Buttons – More Than Just a Practical Closure

button coordinated with swatch

Charming, whimsical, elegant or simply practical, buttons add the finishing touch to your knitting projects. Buttons have an incredibly long history as a garment fastener. They have been produced from every natural material imaginable, carved ivory, wood, leather, even gold, silver and precious stones. Buttons do more than simply hold a sweater together. They can be practical, blending into the knit fabric, or the stand-out detail of your project. Buttons can also be handmade from thread and rings, or from fabric to coordinate with your projects.

Tips to keep in mind when selecting these irresistible closures:

  • when shopping for buttons, take along the swatch or yarn sample.
  • depending on the look you want to achieve, colors can match or contrast with the project.
  • choose a style that reflects the type of project. Leather or wood complement chunky or rugged yarns. Whimsical buttons, like small bunny and heart shapes work best on baby or children’s clothing. Pearl bead shank buttons look fabulous with luxe or elegant cardigans.
  • the button’s function or purpose should also be considered. A shank button works well on a heavy knit jacket, raising the button from the fabric surface for ease in opening and closing. One large decorative button may be all that’s needed, if it is the focal point.
  • match the button to the weight of the fabric. A heavy button on a delicate garment may cause the fabric to stretch or even form a hole. In contrast, small buttons on an oversized garment may look out of proportion.
  • have you ever had difficulty putting the button through a buttonhole, or a button that slips easily out of the buttonhole? Buttons should be smaller than the buttonhole. A good rule of thumb is to make the buttonhole 1/8 to 1/4in larger than the button. Purchase buttons before making the buttonholes, so you can experiment with button size.
  • for the placement of buttons see “How To Mark Your Project For Buttonhole Placement”.
  • for sewing tips see the post “Details Make a Difference: How to Sew on a Button”.
  • protect special or delicate buttons before cleaning. I’ve experienced button centers that dissolved through dry cleaning. I would suggest removing metal buttons that may tarnish, and vintage or delicate jewelled ones. Moisture may affect unfinished wood buttons. Generally, synthetic, ceramic and glass buttons can be hand washed or dry cleaned safely. Button up and turn garments inside out before washing.
  • it’s fun to make your own buttons, and there are many sources describing how to make crocheted, Victorian thread, braid and fabric buttons.
handmade wrapped braid buttons
Wrapped Braid Buttons
from “50 Heirloom Buttons to Make” by Nancy Nehring

Button shopping is almost as much fun as shopping for yarn. Buttons aren’t just utilitarian, but make a creative statement to complement knitting projects beautifully.