Tips for Adding Ribbon to a Sweater Button Band

Interested in adding a ribbon border inside your sweater button band? Here’s a very basic tutorial to get you started. Basic sewing skills are required.

You’ll need:

  • Grosgrain ribbon approximately 1/2″ narrower (give or take) than your button band. This can vary – you can use ribbon nearly the same thickness as your button band if you prefer, but keep in mind that the wider the ribbon, the stiffer your button band will be. If this is what you want, go for the wider ribbon. If your goal is to use the ribbon as a light accent, with the primary goal being to reinforce the buttons, a slightly narrower ribbon works best.
  • Sharp, thin sewing pins
  • A sewing machine or needle and thread

Begin by measuring a length of ribbing several inches longer than your button band.

Turn over the end of the ribbon by about 3/4″ (below).

Working on the wrong side of the sweater, use sewing pins to secure the ribbon in place down the center of the button band with wrong sides together. (We are pretending there aren’t already buttons on this sweater – be sure to do this before you’ve attached buttons.) When securing the ribbon, make sure you’re not pulling the ribbon too tight – note there is a tiny bit of slack in the ribbon (in the photo below).

Machine version:

Using a sewing machine with thread that coordinates with the sweater and a wide running stitch, start on one end, slowly stitching along one side of the ribbon until you reach a pin. Remove the pin, and continue sewing to the next pin. Your stitches should not make the sweater pucker or fan-out, so don’t get too far until you are sure you’re comfortable with your stitch width (this will vary based on the weight of the yarn).  This is the biggest obstacle of sewing ribbon to a sweater. Repeat down the other side of the ribbon (it is not necessary to stitch along the top and bottom of the ribbon).

By hand:

If you are more comfortable doing this by hand (which can often be easier because you are able to adjust your stitches as you go, if necessary), I have found the back stitch to be effective. As with using a sewing machine, you’ll want to make sure your stitches aren’t too small or tight – the key is to keep the flexibility of the knit fabric by creating a stitch that allows the sweater fabric to maintain its integrity. A tight, small stitch will not give the results you want. Instead, you can also whip stitch along the edges for a different approach. Note – it really does help to use the pins, so don’t attempt to sew the ribbon in place without them.

To add ribbon to the side with the button holes, you will need to mark the button placement onto the ribbon with a pencil (above), then use your sewing machine to stitch button holes into the ribbon. I like to whip stitch the button hole sections on the ribbon together with the button hole sections on the sweater before I secure the full length of the ribbon. That way I can ensure the button holes match up properly, and can then work a back stitch by hand along both sides of the ribbon, easing the rest of the ribbon into place so it lays nicely between the button holes.

Adding ribbon to a sweater (like the Bentley Cardigan seen above) requires a bit of finesse and is not an exact science – I recommend being comfortable with either hand sewing, embroidery or machine sewing to ensure the process is a success.

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