My mom recently sent me a baby sweater she had knit for my nephew (using my Little Coffee Bean pattern) because she wanted me to trouble shoot what went wrong.
As you can see in the above photo, the problem is that the button bands are cinching in. This is a very common problem and an easy fix! What causes this? Typically it’s because not enough stitches have been picked up. Usually for buttonbands a pattern will instruct you to drop down a needle size and then to pick up and knit 3 stitches for every 4 rows (or sometimes 2 stitches for every 3 rows, or 4 stitches for every 5 rows). This is because stitch gauge can be very different from row gauge. For example, in the Little Coffee Bean pattern, the stitch gauge is 4.5 stitches to the inch but the row gauge is 6 rows to the inch (so a stitch is typically wider than it is high). So if you were to pick up every single stitch and use the same needle size as you did for the sweater, then the band would flare out as it would be too big. So the solution is typically to use a smaller needle and not pick up stitches every single row (hence the 3 stitches every 4 rows).
I say typically…
Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes as they say, and this goes for picking up stitches too! Depending on your tension and the yarn you use, sometimes dropping a needle size and picking up 3 stitches for every 4 rows is not enough and when this happens, you wind up with a button band like the above photo. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, it just means that due to either of these two factors (tension and/or yarn), the ratio of how many stitches to pick up is different than that of the pattern writer’s. I think in my mom’s case it’s because she used a yarn with cotton and acrylic in it whereas I had used a yarn with wool and acrylic when designing the pattern. Cotton makes for a less “springy” and elastic yarn than wool, so I think this caused her rows to be a bit looser than mine were.
So what’s the solution?
Well I started with ripping out the bands so we had a clean start:
Still using a needle size smaller than what was used in the sweater, I picked up and knit almost every row from the top of the ribbing to the bottom hem ribbing.
I worked a few rows and bound off, and as you can see, the band now lays completely flat:
So should you encounter a similar solution, here are some options:
- Do what I did and pick up almost every stitch (instead of 3 stitches for every 4 rows), still using the 1 needle size smaller than what you used for knitting the sweater
- If the above turns out to be too many stitches (you’ll know this is the case if the band flares out too much), then try again but this time simply skip less rows as you are picking up (so if the pattern told you to pick up 3 stitches for every 4 rows, try 4 stitches for every 5 rows or 5 stitches for every 6 rows).
Another helpful hint: make sure you pick up and knit the very first stitch at the top and the very last stitch at the bottom – this helps to make sure your band will lay as flat as possible (not picking up all the way to the edges can sometimes create a distorted shape).