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How to Knit a Horizontal or Vertical Buttonhole

June 16th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Buttonholes are commonly used in cardigans but you may also find the need to make one for purses, shawls, or scarves.

Many patterns will have an instruction to make a basic buttonhole by working a yarn over and then knitting the next 2 stitches together. This buttonhole is functional but it’s not very stable and it can look a little sloppy. Moreover, the size of the buttonhole is totally dependent on the weight of the yarn and the needle size. The thinner the yarn and the smaller the needle, the tinier buttonhole will be.

So what if you want to create an extra large button?

Vertical Buttonhole

90738adaA vertical buttonhole can be made any length. It can be used in many situations when you would usually work a horizontal buttonhole. If you are working a 6 stitch buttonhole band on a cardigan however, it’s not practical to use this type of buttonhole.

  1. Work across the row to where you want to place the buttonhole.
  2. Drop the yarn, add a second ball and continue across the row.
  3. On the next row, work across until you come to the other ball of yarn, pick it up and complete the row.
  4. Continue until the buttonhole is the length you wish.
  5. Work all the stitches across the next row with one ball of yarn only and this will close the gap.

Horizontal Buttonhole

l10124aThis horizontal buttonhole can be made any size you wish. You’ll need to count your stitches and carefully determine the placement as this buttonhole requires 1 extra stitch…a 3 stitch buttonhole requires 4 stitches total to knit it.

  1. Work to the point where you want the buttonhole.
  2. With yarn in front, slip the next stitch purlwise.
  3. Place the yarn in back and leave it there.
  4. Slip the next stitch purlwise and pass the first slipped stitch over it.
  5. Continue to bind off in this way for the required number of stitches (if you want a 3 stitch buttonhole, do this 3 times total).
  6. Slip the last stitch you bound off back to the left needle and turn. Place the yarn at the back of the work.
  7. Using the Knit Cast-On or the Cable Cast-On, cast on the number of stitches you bound off plus 1. Turn.
  8. With yarn in back, slip the first stitch from the right to the left needle and knit these 2 stitches together.

With a little practice, you’ll master buttonholes in no time!

Try a baby sweater (like the Fresh Melon Sideways Cardigan shown above right) or an accessory pattern like our Embroidered Hood for practice, then graduate to an adult project (like the Modern Raglan Cardigan shown above left)

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  • dippy dally

    Thank you for the buttonhole tips. Have been knitting for a long time and have never really been satisfied with the normal buttonhole technique… this looks SO much better.

  • johannascrochet

    Great tips but I love that toddler sweater. Do you have the pattern in crochet?

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