Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Accidentally Even

For the record:

Sunday night, when I was knitting, the time came for a BUTTONBAND.

Now, oddly enough, I enjoy picking up stitches. Especially when the designer says something like, "Pick up three stitches every four rows" instead of "Pick up 72 stitches." I like the ratio thing, because I can lengthen the body of my sweater as much as I need to (i.e. Quite a lot) and it has no effect on the pattern instructions.

Ratios, however, mean that you get told to "Make X buttonholes, evenly spaced."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Math.

I really hate evenly spacing buttonholes. Or decreases. But mostly I hate evenly spacing buttonholes. I try to math it every time, but it never seems to work for me. Maybe it's figuring out how many stitches to leave at the top and bottom of the button band before adding buttonholes. Maybe it's remembering not to count the buttonhole stitches while I divide my stitches equally. Maybe it's just my usual lack of mathematical acumen. Whatever it is, I have to frog buttonbands a LOT. Way more than I'd consider to be normal or healthy...Some of you may even remember this meltdown resulting from my buttonhole-spacing-related psychological problem.

Photo and sweater by MissMessie
It would be nice if I could manage acceptable buttonholes with some level of consistency, but I can't. Other knitters seem to manage just fine. But not me.

If you don't knit or haven't been initiated into sweater-knitting yet, here is a miserable summary of the thinking process for buttonhole placement, using my newly-completed sweater as an example (even though it is a bad example, because something happened with this sweater that has never happened for me before in my knitting-life. I evenly spaced these buttonholes correctly on the FIRST TRY.):

I just finished knitting the adorable sweater Antler, designed by Tin Can Knits. Here is the Ravelry link.

First, you have to decide how many stitches your buttonholes are going to take. So for this buttonhole, I used three stitches for each buttonhole. And I made five buttonholes. So 15 stitches were buttonhole stitches.

Then you have to subtract your buttonhole stitches from your button band stitches, and then you know how many stitches are left over, non-buttonhole stitches. I started with 61 stitches, took away 15, and ended up with 46.

Those 46 stitches have to be divided up between buttonholes. And while it would be easy to just say, "TIME FOR DIVISION NOW," you can't just do that. Because if you just divide them, you end up with some uneven-ness. See, you need a certain smallish number of stitches at the top and bottom of your button band so the collar and bottom of your sweater doesn't look stupid as heck.

So I left three stitches at the top and three at the bottom, because two would have been too few stitches and would have pulled and four would have made the top of the buttonband droopy. This is not an exact science. At least, if it is, I don't know any exact way to think about it. I just stare at my sweater and guess where the top and bottom buttons should go.

If you know a better way to go about placing buttonholes, I'd like to know.

So that accounted for another six stitches, which was something. that left me with 40.

And this was where the magic happened...

Five buttons.

Four spaces between buttons.

40 stitches.

(And then the math just happened in my brain the way my elementary school teachers always hoped it would.)

There would be ten stitches between buttonholes.

It was like magic. I don't know how it happened. Usually I have to rip and re-knit the buttonhole row six or seven times! Sometimes I end up leaving the sweater in a project bag for months while I ignore the problem! But this time, no!

This time my sweater was MAGIC and the buttonholes actually evenly spaced THEMSELVES.

Either that, or my subconscious is better at math and placing buttonholes evenly than I am.

Do any of you have an equation for buttonhole placement that works? Button-related advice in general? Clearly, I could use all the help I can get.

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