Thursday, August 16, 2007

Button Holes


The standard button hole in knitting, is simply a process of casting off stitches on one row, and adding them back on the next row. Most knitters would say, "How hard could that be?"

Problems With Knitted Button Holes
I met another knitter on vacation this past week, and she complained that her button holes look messy. When she made button holes as specified in knitting patterns, they came out with a "lip" at the bottom of the hole, and two loose stitches on the sides of the button hole. Depending on the yarn content and the tightness, or looseness of the gauge, the button hole could get very messy.

With all my understanding of the knitting stitch, I set forth and decided to see if I could build a better button hole.

First I knit a swatch with four button holes, a 2-stitch, 3-stitch, 4-stitch and 5-stitch buttonhole. I cast off the number of stitches, on the right side, and then cast on the same number of stitches on the back side over the cast off stitches.



The picture doesn't look that bad, but if you look closely at the top button holes, you'll see what I mean about the lip and the loose stitches.



I tried a number of different techniques for both casting off and adding back stitches including:


- casting off on the wrong side
- casting off using a K2Tog or SSK at the beginning and end of the first button hole row.
- twisting stitches at the beginning and end of the button hole
- casting on stitches using a knitted cast on (turning the work around and knitting into a stitch, and then placing that stitch on the left-hand needle)
- casting on stitches using a long-tail cast on (using a small piece of waste yarn)
- knitting/purling into the front and back of the first and last stitch of the cast-on row

After trying a number of different combinations, the two most successful methods I tried were:

- casting off on the wrong side (reduced the lip significantly)
- knitting into the front and back of the first and last stitch on the second row of the button hole

Here's a picture of the result, although it might not show a big difference (it might help to click on the picture to show it full size).



QueerJoe's Button Hole Recipe
When making a button hole in a stockinette stitch fabric, here's what worked best for me:

Row 1 (Wrong Side): P up to where button hole will be placed, and cast off X stitches, purl-wise, P to end.
Row 2 (Right Side): K up to last stitch before button hole. K into the front and back of the next stitch, cast on two less stitches than you cast off on Row 1, then Knit into the back and front of the next stitch, K to end.

On a 16 stitch swatch, with a 4-stitch button hole in the middle of the swatch, the instructions would be:

Row 1 (Wrong Side): P6, cast off 4 sts purl-wise, P6
Row 2 (Right Side): K5, K into front and back of next st, cast on 2 sts, K into back and front of next stich, K5

13 comments:

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the tips! This makes so much sense.

(I've been reading for a little while, but I think this is my first comment.)

Evelyn said...

Nice explanation with great visuals. I'm not sure whether I like the looser look or the somewhat puckery look of the second version, but you give us plenty of information to make our own choice. Thanks!

no-blog-rachel said...

Cool, Joe, thanks! I'll try it that way next time I need to do buttonholes.

Anonymous said...

The best buttonhole is the One Row Buttonhole. You should be able to find instructions for it in any good reference book or by Googling for it. It eliminates the problems you described and is all completed, as its name says, in one row.

Charlotte

Hanh said...

So, when it comes to buttonholes, when it's Angelina, it's not "jolie".

Hanh said...

or, I should have said "Angelipna"

Marilyn said...

I usually do a one-row buttonhole, as Charlotte mentioned, ala BW from her 3rd Treasury. Much better than two rows but perhaps a bit futzier. Nonetheless, well worth the effort.

Rita said...

I just made some buttonholes and was not happy with them either.So I looked in EZ's Knitter's ALmanac
page 28, where she talkes about buttonholes. They came out really nice, but ths is only one size, so I don't know how to make them bigger successfully, maybe more than one YO? I like your's very much, thank you Joe, you are such a great guy, helping us out all the time.

ginchy said...

Thanks very much for the tutorial Joe.

Cal said...

Thank you for that. I loathe making button holes, mainly cos of the 'floppy stitches' problem. All the same, better than a mate who makes them by simply sticking her finger through the knitting and hoping for the best...

Melissa K said...

I also love the one row button hole. I recently found a good explanation of this with pictures on knitty.com

Carol said...

Thank you for the "recipe". I just used it in garter stitch and it looks great and tight, besides. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that other people like to experiment and work with what's out there, both for the betterment or for variety.

Having said that, though, my fave buttonhole is Barbara Walker's one-row version.