How many times have you been proudly finishing off a beautiful cardigan only to realise the buttonholes are slightly askew or a little on the looser side? Well, no more! Find out how to perfectly position your buttonholes and pick the best one for your chosen buttons. After all, it’s those finishing touches that make all the difference to a professional-looking knit!
In the second part of our masterclass, Rosee Woodland looks at different types of buttonholes and troubleshoots some common button band problems.
Get the right buttonhole for your buttons
Eyelet buttonhole over one stitch
You can hide this nicely in the purl ‘gutter’ stitches of a ribbed button band. If the pattern directions mean these buttonholes fall on the knit stitches of a ribbed band consider moving them into the purl stitches.
Worked on RS of fabric: *K2tog, yo; rep from * for every buttonhole.
Worked on WS of fabric: *P2tog, yo; rep from * for every buttonhole.
To make this buttonhole tighter, work the decrease through the back loops (eg, k2togtbl or p2togtbl).
Double decrease buttonhole
Row 1 (RS) *Patt to 1 st before st marked for buttonhole, k2tog, yo, ssk; rep from * to end of row.
Row 2 (WS) *Patt to yo of previous row, purl into front and back of the yo of the previous row to make 2 sts out of 1; rep from * to end of row.
Over 1x1 rib stitch
These buttonholes look best when they are placed in the purl stitches of a 1x1 rib button band.
Set-up row (WS) *Patt across to first knit st where you want to place a buttonhole (these will be purl sts on the RS), kfb; rep from * to end of row. These kfb sts will be known as ‘inc sts’ on Row 1.
Row 1 (RS) *Patt to 1 st before inc sts, ssk, yo twice, k2tog; rep from * to end of row.
Row 2 *Patt to 1 st before double yo of last row, p2tog, yo, ssp; rep from * to end of row.
Row 3 *Patt to buttonhole, p2tog both horizontal loops by treating them as one purl stitch; rep from * to end of row.
Over 2x2 rib stitch
These buttonholes look best placed in the 2 purl stitches of a 2x2 rib button band.
To make a smaller buttonhole, skip Row 2 and work Row 3 in its place.
Row 1 (RS) *Patt to 1 knit st before 2 purl stitches where you want to place a buttonhole, ssk, yo twice, k2tog; rep from * to end of row.
Row 2 (WS) *Patt to 1 st before double yo of last row, p2tog, yo twice, ssp; rep from * to end of row.
Row 3 *Patt to buttonhole, (k1, p1) into double yo of last row; rep from * to end of row.
Medium to very large buttons:
For garter stitch
This one row buttonhole is particularly good for garter stitch button bands, which can be very stretchy. This buttonhole looks better when worked from the WS and can be worked over any number of stitches. Make sure you pull the wraps tight in both Steps 1 and 3 to avoid any loops appearing at either end of the buttonhole.
Step 1 Bring yarn forward from back of work, slip next stitch pwise onto RH needle, take yarn to the back of work.
Step 2 You will now cast off by slipping sts over each other until you have cast off one fewer stitches than the required number for the buttonhole, as follows: *Slip next stitch pwise from LH to RH needle. Pass the first slipped stitch on RH needle over the second st on RH needle and off RH needle; rep from * until you have worked one less st than the required number for the buttonhole. Slip the last st on RH needle back to LH needle and turn work.
Step 3 Using the cable cast-on method, cast on the required number of buttonhole sts (one more than you cast off). When you have cast on the last st, leave it on the RH needle, bring yarn to front of the work (as it faces you) and place last cast on st onto LH needle.
Step 4 Turn work. Slip next st on LH needle, kwise, onto RH needle, and slip last cast on st over it and off RH needle.
Medium to very large buttons:
For any stitch pattern
Cast-off buttonholes are very common in more traditional patterns. They’re great for larger buttonholes and can be worked over any number of stitches, but if you want to make a small buttonhole consider using one of the previous methods instead as just casting off 3 sts, as shown here, makes quite a large hole in your knitting.
Row 1 (RS) *Patt to first st planned for buttonhole, cast off sts required for buttonhole; rep from * to end of row.
Row 2 (WS) *Patt to start of cast off sts from last row, cast on the same number of sts you cast off on last row, using a very tight backwards loop cast on; rep from * to end of row.
Row 3 *Patt to buttonhole, work into back loops of cast-on sts to tighten them further; rep from * to end of row.
However you choose to make your buttonholes and button bands, remember that you don’t have to follow what’s in the pattern. If in doubt, swatch a couple of versions and pick the one that you like best!
Common problems and how to fix them:
‘My buttonhole is too big…’
Use matching yarn or thread and embroider around the edge of your buttonhole, catching one stitch in around. (Buttonhole stitch works well!) This will help to make your buttonhole tighter and stop your button from popping out of place so much!
‘My button sinks into my chunky button band!’
Some buttons come with shanks, a little loop of metal, which can cause them to sit proud of the fabric they’re sewn onto.
You can make your own shanked button by stitching it in the usual way, but placing a second flat button or coin between the button and the fabric. When the button is secured, don’t weave in the tail of your thread. Remove the spacer button and then wind some of the remaining thread around the loops holding the button onto the garment so that they form a spacer between the button and the fabric. Secure the remaining thread and weave in ends.
For more about button bands and buttonholes, read Part One of our masterclass here.