Knitted Cardigans: Buttonholes 101

The cardigan sweater is a classic for all seasons. You can throw it on over a T-shirt in the fall and spring, keep a light-weight cardigan on hand for chilly summer evenings, and wear one as a top in the winter. I have several cardigans in my closet and I wear them all year.

There are so many ways to knit cardigans, too—in the round, top down, or in pieces. I like the top down raglan method the best—it's a lot of knitting (LOOONG rows), but when it's done, it's done. And if you're brave you can just knit in the round and cut your sweater up the front to make it a cardigan! (This technique is called "steeking" and it works best with wool; I wouldn't try it with a slippery yarn.)

We recently published a free ebook, Knit Cardigan Patterns From Knitting Daily: 7 FREE Knitting Patterns. (If you haven't downloaded your copy, please click on the link and get yours today!) One of these seven patterns is sure to strike your fancy: from lacey and feminine to bulky and casual, there are a variety of styles to choose from.

Whichever cardigan you choose to knit, and whichever technique you prefer, one thing almost all cardigan sweaters have in common is buttonholes. Today I'm going to show you how to make two different kinds of buttonholes, the one-row buttonhole and the eyelet buttonhole.

One-Row Buttonholes

This buttonhole is a good one to have in your arsenal because it works really well with medium to extra-large buttons;  I normally use this buttonhole with 3/4-inch or larger buttons.

To decide how many stitches to use while working this buttonhole, simply place your button on your fabric and see how many stitches it covers. Subtract one stitch, and that's how many stitches you should use. This example, from The Knitter's Companion by Vicki Square, uses five stitches.

 Step 1    Step 2    Step 3  

Work to where you want the buttonhole to be, bring the yarn to the front, slip the next stitch purlwise, then return the yarn to the back.

Step 1. *Slip the next stitch to the right needle, then pass the second stitch over the end stitch and drop it off the needle. Repeat from *.

Step 2. Slip the last stitch on the right needle to the left needle and turn the work. Move the yarn to the back and use the cable method to cast on 5 stitches as follows: *Insert the right needle between the first and second stitches on the left needle, draw up a loop, and place it on the left needle. Repeat from * 4 more times. Turn the work.

Step 3. With the yarn in back, slip the first stitch from the left needle and pass the extra cast-on stitch over it and off the needle to close the buttonhole. Then work to the end of the row as usual.

Since some of us find videos easier to learn from, here's Interweave Knits editor Eunny Jang with a video tutorial on the one-row buttonhole. (She demos the cable cast-on here, too!)

Eyelet Buttonhole

The eyelet buttonhole is self-sizing—bulky yarns make large holes that accommodate large buttons; fine yarns make small holes that accommodate small buttons.

Work the eyelet buttonhole on the right side of the work as follows: yarnover, then work the next two stitches together. That's all there is to it!

You can use an overcast stitch to reinforce the buttonhole if you think your yarn might wear or if your yarn is really flexible and you want to stabilize the size of the buttonhole.

I hope these buttonhole techniques will be a welcome addition to your finishing skills.




I'm thrilled to announce the next knit-a-long: Fresco Fair Isle Mitts. More than 4000 of you voted, and the mitts won by a small margin. (The Freyja Hat and the Snowflake Scarf tied for second.) Our new KAL starts today, so click on the link to download your pattern for $5.50, run to your stash or your LYS for yarn, and cast on! Here's the link to the official KAL forum. Knit on!

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