Thursday, 12 July 2007

Buttoned up

Like lots of knitters, I don't enjoy seams very much. Being self-taught, I've never had anyone to learn me better: I'm sure that if I were to watch a proficient finisher sewing up an item, and observe the patience and care required, I would sort out my own sloppy habits sharpish (maybe the Knitting Curmudgeon's finishing class would be a good start; ideally I need a day with my Grandma, who finishes all things to reversible perfection). But for now, the best solution is avoiding all seams as far as possible, and to that end Matilda Jane is an ideal pattern.

I've just started on the knitted-in button bands and facing. Knitting-in gave me one of those deeply satisfying "ah!" moments, much like turning a heel for the first time: my muddled imaginings of what the directions meant gave way to the happy reality of the knitting in my hands doing what it was supposed to do. (I love those moments almost as much as I dread and hate the moments of, "oh no, what heinous screw-up have I inflicted on my knitting now?")

The only part of the pattern I feel inclined to fiddle with is the buttonholes. Ysolda writes the pattern with two-row buttonholes, but for me, this results in a sloppy and unattractive finish: my two-row buttonholes are too ugly to wear open, and too loose to catch a button. So I've substituted the one-row buttonhole described by Maggie Rigghetti in Knitting in Plain English as "the neatest buttonhole". It really is a huge improvement, and not nearly as tricky an operation as Rigghetti builds it up to be. You can also find instructions for this clever little hole on Knitting Help, but I would always rather refer people to a chapter called "Buttonholes are Bastards."

And where there are buttonholes, of course there must be buttons. Lots and lots of pretty buttons scooped up in the sale at John Lewis. When I was little, being allowed to play with my Mum's button-box (an old shortcake tin printed with a tartan pattern) was among the biggest treats I could be allowed: acquiring a button-box of my own is one of the exclusive rites by which I mark my induction to adulthood. Predictably enough, it turns out that none of these buttons will do for Matilda Jane, so I now have a stash of buttons to add to the mountain of yarn - but at least, thanks to HB33's comments, the yarn mountain is feeling a bit more purposeful again.

PS I feel the need to put in a quick plug for a fellow blogger: my friend Rachael of Purly Q has just put up some pdfs from a vintage pattern book called Knitted Garments for All. The patterns are adorable, and so is her description of finding the book.

6 comments:

Queen of the froggers. said...

My buttonholes were scraggy too so I had to sew them round to neaten them up. Thank you for the tip on the other sort of buttonhole!

Sarah said...

My Mum's button tin was a tartan shortbread tin too - will have to try and find one to store my buttons in

Helen said...

I have my Grandma's button collection, some people thought it odd that her sewing and knitting things meant so much to me.

Buttonholes ARE bastards.

clarabelle said...

Webbo, I'm well impressed!]

Buttonholes have remainded, for me, an undiscovered glory hole!

clarabelle said...

even remained.....

Lynette said...

Funnily enough my husband and I felt we had become a 'Family' when we started a button box. I also try to remember to remove button from things and there is a mountain of memories in the box now after 33 years.