A Buttonhole Primer

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This week I’ve been thinking about buttonholes. Knitted toys do not usually require buttons and it’s been a long time since I’ve knitted anything with buttonholes. But I have a plan to make Big Owl into a pajama case, so he’s going to need some buttonholes and that means testing out some options.

Here’s what I’ve knitted up, with plenty of links to show you how to replicate these results and a few notes on my findings.

Eyelet Buttonholes

An eyelet button hole is the simplest small buttonhole you can knit. It’s usually used in baby garments and as you can see from the photo below, it looks pretty good in a garter stitch button band. A one-stitch eyelet buttonhole is made by knitting two stitches together and then using the yarn over technique from lace knitting to make a new stitch with a hole beneath it.

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It’s useful to have odd and even numbered buttonhole techniques at your fingertips, because if your button band has an odd number of stitches, you will want the hole to be centered, so you’ll need a buttonhole with an odd number of stitches. Of course if your button band has an even number of stitches you will need to use a button hole knitted over an even number of stitches. A two-stitch eyelet buttonhole is made the same way as the one-stitch eyelet buttonhole, but this time you knit two together, make two yarn over stitches and then ssk (slip the next two stitches knitwise, then knit them together through the back loop). When you knit the next row, you will need to knit into the back loop of those two yarn over stitches or they will be too loose and ruin the shape of your buttonhole.

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Two Row Buttonhole

I’ve always been drawn to this type of buttonhole. Very simply, the two row button hole involves binding off a certain number of stitches in one row and casting on the same number in the next row. Choose your cast on type in the second row carefully, in my experience it’s best to use a backward loop cast on. As you can see from the second photo below, if you use a cable cast on, you need to bring the yarn across the whole length of the buttonhole, which makes a long stitch and gathers the top row of the buttonhole, making a bit of a mess.

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One Row Buttonhole

You can also work a button hole over just one row, this is done with a slip stitch bind off and then a wrap and turn to allow you to cast on stitches going back in the other direction. I found this great video tutorial by JadeFletcherKnits which shows this technique very clearly. It creates a well reinforced button hole which looks better over more than three stitches.

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The Tulips Buttonhole 

This is a buttonhole invented by the amazing Techknitter. It’s a one row buttonhole with some improvements in the cast on and the wraps at the edges which make it by far the cleanest knitted buttonhole I’ve ever seen. I’m in no position to give any tutorials about this one (I only learned it yesterday), so here’s a video by Knitting Daily to show you how it’s done. It is fiddly, especially if you’re not used to handling a crochet hook, but it is really worth the effort.

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There are other buttonholes, specifically vertical buttonholes, which I haven’t discussed here. But I hope this gives you some inspiration to try a different technique next time you knit your button band.

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1 Comment

Filed under Knitting Technique

One response to “A Buttonhole Primer

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been struggling with getting a neat edged cast on buttonhole.

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