How To Knit A Buttonhole (5 Best Ways)


In this post, you will see how to knit a buttonhole in 5 different ways.

Many cardigan patterns and some other patterns will tell you to create a buttonhole in your knitted work, and this can be done easily when you know how!

The knitting pattern you are working from will tell you when to create a buttonhole and the size of the buttons that you need.

It’s a good idea to use buttons that are slightly larger than your buttonhole so that they fit through but cannot slip back through the hole.

How to knit a buttonhole 5 best ways

1 hour 1 day, 1 hour and 20 minutes

How To Knit A Buttonhole (5 Best Ways)

  1. A Yarn Over Buttonhole

    This is a common way to create a buttonhole.
    You can make the hole where you want it to be by K2tog, YO (knitting two stitches together, then yarn over).
    On the next row, work the yarn over as a regular stitch.
    This will create a small round hole without messing up your stitch count.
    It works well in a garter stitch button band, where it is concealed by the ridges of the garter stitch.

  2. A Double Yarn Over Buttonhole

    For a larger buttonhole, you can do a double yarn over the buttonhole and an extra decrease.
    Like this – (K2tog, YO) twice, SSK.
    Translated = (knit two stitches together, yarn over) twice, then slip, slip, knit.
    Double yarn over means that you will wrap the yarn around the needle twice.
    To keep the continuity of the buttonhole, K1, P1 (or P1, K1) into the yarn over stitches on the following row.
    You can work all other stitches as set by the pattern.

  3. Casting Off Stitches Buttonhole

    To create a buttonhole in ribbing (and other stitch patterns), you can cast off stitches on one row and then cast on stitches on the next row.
    With the right side of your work facing, when you reach your buttonhole, cast off the number of stitches (how many depends on how big the buttons are).
    On the next row, when you get to the buttonhole, cast on the same number of stitches that you cast off and continue working.
    This creates a horizontal slit in your knitting which you can fit a button through.
    In ribbing, this is easily done to create a small buttonhole without making a mess of your stitch pattern.

  4. Not Making A Buttonhole At All

    If you are working with a bulky, super bulky yarn or a loose tension, you may not even need to create a buttonhole.
    You should be able to fit the button through a gap somewhere in the stitches.
    You can test this out on a swatch before you begin your pattern to see if this will work or not.

  5. Making A Buttonhole When You Are Finished

    You can also make a buttonhole after you have finished your project by cutting a thread or two in the fabric where you want the hole to go and stitching that thread or thread securely once a hole has been made.
    This may seem a little risky cutting into your knitted fabric, but if you need a buttonhole, it could be worth it!

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buttonhole rows and buttons

Claire’s Cardigan Buttonholes

For Outlander Claire’s Blue Cardigan Knitting Pattern, you will need to create ribbed buttonholes in the ribbed band of the cardigan on the right front.

On the ribbed section of the right front collar, you will need to work buttonholes.

How to create buttonholes in ribbing

I have worked 6 buttonholes using the following buttonhole rows from working rows 1 and 2 in the 4 stitch rep patt:

  • Row 1 (RS): P1, K1, P1, K1, Cast off 1 st, P1, K1, P1, K1, sm, *K1, P1* rep from * to * the end of the row.
  • Row 2 (WS): *K1, P1* rep from * to * to marker, sm, P1, K1, P1, K1, cast on 1 st, K1, P1, K1.

You will cast off 1st in row 1 and then cast on 1st in row 2 to make the buttonhole.

Check out the free pattern here – Outlander Claire’s Blue Cardigan Knitting Pattern – Handy Little Me

Claire's blue cardigan buttonhole

How The Buttonholes Were Measured Out

  • The buttonholes were measured by adding closed stitch markers to the left front at 3 inches apart.
  • They were then worked opposite on the right front.
  • You will work the buttonhole rows into the right front when you are knitting.
  • You can adjust the measurement of the buttons (greater than 3 inches apart if you wish) or add more buttons.
  • If your yarn allows, you may not need buttonholes; they may just fit through the ribbing.
  • You can see in the photos below where the buttonholes were measured out on the left front first at 3 inches apart, then worked to be opposite on the right front.
Claire's blue cardigan front

So, where do I make the buttonholes?

Where you place the buttonholes is up to you.

You may want to place them exactly where I placed them on this cardigan – 3 inches apart, or you may want them to have a greater spacing from each other.

You may also want to add more buttons if that is your preference.

