Buttonholes can make or break the look of the project. If the buttonhole is not right, it’ll most likely stretch soon after we start wearing the jacket, cardigan, or any other project that requires using buttons. Then the buttons start to pop out of the stretched buttonholes, and before we know it, an otherwise perfect cardigan gets tucked into the dark corner of the closet.
The buttonhole that we are going to discuss in this tutorial, has never failed me once. I learned it from “A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns” by Barbara G. Walker and used it almost exclusively on all cardigans I made. It creates a clean firm edge with minimal stretch, and it is made in just one row. That means that there is no need to remember to do something to the buttonhole in the next row. Once it is made, we can focus solely on knitting the project.
The only thing that kept bugging me was a slightly “bumpy” look of the top part of the buttonhole, but soon I found a way to improve it.
So, here’s the slightly improved self-reinforcing one-row buttonhole in five simple steps.
For this tutorial, I made a swatch in stockinette stitch to help you better see the process and the result, but this buttonhole looks equally good on most other stitch patterns.
In the right side row, work to the spot where you plan to place a buttonhole. Bring the working yarn to the front of the work and slip one stitch purlwise from the left needle to the right needle. “Purlwise” means that you should insert the tip of the right needle into the stitch from right to left, then take the left needle out of the stitch, leaving it on the right needle.
Then, bring the yarn to the back of the work.
Slip one more stitch from the left needle to the right needle (again, do it purlwise).
Insert the tip of the left needle from left to right into the first slipped stitch (it will be the second stitch from the tip of the right needle) and pass this stitch over the next stitch and off the right needle = one stitch bound off.
Repeat step 2 to bind off more stitches. The number of stitches we bind off will determine the width of the buttonhole. You can follow the instructions in the pattern you use, or plan the buttonhole based on the diameter of the button you will attach to the project.
Normally, a buttonhole should be approximately one quarter shorter than the diameter of the button. If the fabric of the project is quite loose, make the buttonhole even shorter – approximately two-thirds of the diameter of the button.
Slip one stitch from the right needle to the left needle. It will be the lonely stitch separated from the rest of the project by the bound off bottom edge of the buttonhole. When you slip it, insert the tip of the left needle into this stitch from left to right, then slide the tip of the right needle out to leave the stitch on the left needle.
Turn your work.
Now, it’s time to make the top edge of the buttonhole. We’ll do it by casting on stitches using the working yarn that is now conveniently hanging at the left side of the work.
In the original version of instructions, it is recommended to cast on stitches as knits. Because we work on the wrong side of the project, the edge created by knit stitches will look “bumpy” on the right side of the work.
To avoid this, let’s cast on stitches as purls. It is better to use the cable cast on as it forms a nice sturdy edge.
Here’s how we do it (click here to watch this part of the video tutorial):
4.1. With the yarn in front of the work, insert the tip of the right needle from back to front between the first and the second stitches.
4.2. Wrap the tip of the right needle with the yarn and pull the wrap through creating a new stitch.
4.3. Place the new stitch on the right needle.
Repeat to cast on the number of stitches you bound off in step 2 plus one stitch. For example, because I bound off 3 stitches in step 2, I will need to cast on 3 + 1 = 4 stitches in step 4.
Turn your work. We are back to the right side of the project.
With the working yarn at the back of the work, slip one stitch purlwise from the left needle to the right needle.
Then insert the tip of the left needle from left to right into the second stitch on the right needle (it will be the last stitch we cast on in step 4). Pass this stitch over the next stitch and off the right needle. Pull the working yarn to tighten the slipped stitch. This will keep the side of the buttonhole from stretching.
The buttonhole is completed. Now we can continue working on the project until it is time to make another buttonhole.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.
Dealing with Unfinished Projects
Dictionary of Knitting Symbols and Abbreviations – E-Book
Eastern (Russian) Knitting Simplified
Knitting Collection #6
Simple Socks in Any Size with Any Yarn
Top-Down Hat in Any Size with Any Yarn