How to Knit a Neater Buttonhole Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Knit a Neater Buttonhole

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Most knitting patterns will tell you to make a buttonhole by casting off in one row, and casting on in the next. This gives a buttonhole with a distinct seam around it - fine in certain circumstances, but it can detract from a complex pattern or from the neatness of a vertical rib. The method of making buttonholes described here gives a much neater, flatter and more discreet buttonhole, and all the work is done in one row. It may seem complex, but it's soon mastered. It can be used for any size of buttonhole, and can be inserted into any existing pattern without messing things up.


Work as given in the pattern until you reach the buttonhole.

Bring the wool to the front, then slip the first stitch for casting off1 onto the right needle and put the wool to the back again. Leave the wool - you don't need it for the next section.

Slip the next casting off stitch from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle. Using the point of the left-hand needle point, lift the first casting off stitch over the second and off the needle. Slip the next stitch from the left needle to the right needle and again lift the first stitch over the second. Keep doing this until the number of stitches given in the pattern have been cast off. Take the remaining stitch from the right needle back to the left needle and turn the work round.

Now you need the wool again. First, take it between the needles to the back of the work once more. Use it to cast on the same number of stitches that you have just cast off - plus one extra which will anchor the work. Cast on in this style:

Insert the right needle between the two stitches nearest the left needle point. Put the wool around the needle as if you were going to knit a stitch. Draw this new loop through to the front and onto the right needle and then slip it onto the left needle to create a new stitch. Continue to cast on in this way between this new stitch and the one to the left of it until all the stitches required have been cast on, but before you return the final cast on stitch to the left needle, bring the wool between the needles to the front again, so that the wool hangs between the last stitch and the one before it.

Turn the work round a final time - it should now be facing the way it did when you started the buttonhole. Slip the first stitch of the rest of the work from the left needle onto the right needle and pass that extra cast on stitch over it and off the needle point to anchor the work together.

Your buttonhole should now be finished, and you can carry on with the pattern unchanged.

1The terminology used here is the standard for the UK. Slightly different terms may be used elsewhere. The meaning is usually self evident, but if in doubt, you should be able to find a glossary of terms in most knitting patterns, books and websites.

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