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A to Z: Beyond the Basics

Buttonholes


Many different types of buttonholes include horizontal, vertical, eyelet, button loops and those made from contrasting thread. You can also use the yarn overs of lace stitch patterns as buttonholes. Such a yarn-over buttonhole will need to be reinforced by overcasting after it is completed. You can also make buttonholes on loose knits by simply slipping the button through the stitch. (This type of buttonhole must also be reinforced.)

Which buttonhole you use will depend on the type of garment, how it will be worn, the position of the buttonhole, the size and type of button and your yarn. For example, a coat with large buttons that is frequently buttoned will need large, durable buttonholes, and heavier yarn will make a larger buttonhole than finer yarn over the same number of stitches.

If possible, buy your buttons before making the buttonholes. Make a sample swatch with buttonholes to determine whether your buttons are the correct size. The buttonhole should be just large enough to slip the button through it. Since the knitted fabric stretches, a buttonhole that is too large will eventually cause buttons to unfasten. The buttonhole for a flat button must be smaller than that for a raised button of the same diameter.

Mark button placement on the appropriate band with contrasting yarn or safety pins before you work the buttonholes. On the opposite band, work the buttonholes to correspond to the button markers. Buttons are usually placed on the left side for women and the right side for men. Make sure that you use enough buttons to prevent the band from gapping.

Horizontal buttonholes should always be centered on bands. On vertical bands, try to have at least two stitches on either side of the buttonhole to prevent the buttonhole from stretching out. On horizontal bands, work the buttonholes when you have completed one half of the band.

You must work two identical buttonholes on foldover bands so that they will align when the band is folded.

To stabilize the buttonhole area when you use silk or rayon yarns, add a matching sewing thread when you work the buttonhole.

When making buttonholes, remember that when you bind off stitches, you must offset them by casting on (usually on the next row). Yarn overs must be offset by decreases. You usually work the first row of a buttonhole on the right side of the piece unless otherwise stated.

Perfect buttonholes take practice, so try a few before actually making them on your garment.

TWO-ROW HORIZONTAL BUTTONHOLES

The two-row buttonhole is made by binding off a number of stitches on one row and casting them on again on the next. The last stitch bound off is part of the left side of the buttonhole. The single cast-on makes the neatest edge for the upper part of the buttonhole. Some versions have techniques to strengthen the corners. All the horizontal buttonholes shown below are worked over four stitches.

simple two-row buttonhole
two-row buttonhole    
Example of a two-row buttonhole    
two-row buttonhole two-row buttonhole  
1. On the first row, work to the placement of the buttonhole. Knit two, with the left needle, pull one stitch over the other stitch, *knit one, pull the second stitch over the knit one; repeat from the * twice more. Four stitches have been bound off. 2. On the next row, work to the bound-off stitches and cast on four stitches. On the next row, work these stitches through the back loops to tighten them.  
variations
buttonhole version A buttonhole version B buttonhole version C

Version A Row 1 Work as for simple two-row. Row 2 Work to within one stitch of the bound-off stitches, increase one stitch (work into front and back of stitch), then cast on three stitches (the bound-off stitches less one) with the single cast-on method.

Version B Row 1 Bind off three stitches. Slip the last one to left needle, knit it together with the next stitch. Row 2 At the bound-off stitches, cast on five stitches. Row 3 Work to one stitch before the extra cast-on stitch, knit two together. Version C Row 1 Work as for simple two-row. Row 2 At bound-off stitches, cast on four stitches, insert right needle from back to front under both loops of first bound-off stitch leaving loops on needle, work to end. Row 3 Knit bound-off loops with last cast-on stitch.

ONE-ROW HORIZONTAL BUTTONHOLES

The one-row horizontal buttonhole is the neatest buttonhole and requires no further reinforcing. Although it’s slightly more complicated to work than the two-row horizontal buttonhole, the extra effort produces a fantastic, super-clean result. It is shown here worked from the right side (lower buttonhole) and from the wrong side (upper buttonhole).

one-row horizontal buttonholes
one-row horizontal buttonhole    
Example of a one-row horizontal buttonhole    
one-row horizontal buttonhole one-row horizontal buttonhole one-row horizontal buttonhole
1. Work to the buttonhole, bring yarn to front, and slip a stitch purlwise. Place yarn at back and leave it there. *Slip next stitch from left needle. Pass the first slipped stitch over it; repeat from the * three times more (not moving yarn). Slip the last bound-off stitch to left needle and turn work. 2. Using the cable cast-on with the yarn at the back, cast on five stitches as follows: *Insert the right needle between the first and second stitches on the left needle, draw up a loop, place the loop on the left needle; repeat from the * four times more, turn the work. 3. Slip the first stitch with the yarn in back from the left needle and pass the extra cast-on stitch over it to close the buttonhole. Work to the end of the row.
Tip:
Debating about how many buttons to use? Always err on the side of more. The smaller the gaps between buttons, the flatter and smoother your cardigan band will appear. It’s a good idea to buy the buttons for your project before you start knitting so that you’ll have an idea of the size, spacing and number of buttonholes on the buttonhole band.

YARN OVER BUTTONHOLE

The yarn over buttonhole produces an especially small space in the fabric and is used mostly in children’s garments. This buttonhole is accomplished by knitting two stitches together, followed by a yarn over. On the return row, work the yarn over as if it is a stitch.

yarn over (between two knit stitches)
yarn over buttonhole    

Bring the yarn from the back of the work to the front between the two needles. Knit the next stitch, bringing the yarn to the back over the right needle as shown.

   

EYELET BUTTONHOLES

Eyelet buttonholes are small and are ideal for small buttons and children's garments.

eyelet buttonholes
one-stitch eyelet buttonhole two-stitch eyelet buttonhole  

One-stitch eyelet Row 1 Work to the buttonhole, knit two together (k2tog), yarn over. Row 2 Work the yarn over as a stitch on next row.

Two-stitch eyelet Row 1 Work to the buttonhole, knit two together (k2tog), yarn over twice, slip, slip, knit (ssk). Row 2 Work the yarn overs as follows: Purl into the first yarn over and then purl into the back of the second yarn over.  
Tip:
Although most patterns call for the button and buttonhole bands to be worked separately and sewn on later, you can also work the front bands with the main piece on some styles. This simple time-saving technique eliminates the need for extra seaming, and allows you to space the buttonholes precisely along the edge of the sweater.

BUTTONHOLE SPACING

To get your buttonholes as evenly spaced as possible, start by placing markers on the button band for the first and last buttonholes. Measure the distance between them and place markers evenly for the remaining buttonholes.

To make sure your buttons and buttonholes line up exactly in the end, use this easy tip: Count the number of rows between the lower edge and the first marker, between the first and second markers, and so on. Make a note of how many rows separate each marker, and then make your buttonholes on the corresponding rows of the buttonhole band.


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