Better Buttonholes

I just finished tightening up nine buttonholes on my Maple Street Cardigan because they were too big and the buttons were coming undone at inopportune moments.

There are a couple of reasons that the buttonholes were too big. First, I used a cotton-blend yarn that stretched a little bit; second, I used a flimsy buttonhole with loose, e-wrap cast-on stitches; and third, I think I choose buttons that were a tad too small.

I vow (which is pretty similar to a resolution, no?) to use the one-row buttonhole from now on, except when I'm knitting tiny sweaters for tiny people with tiny buttons, in which case, I'll use the simple eyelet buttonhole, which works great for tiny buttonholes.

Here's how you work the one-row buttonhole:

One-Row Buttonhole

To decide how many stitches to use while working this buttonhole, simply place your button on your fabric and see how many stitches it covers.

Subtract one stitch, and that's how many stitches you should use. This example uses five stitches.

 Step 1    Step 2    Step 3  

Work to where you want the buttonhole to be, bring the yarn to the front, slip the next stitch purlwise, then return the yarn to the back.

Step 1. *Slip the next stitch to the right needle, then pass the second stitch over the end stitch and drop it off the needle. Repeat from *.

Step 2. Slip the last stitch on the right needle to the left needle and turn the work. Move the yarn to the back and use the cable method to cast on 5 stitches as follows: *Insert the right needle between the first and second stitches on the left needle, draw up a loop, and place it on the left needle. Repeat from * 4 more times. Turn the work.

Step 3. With the yarn in back, slip the first stitch from the left needle and pass the extra cast-on stitch over it and off the needle to close the buttonhole. Then work to the end of the row as usual.

And here's how you work the eyelet buttonhole:

Eyelet Buttonhole

The eyelet buttonhole is self-sizing—bulky yarns make large holes that accommodate large buttons; fine yarns make small holes that accommodate small buttons.

Work the eyelet buttonhole on the right side of the work as follows: Yarn-over, then work the next two stitches together. That's all there is to it!

You can use an overcast stitch to reinforce the buttonhole if you think your yarn might wear or if your yarn is stretchy and you want to stabilize the size of the buttonhole.

For many, many more knitting techniques, including buttonholes, check out our DVD workshop Knitting Around the Edge: Bands, Borders, and Buttonholes with Nancie Wiseman. It's a fabulous resource that will help you perfect your finishing skills.


Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

5 thoughts on “Better Buttonholes

  1. Hi Kathleen,

    I most often use the one-row buttonhole. Have studied the Tulip Buttonhole advocated by Techknitter and featured in your mag a couple of years ago. I honestly find that Tulip looks really fussy having to use the crochet hook and all, so I’ve never tried/used it. Should probably swatch one some day and see if I like the results better.

    I learned the one-row from the video. On it, she recommends casting on 1 more stitch than cast off, then in step 3 when you slip over, you’re left with a matching number of stitches below and above the buttonhole. I also slip that last stitch back to the left needle and knit it. I’m not sure if this helps or hurts. One other commenter noted that this buttonhole tends to have a slight “hole” on the left side (when viewed from the right side), and I’ve never seen that addressed by anyone. Your example above doesn’t seem to have that “hole”. hmm, maybe I’m pulling something too tight or shouldn’t knit that last stitch?

  2. I like to use eyelet buttonholes, and have a simple trick for using bigger buttons with fine yarn- simply wrap the yarn twice around your needle when doing your YO.

  3. Thanks for sharing these techniques. I have used the cast off/cast on method and the yarn over methods so far, and will give these two a try on a test swatch. Keep the suggestions coming, I love them! Thanks, Lynn