OMG, you’re NEARLY done! A hand-knit cardigan has a few more steps than a pullover – perhaps you’ve cut a steek, worked the button bands, adjusted the fit of the neckline, tidied up the underarms seams, woven in all those pesky ends, and even blocked your garment once or twice. Now you’ve chosen your buttons with care, and you’re down to the very last step in finishing a hand-knit cardigan: sewing on the buttons. You can do it!
Steps to sew buttons onto your hand-knit cardigan
- Mark button locations opposite buttonholes using pins or locking stitch markers
- Select matching thread (or strong yarn)
- Select a needle that will accept the thread (or yarn) and pass through the button
- Secure the thread (or yarn) on the back of the button band
- Sew through the button several times
- Secure the thread on the back of the button band once more
- Check how the button sits when buttoned
- Sew on the remaining buttons in the same way
This tutorial goes through each of these steps, with photos showing the button band details on our Storyline cardigan, a really fun, classic, cable cardigan that’s sized from baby-to-big! (This design will be released REALLY soon; sign up for our email updates, and we’ll let you know when it’s available!)
Mark button locations
Comparing the button side of the band to the buttonhole band, use pins or locking stitch markers to mark where each button is to be sewn on. As you can see here, I’ve used pins. With a ribbed band like this one, it’s very easy to count ribs and see precisely where to locate your buttons, as the buttonholes are placed at regular intervals within the rib. You will need to take a little extra care when marking button locations if your project has a less obvious pattern.
Select matching thread (or strong yarn)
Usually, it’s best to use sewing thread to sew buttons onto your knits because it’s stronger and less prone to breaking and stretching. However, sometimes I’ll use a strong, hard-to-break, sock-weight yarn in a matching colour instead. On occasion, I’ll unravel a multi-ply yarn to use a thinner version of the same yarn I used to knit the garment.
It’s also possible to use thread but achieve the LOOK of buttons sewn on with yarn. To do this, you’ll sew your buttons on with thread and then go over the thread with a bit of yarn afterwards.
Select a needle that will accept the thread (or yarn) and pass through the button
You’ll need a needle that’s big enough to accept the thread or yarn you’ve chosen. If you decide to use yarn, you’ll need a yarn needle or embroidery needle because they have larger eyes. Additionally, the needle, threaded with yarn, needs to be slim enough to pass through the holes in the button at least a couple of times for the button to be sewn down securely, so be sure to check that it will fit through first.
Secure the thread (or yarn) on the back of the button band
Secure the thread on the back of the button band at your button placement. I do this by sewing three little stitches all on top of each other into the same spot, effectively making a knot.
Sew through the button several times
Sew through the button several times, going in whatever direction the buttonhole pattern allows. I usually wrap the thread a few times around the threads between the back of the button and the front of the button band. Then, I bring the needle back to the wrong side of the band.
Secure the thread on the back of the button band once more
I secure the thread on the back of the button band in the same way I started – by working three little stitches one on top of the other, effectively creating a knot. I then weave in the thread ends and snip them down.
Check how the button sits when buttoned
After I’ve sewn on the first button, I try it out. I check to see how my side-to-side placement of the button looks within the width of the band. Then I can adjust as needed or continue the same placement for the remaining buttons.
Sew on the remaining buttons in the same way
This isn’t complicated, folks! Just get out your button jar, put on some music or phone a friend, and get those buttons sewn on. It’s the VERY last step, and it’s not so bad… The most difficult part is getting started!
September 3, 2022 @ 6:48 am
Also it can be useful to put something like a matchstick between the button and the garment to add a little bit more space. Once the button is sewn this gives you the opportunity to wrap the threads to form a shank. If the garment is thick, adding this helps to give you the extra length of button shank. Yes, it’s a bit fiddly, but if it makes for a better fit……. Another version is to put the matchstick on the inner part of the button band and you sew over it. Once you’re ready to do the wrapping for the shank, remove the matchstick, pull the button gently away from the band, bring thread to the base of the shank and proceed as before.
September 2, 2022 @ 5:41 pm
Your tutorials are always so clear and understandable. Thank you and Alexa for continuing to host them and all of your great patterns and inspiring photos!
September 1, 2022 @ 10:57 am
Mainly I can hardly believe where you have lived. I live in San Diego and I have dreamed of living in both of these places. You lucky dog!
September 1, 2022 @ 10:55 am
Where to find the pattern “storyline cardigan” please?
September 4, 2022 @ 11:25 pm
Hello Susan – it’s launching SOON! If you sign up for our email updates, we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available. https://www.tincanknits.com/contact
September 1, 2022 @ 8:23 am
Thanks for your wonderful hints on sewing buttons but too bad you didn’t discuss the dinner types of buttons not only the one you demonstrated some buttons are not flat and are a job to sew on
September 1, 2022 @ 8:16 am
I live on a small island off. Manhattan I love 💕 your articles made the antler hat big hit with everyone I made it for thanks Jeni
September 1, 2022 @ 6:12 am
I struggle with sewing buttons securely on knits. I’m great with sewed garments and thread, but with yarn on knits, the buttons always come off. I’ve switched to using embroidery thread. Still looks “knit” handmade but seem to be far more secure. Especially for children!
September 15, 2022 @ 4:59 pm
Dental floss is excellent for stitching on buttons (also for re-inforcing buttons on new coats and the like).