Tips on picking up stitches for a button band

I am happy to announce that I won the game of yarn chicken after all. I am a tad embarrassed at having made such a fuss over finding an extra skein of yarn when I turned out to have enough in the first place. (Calling to cancel that order is first on my to-do list for tomorrow morning). We're having a cold snap here, so I spent most of the day inside, knitting and ignoring the football playoffs, even though Daniel insisted on telling me about all the big plays. 

My finished sweater has been blocked and is drying on a stack of towels in the basement. Once it's dry I need to sew on buttons and hide the ends. Fingers crossed I can get some modeled FO shots next weekend.

I understand that some knitters are apprehensive about button bands. It's one of the fiddly parts of knitting that can make or break a sweater, and I've heard that some people never knit cardigans at all just to avoid the bands!

So while I wait for this puppy to dry, I thought I'd share a few tips on picking up stitches for the button band. It's not hard, but picking up stitches can be a rather tedious process, especially on this sweater since you do the whole thing in one go by picking up stitches up one side, around the neck and then down the other side. How do you know you're getting the right number, and picking up at the right rate?

Rather than just guessing, I did some measuring and a bit of math to make sure I got it right from the beginning. Actually, I started just picking up without counting but realized that was not going to turn out well, so I did some simple calculations and started over.

The pattern says to pick up a certain number of stitches per inch, so first I measured the length of the whole band. Then I multiplied the number of inches by the number of stitches per inch to get a rough idea of how many I should have total. Next, I took some clips (the red ones on the right half of the picture below) and marked off every 5" along the edge. As I went around the band picking up stitches, I placed a stitch marker every 30 stitches (the white markers on the left) so I wouldn't have to recount from the beginning every time I checked my stitch count.

It worked out quite well. I picked up exactly as many stitches as I calculated I would need. Now that the sweater is wet-blocking, I do wonder if I have too many. If the band doesn't shrink back a bit and lie flat when it's dry, I'll have to redo it with fewer stitches or a smaller needle, but I'll still use the same basic method. I'm so relieved I don't have to buy another skein of yarn for it, I wouldn't even mind.

The teal and orange removable markers, by the way, are for buttonhole placement. I noticed after the first row that they are on the wrong side for the actual buttonholes, but I moved them to the other side before I made that mistake.

I'm looking forward to wearing this sweater, as well as getting going on a new project. I will be starting another test knit for Thea very soon (this week, hopefully) and I've got a couple of quicker projects on the needles in the meantime.

What about you? What are you knitting? Are you afraid of button bands?


Jodi said…
This cold snap is great for knitters! Love your tip about button bands -- I do something similar, but less precise (i.e., fold it in half, then half again, mark with pins, figure out how many to pick up per section). The cardigan is looking gorgeous, btw.
Julie said…
Wonderful sweater. Is the pattern readily available?
Suze said…
Hi Julie, yes the pattern is called Plum Wine by Thea Colman (babycocktails on Ravelry.

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