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Five tips for choosing buttons for your chunky, oversized knitting project

Selecting buttons for your knitting project using super bulky yarn is a piece of cake … or is it?  Those beautifully tiny buttons you’ve been waiting to use aren’t great choices for a super bulky knit; however, there are many, many button options available to you!  Here are five tips to help you in your selection process.

  1. Proportion, proportion, proportion. If you want your buttons to stand out, they need to be large enough to do so against a knitted fabric of super bulky yarn.  My rule of thumb is to use buttons no smaller than 1″ wide (I’ve sometimes used 7/8″ wide buttons, barely less than an 1″ across).  Think 1.75-2 times the width of one strand of your yarn.  At least.
  2. Standing out against a pattern. Is your yarn variegated in color?  Or knitted colorwork?  Your buttons have to work a little harder to stand out against different colors.  Choosing buttons in a contrasting color or a larger size will help!
  3. Light vs. heavy weight. Just because you’re using super bulky yarn doesn’t mean your buttons have to be very heavy.  In fact, heavy buttons may be unsuitable!  For instance, stoneware buttons are just too heavy to use with many yarns or with yarns knit in a lacy pattern.  If the yarn/fabric isn’t heavy or solid enough to hold up the weight of the button, you’ll always be adjusting your accessory garment to compensate.  And the button(s) may even stretch the fabric.  I use my own polymer buttons (SUPER lightweight) with wool/acrylic blend super bulky yarn (also lightweight).  I use heavier ceramic or glass buttons with 100% wool that is sturdier and heavier in weight.
  4. Durability. How durable do your buttons need to be for both the project and your wearer. Buttons tend to get bashed about.  If your buttons are for outerwear (coat, cowl, etc.), you may want to avoid easily scratched up or splintered softer woods or delicate porcelain or thin glass. Also, will the button color rub right off on to your project?  Dyed woods, bone or shell could very well do so.  Will the color run off if wet (what a bummer if you find this to be true out in the snow or rain!)?  You can always add several coats of polyurethane to a button to increase durability and water resistance.  Or coat your button using resin for ultimate durability!
  5. Size does matter. If your project includes buttonholes, make sure that your buttons are a little larger than the holes.  If they’re the same width or smaller, they’ll continuously slip out of the buttonholes.  Knit a swatch using your chosen yarn, knitting in a buttonhole, and try buttons against the swatch in the shops you visit.  Many of my patterns don’t use buttonholes at all; instead, you slip the buttons between stitches or through a lace eyelet.  Make sure you buttons fit into those spaces and that they won’t slip right back out!

I’ll post a tutorial soon about how to sew on buttons, including how to create a shank button out of a two or four hole button!

What do you keep in mind when selecting buttons?  What have you learned the hard way (hehe)?

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