Vertical Buttonholes: A Tutorial

6 January, 2010 at 11:03 pm (knitting)

Sorry for the absence this week—I’m working on a stealth project so I’ve nothing to show for all of the effort I’ve put in. One thing I did do, though, was play around with a buttonhole idea; I’m not going to be able to include it in the project, which means I don’t have to keep my mouth shut about it!

So, vertical buttonholes. There are a dozen different reasons why you might want them rather than the usual yarn over or horizontal ones in handknits. The biggest case for them that I can see is when you actually want your buttonholes to be horizontal, but are working perpendicularly, like when knitting a buttonband onto a sweater. You’d want the buttonholes to be horizontal relative to the sweater because that way, any sideways pulling on the buttons will only pull the buttonholes tighter. If the buttonholes are vertical in relation to the sweater, then sideways pulling will actually cause the buttonholes to open wider.

The problem of course is that there’s no easy way to get a vertical gap in there without working the two sides separately, which is a pain. Yarn over buttonholes do work but can be too small for the buttons you’d like to use, and are often prone to stretching out and becoming unstable. What oh what is a knitter to do?

This is my five row vertical buttonhole; it is both wonderfully tidy and quite easy to work, which means it’s my new favorite technique, since I am a fan of both of those things. It’s best worked at a fairly firm gauge, as it tends to become loose and sloppy when worked in a lacy, open fabric. (Then again, you probably wouldn’t be needing vertical buttonholes in lacy fabric anyway!)

First thing you need to do is to work to the point where you’d like the buttonhole to start, on the right side. You’ll need three stitches to work each one, so be sure to factor that into your spacing. Once you’ve gotten to the first of your three stitches: k1 tbl, double yarn over (wrap the yarn around the needle twice):
row1doubleyo (by jesh\)
then k2tog.

Finish the row and work back to the buttonhole on the wrong side. P1 tbl, drop both previous yarn overs from the needle, make a new yarn over:
row2yo (by jesh\)
p1 tbl and finish the row as normal.

Once you’ve come back to the buttonhole on the right side, k1 tbl, drop the last yarn over, make a new one:
row3yo (by jesh\)
k1 tbl, and finish the row again. This is the point where you’re probably looking at me like I’m crazy and wondering how the heck all the ladders you’ve just made could possibly turn into a buttonhole, let alone a good looking one. I promise it’ll all work out in just a few seconds!

Back on the wrong side again, you’re going to work in the same manner, purling the stitches on either side through the back loop and dropping the yarn over, only this time, don’t make a new yarn over—this helps keep the buttonhole from getting floppy.

To finish off the buttonhole, work to it on the right side and knit the first stitch normally. Now stop and take a look at your work; you should see four ladders like this:
row5loosestrands (by jesh\)

What you want to do is put your righthand needle underneath those four strands…
row5pickup (by jesh\)

Wrap the working yarn around the righthand needle…
row5wraparound (by jesh\)

And draw the new stitch out through the front, so that you’ve picked it up from the strands.
row5newstitch (by jesh\)

That’s all you need to do! Keep working as normal and after a few rows you’ll have something that looks like this:
finishedverticalbuttonhole (by jesh\)

Simple, easy, nice and neat buttonhole!


  1. Beverly said,

    THAT is very cool and ingenious! I may have to incorporate this into a sweater sometime. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. darlene said,

    That is genius! Correction: YOU are a genius!

  3. Joan said,

    That is fabulous! Thanks!

  4. trillian42 said,

    Very slick! You are such a smart cookie (a gluten-free peanut butter one, of course)

  5. Robin said,

    Very nice, and totally makes sense the way you describe it. Thanks for sharing that!

  6. Bams said,

    Brilliant! I will totally be using that.

  7. Funk & Wagnalls said,

    INSTABLE? Shouldn’t that be unstable? Or are you knitting among the horses in their stalls?

  8. CherylfromCreemore said,

    Thanks for sharing that and photographing it so beautifully! I agree — your technique is brilliant!

  9. mildawg said,

    That is awesome! Thank you for sharing.

