Fridays with Franklin: Butthurt No More

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this project, click here.

It’s been months since I used my Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom and a pile of HiKoo Llamor to weave this…

yardage-folded

…which was intended to cover a cushion to sit on the chair that stands by the desk that Jack built. I mean that I built. I mean that is in my workroom.

The delay would have been far more inconvenient had I not spent most of this time away from home, teaching. A chair you cannot sit in cannot make your butt ache.

When my butt and I returned home for a spell, I readdressed myself to the task at hand. At butt?

Which Button?

I like cushion covers to be removable so that they can be laundered easily. Some like zipper closures, I like buttons, in part because buttons are cute.

Makers’ Mercantile offers every one of the hundreds of styles of Skacel buttons. I chose these square sweeties from the Corozo line.

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The turquoise calls to one of the minor colors in the fabric, and the square silhouette and holes echo the spare structure of the chair.

chair
You might well say that I put too much thought into choosing a button. I say that asking questions like, “What is the perfect button for this cushion?” keeps me from asking less pleasant questions like, “Hey, was that mole on the back of my arm there yesterday?” and “What is my purpose in life?”

What Size?

The seat of the chair is about 13 inches by 12 inches, and the fabric was 13 1/2 inches by 37 inches. That made the layout for cutting straightforward, since all I wanted was a dead simple cushion. I snipped 10 inches off the length of the fabric, and sewed up the cushion like this.

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Three steps. No rigmarole. Fold, fold, sew. The proportions in the drawing are off, I know. That’s not the point. But thanks all the same for pointing it out, you pedantic busybody.

That’s it.

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Sometimes, that’s enough.

Buttonholes

What I want to focus on today is buttonholes. I have a sewing machine, and the sewing machine makes perfectly good buttonholes. With an attachment. An attachment that is kept in a drawer. A drawer Over There, not Over Here where I am sitting.

I have used the buttonhole attachment. It works well. When I have a lot of buttonholes to make, the sewing machine’s buttonhole attachment is a jolly convenience. Before I use it, I have to fetch it from the drawer (Over There) and then dig out the sewing machine manual (which is Elsewhere) and refresh my memory as to how the attachment fits on the machine and how it works.

When I have a measly five buttonholes to sew, and I don’t want to get out of my chair and unveil the sewing machine, then go get the attachment and the manual, I’d rather do the dang things by hand.

I don’t know why, but buttonholes give some folks the heebie-jeebies–like they’re wildly complicated, or frightening, or prone to attain sentience and challenge you to a duel.

They’re not even slightly tricky. Try two or three on a small scrap of fabric and you’ll never again think twice about making a buttonhole by hand.

Here’s how you do it.

First, you need to mark your buttonhole’s location and length. On more typical piece of fabric–say, a woven cotton I’m making into a shirt–I’d either a pencil or tailor’s chalk to do this. Or, if I need to carry the project around for a while, I might mark them with thread so there’s no worry about the marks rubbing off.

This fabric, though, is very thick and fuzzy and none of those would work. So I marked each buttonhole with a pair of pins each, like so.

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Okay, so you’ve got your buttonhole-to-be marked.

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The pins mark the left and right end of the buttonhole-to-be.

Next, you’re going to make some tack stitches (simple, straight stitches–don’t worry) around the boundaries of the buttonhole. Long ones at the top and bottom, short ones at the right and left.

Check this out:

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The numbers give you the order of the stitches. Bring your threaded needle up from the wrong side of the fabric at Point 1, then down at Point 2. Then up at 3, and down at 4. Up at 5, down at 6. Up at 7, down at 8. Up again at 1. Your tacks are complete, and you’ll have matching rectangles on the right and wrong sides of the fabric. Don’t cut your thread–you’re going to use it to finish sewing the buttonhole.

Stage two is working buttonhole stitch over the tacks, all the way around. You’ll be using the same thread, of course, but in the drawing I used purple so you can see how the buttonhole stitches sit over the tack stitches.

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Don’t know how to work buttonhole stitch? Not a problem. It’s really easy. One step. I used it, decoratively, on the crazy quilt pillow. There’s a diagram with instructions here.

Now, a word on proportions. To make this drawing easy to understand, I’ve set the top and bottom lines pretty far apart. In a perfect buttonhole–the sort my grandmother expected me to make–inside edges of those lines of stitching would be about a thread apart.

fwf-77-buttonhole=closeup

Grandma was very particular about this. Grandma was very particular about most things. My buttonholes had to straddle one thread in the muslin (her practice fabric of choice) or they had to be ripped out and done over. Oh, what larks we had!

But you know what? The idea that a buttonhole must be made perfect, or not be made at all, keeps a lot of otherwise fine people from experiencing the joy of buttonholes.

So you know what? Forget perfect. Just try it. Make it the best you can, with those lines as close as you can comfortably get them. Then move on to this next step: cutting.

Get a sharp, small pair of scissors–embroidery scissors like these or these work well–cut in the space between the top and bottom lines of buttonhole stitches. Cut all the way across. Just don’t cut the buttonhole stitches.

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That’s it. If you do that, you get a buttonhole. It’s a rush, let me tell you. So do it. Get a scrap of fabric and try a couple. Don’t worry about making them perfect. Never mind what my grandma said.

Because making a cruddy buttonhole teaches you more about making buttonholes than reading about making buttonholes. And the more you make, the better you’ll get.

So I had buttonholes. Here is one.

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Imperfect, but probably good enough to keep grandma from haunting my dreams.

Then I sewed on the buttons.

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I slid the form into the cover and buttoned it all up. Wow, that felt good.

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I might put ties on it, using leftover fabric. Honestly, though, I’m quite pleased.

And then I had to leave home again before I could photograph the !$%*@ cushion on the !$%*@ chair.

See you, with a new project, in two weeks. Wherever my butt and I may happen to be.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Llamor Yarn (100% Baby Llama, 109 yards per 50g ball)
Square Corozo Buttons from Skacel Buttons
Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, 15-Inch

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

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