deborah's buttonhole tips

Vertical 4-Row added May 12, 2016
After-the-fact added October 14, 2011
Neat and Tidy added November 6, 2011
Definitive added March 21, 2013

Vertical 4-Row

This example will show you how to create a buttonhole over 4 rows with a very tidy result. To try this, create a small swatch with a 3-st border.

Cast on 10 sts.
Knit 3 rows.
Row 4: P7, k3.
Row 5: K.
Rows 6 and 8: Repeat Row 4.
Row 7: Repeat Row 5.

Right Side of Buttonhole:
K4, turn; p1, k3, turn; k to end.

Left Side of Buttonhole:
P5, slip 1 st, create a "faux yo" on the left needle by lifting the yarn from front to back between the stitches onto the left needle (mounted so that the stitch will not twist when worked).
Slip the slipped st back to the left needle.
Purl together this stitch with the "faux yo"; do not drop the yo; leave it on the left needle.
Turn; k across; turn, p5 (to the last st before yo); using ssp (slip as to purl, slip as to knit, slip the stitches back to the left-hand needle and purl together) p next st together with the yo and drop the yo; p1, k3.

Buttonhole is complete.

Vertical 4-Row Buttonhole

After the fact

Buttonholes are not always as neat and tidy as we would like and placement can be an issue. Here is an “after-the-fact” buttonhole. Beth Caulfield, formerly of Sheep Thrills, brought this to us from Denver, Colorado.

Work your buttonbands as you normally would without buttonholes. Sew your buttons on to the buttonband. Using the center of the button as a guide, determine where you first buttonhole will be.

Step 1: On the wrong side, insert a crochet hook under the loop where you want the buttonhole and the loop above it. Buttonhole Step 2: Pull the top loop through the first loop. Buttonhole
Step 3: Pull the top up as far as you can. Buttonhole Step 4: Tack down with small stitches with matching thread. In this example I made 5 stitches with black thread and the stitches are very difficult to see. Buttonhole
Step 5: Turn the buttonband around and work steps 1 – 4 in the opposite direction. Be sure to go under the first loop at the hole created by pulling up the loop in step 3. Buttonhole The buttonhole completed!Buttonhole  


Neat and Tidy

Work the required number of stitches before starting the buttonhole.


As if to knit, slip one stitch. Between the tips of the needles, bring the yarn to the front of the work and drop it. As if to knit, slip the next stitch from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle and pass the first slipped stitch over the second slipped stitch and off the needle. Not using the dropped yarn, bind off the required number of stitches in this manner.

Slip the last stitch on the right hand needle back to the left needle. Turn the work around. Bring yarn to the front. At the edge where the buttonhole was started, using the twisted method of casting on purlwise, cast on one more stitch than the number that you bound off.

(Twisted method of casting on purlwise: Insert right hand needle into the next stitch on the left hand needle through the back loop. Wrap yarn around needle in the same way you normally would to purl and complete the purl stitch. This twists the stitch. Pull the loop through and place this new stitch on the left needle. Continue until you have cast on the number of stitches you need.)

Turn the work around. Slip the first stitch from the left hand needle to the right needle as if to knit. Slip the extra cast on stitch over the next stitch and then slip this stitch back onto the left-hand needle.

Definitive Buttonhole

This example is worked on one row only over three stitches.

  • Buttonhole Bring yarn forward and leave it there.
  • Slip 1 stitch as if to purl.
  • Slip a second stitch as if to purl.
  • Pass first slipped stitch over second. Slip 1 as if to purl.
  • Pass second slipped stitch over third. Slip 1 as if to purl.
  • Pass third slipped stitch over fourth.
  • Put fourth stitch on lefthand needle, reversing it.
  • Reverse, twist, or turn last stitch on right-hand needle.
  • Pull yarn tightly, lay it over right-hand needle from front to back and pass the turned stitch over it. Make four firm backward loops over right-hand needle, knit two together.
  • Now you are ready to continue knitting.
    —adapted from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Almanac

To make the stitches a bit tighter, try this. Instead of four (4) backward loops, make three (3). On the next row, knit to the third cast on stitch. Loop the yarn that is between the second and third stitches around the left-hand needle from back to front and knit it.
—revised May 3, 2017, image added June 28, 2016