  10. RedScot said,

    How I love your tutorials! Really nicely explained!


  11. MzTallulah said,

    Thankyou for the tutorial, it’s very clear and the technique works a charm! You just saved my Teapot Mitten from being a poorly fitting one (will put it on Ravelry as soon as I have a chance).

  12. Wen said,

    Very clever.

  13. brige said,

    What a good idea !!! I’ll try it soon 😉

  14. Janice said,

    I have to tell you, finding you was a total blind accident! I am currently finishing up a test knit for a very good friend. She has designed 2 outfits and we have scratched our heads more than once on this type of BH. I told her this morning that I would dearly love to dispense with all the folderol around having to break the yarn and knit 2 sides separately just for 1 BH. I said that unless some miracle happens and a solution is dropped into my lap, I’ll have to do that. At the last minute she googled but I never saw what and she never said. Minutes later I get this tutorial! I wrote right back to her: “It’s a miracle!” I was so shocked at seeing this that I immediately bookmarked you. Thank you for making my life so much easier. I hate BHs but thanks to you, they are much better to swallow.

  15. Using Google Reader Part 2 « Ramblings from yet another Librarian said,

    […] Jeshknits- Vertical Buttonholes: A Tutorial […]

  16. Knitting Button Holes | American Home Design said,

    […] Now, sometimes a knitter needs a vertical buttonhole and horizontal will not do. In that case try JeshKnits pictorial tutorial. Her pictures are crisp and clear and show you from just the right angle how to go about achieving a great vertical buttonhole. I love these for sleeve bands and cowls. Vertical Buttonholes: […]

  17. John Lambert said,

    Just founds a new website selling Clothing Buttons. I have been buying buttons for years and have never found and easier website to use! and I would say the best prices too, check them out!

  18. A Little Awe of Technology « Leap Year Lefty said,

    […] a tutorial on my iphone and followed the instructions. It was a great tutorial and can be found at  On the way home, we downloaded the book “Currency Wars” by James Rickards from […]

  19. The Weekend Report « in Sheeps Clothing said,

    […] Jesh’s amazing and clever vertical Buttonhole, discovered. […]

  20. Thank heavens for technology « handmademess said,

    […] way to creativity and crowd-sourced problem-solving. With a single quick Google search, I had found a blog from “Jeshknits”, with an ingenious solution. No need to separate the yarn at all! I swatched a piece to find out just how many rows I would need […]

  21. Ann said,

    Great tutorial. What size button do the instructions accommodate and how do I adapt to 2-1/4 inch button on 5st per inch gauge? Thanks.

  22. Jenny said,

    Came across your post and found the perfect solution to something I’m designing…thank you so so so so much!

  23. 二つ折り財布 ブランド said,

    グレー ピーコート 二つ折り財布 ブランド

  24. ASOS cardigans, lazy chevron beanies, and shameless | masculiknity said,

    […] scratch. For those of you tickling the idea of adding buttons to your latest project, I recommend this tutorial accompanied by this youtube video (start at […]

  25. encubed1 said,

    Thank you, Jesh! You saved the cardigan I’m just finishing for my darlin’. May the Force be with you!

  26. Linda Peoples said,

    I would appreciate having an email address so I could ask a few Q’s……tbl should have been defined…sometimes I didn’t know if it was a double yarn over. Or single? Mine came out ‘ok’ , but left a loose spot on the left section of the RS. Email , or contact info, please? Parts of this tutorial are excellent, and I am glad to have a method wherebyI don’t have to cut yarn…I hope you will reply. Thank you!

  27. Jenny Hughes said,


    Thank you for this! Not sure why so many cardigan patterns now don’t include buttons, so now I am forging my own way. Ugh.

    Curious how this changes with button size. I am planning on 1 1/4- 1 /3/8 buttons on Aran/chunky weight yarn, Fishermans rib button band (Buckley pattern). Still the same count?

    Anything I need to alter for the ribbing? Also, when you say you need three stitches for the hole, do you want the middle one to be the center to line up to where the button will be attached?

    Regards, Jenny

  28. Charlene Jean Ryan said,

    Ty for sharing this method…

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