Once I had the sweater steeked and the button band all picked up, I decided to teach myself another new trick for the buttonholes. I tried them as written in the pattern, and they looked sloppy. I also knew I wanted to do a double button band (with a facing on the backside), so I turned to Ravlery again. Enter Anna Zilboorg and her super cool grafted buttonholes.
I ended up buying this video to teach myself, but Whistling Girl Knits also has a nice tutorial that looks like it would work well. These button bands and holes took a little extra time to execute, but they are so good. They don't stretch out and they really add a nice jacket-like quality to the finished sweater. I will be using this method again.
I used a few other ninja techniques to make sure this sweater tuned out just right. The recipient is quite tall, so we wanted to make sure the sleeves were long enough. It can be hard to get this right with a bottom-up yoked sweater, so I used a provisional cast on for the sleeves and waited until it was all done to pick up the stitches and knit the ribbed cuffs.
This allowed me to get the length just right and use a tubular bind off in the round to make it look really clean at the edge of the cuff. I like to use the crochet chain method to do the provisional cast on, but you can also just cast on with scrap yarn and then start knitting with your project yarn. The crochet method is easier to remove later, but both methods work really well.
I was also stumped about how to deal with my steeks on the inside. With my double button band, I knew I could enclose most of the steek inside the button band, but there were several inches inside the neckline that would not be included in this lovely and secure yarn sandwich. After much deliberation, I decided that I would just cast on some extra stitches while I was knitting the inside facing of the button band to create and extra little strip. It's only about 4 or 5 rows, but I tacked it down to the collar and secured it with the rest of the button band when I was done. It perfectly enclosed the steek, and you can't see it from the outside. It's a win!
I had to add a fair bit of length to the overall sweater, and I chose to do this by adding main color rows in between the motifs so they would be spread out evenly. With this much pattern and this kind of construction, it wasn't really going to work to just add length whenever I wanted to after trying it on. I had to plan ahead. I did some math to see if the over all length would be pretty close, and then I mostly hoped for the best. I ended up making a spreadsheet to keep all of my yoke decreases and patterns under control. So nerdy. The knitting spirits must have been smiling on me, because it actually worked out pretty well.
I'm still not totally thrilled with the button band. It stretches out a bit and buckles in a few places. I might have done the button band in stockinette instead, but that would not have worked with the shawl collar. Perhaps a smaller needle size for the band facing would have helped, but I'm sure not undoing it all now. Maybe I'll thread some elastic thread in a few places or add some ribbon to the facing to keep it in place. It's possible that the heavy antler buttons are not helping, but they look really cool.
So, that's the story of my epic Dude sweater. In the several months since I finished it, this sweater has seen several fishing trips, multiple campfires, and lots of chilly nights playing guitar on the porch. I feel like it is really living its best life. And my favorite thing about knitting for others is seeing my handknits worn and loved and used. It's why I spent so much time working on this and teaching myself all the new tricks!