknit button bands.
On a related note: Saturday I spent eight hours alone in my car, and I took it as an opportunity to listen to knit.fm. I had heard the first two episodes of Hannah Fettig and Pam Allen’s podcast last year, and loved it enough to have sponsored the first two eps this year, but had never gotten to listen to the rest. I had just listened to ep 3 on a walk last week, so I started in on Saturday at episode 4, which happened to be about button bands! If you’re new to the subject (or even if you’re not), it is worth a listen. The whole series is fantastic.
So that’s what I have to say about Amanda button bands. Button holes, we’ll address another day.
PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 4
Photo © @dxlcarson, used with permission