Depending on the knitted fabric, you may not even need buttonholes as the buttons may just slip through.

The buttons I used measure 0.75 inches in diameter.

I bought extra in case I wanted to add more once the cardigan was finished.

small silver button and buttonhole

Buttonholes FAQ

How do you knit a one-row buttonhole?    

A single-row buttonhole is an easy way to create a buttonhole without breaking the yarn.

Here’s how to knit a one-row buttonhole:

  1. Determine Buttonhole Size: First, decide how many stitches you want your buttonhole to be. Typically, a standard-sized buttonhole is 2 to 4 stitches wide.
  2. Knit to the Buttonhole Location: Work your knitting in the pattern (ribbing, stockinette stitch, etc.) until you reach the position where you want the buttonhole.
  3. Create the Buttonhole: Knit the first stitch in the established pattern. Bring the working yarn to the front of the work. Slip the next stitch purlwise from the left-hand needle to the right needle without working it (i.e., move it from one needle to the other). Bring the working yarn to the back of the work. Knit the next stitch. Repeat this process for the number of stitches you’ve chosen for your buttonhole. For example, if you want a 2-stitch buttonhole, repeat the sequence twice.
  4. Continue Knitting: After creating the buttonhole, follow your pattern as usual. The slipped stitches will create a small eyelet or hole, forming the buttonhole.
  5. Knit the Next Row: On the next row, work your stitches in the pattern, including the stitches involved in the buttonhole. Knit or purl the slipped stitches as instructed by your pattern.

By following these steps, you can knit a one-row buttonhole that’s quick and easy to make.

Adjust the width of the buttonhole by increasing or decreasing the number of stitches you slip in step 3.

Be sure to practice on a swatch before incorporating one-row buttonholes into your main project to ensure you achieve the desired result.

How to knit a buttonhole with lots of different types of buttons

How do you knit a horizontal buttonhole?    

A horizontal buttonhole is a buttonhole that runs horizontally across your knitting, creating a slot for a button. 

  • Determine Buttonhole Size: Decide how many stitches wide you want your buttonhole to be. A standard horizontal buttonhole is often around 4 to 6 stitches wide.
  • Identify the Buttonhole Location: Work your knitting until you reach the point in your project where you want to place the buttonhole. Mark the location with a stitch marker or a safety pin if necessary.
  • Bind Off Stitches: To create the top of the buttonhole, bind off the desired number of stitches in the buttonhole location. You can use a simple bind-off method, such as the basic bind-off or the suspended bind-off. Make sure to bind off loosely to ensure the buttonhole isn’t too tight.
  • Continue Knitting: Once you’ve bound off the stitches for the top of the buttonhole, continue knitting until you reach the other side of the buttonhole, where you’ll need to create the bottom edge.
  • Cast On Stitches: To create the bottom edge of the buttonhole, cast on the same number of stitches you bound off. You can use the backward loop cast-on method or your preferred cast-on method.
  • Complete the Row: After casting on the stitches for the bottom edge of the buttonhole, resume knitting in your established pattern.
  • Knit the Next Row: On the next row, work the buttonhole stitches in pattern, knitting or purling them as needed based on your project’s pattern.
how to knit a buttonhole in ribbing

What is the difference between horizontal and vertical buttonholes?    

The key distinction between horizontal and vertical buttonholes in knitting lies in the orientation of the buttonhole slot in relation to the fabric. 

A horizontal buttonhole is created within the same row by binding off stitches for the top edge and casting on the same number of stitches for the bottom edge, running perpendicular to the rows. 

This type is ideal for flat fabric closures, such as those on cardigans. On the other hand, a vertical buttonhole is constructed separately as a strip or tab of fabric and then sewn onto the garment, with the buttonhole oriented vertically, parallel to the rows. 

Vertical buttonholes provide additional strength around the buttonhole area and are often used for heavier garments like coats. 

The choice between the two depends on design, function, and the specific requirements of the project.

how to knit a buttonhole in a front band

Knitting Lessons

If you are a new maker and need help with the knitting basics, check out the knitting lessons here – Knitting Lessons (With Video Tutorials).

There, you will find tutorial posts for all the knitting techniques a newbie needs to know; most posts include a video tutorial.

Tutorials include how to knit the knit stitch, how to knit the seed stitch, how to knit short rows, and more!

And if you need more video tutorials, check out my YouTube channel here – Handy Little Me – YouTube

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and that it has helped you enhance your buttonhole skills!

Happy Knitting!

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