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Uniform Makealong: Buttonhole swatching

Uniform Makealong: Buttonhole swatching


We've been eagerly watching Veronika of YOTH knit her UNIFORM cardigan out of their Best Friend yarn held double during our #uniformmakealong. Using yarn spun from 75% Virginian cotton and 25% domestic wool, it looked like one of those perfect summertime knits.

Last month on Instagram, Veronika posted an image of a little garter stitch swatch with a perfectly executed buttonhole inside, and asked whether there would be any interest in seeing more of her method for buttonhole swatching. Previously unaware this was a thing, and immediately realizing we wanted to hear more, we asked Ve to come onto our blog and share her methods.

Ok, don’t run when I say I’m here to tell you about buttonhole swatches! I’m aware that I maybe in the select few who might find this practice appealing, but bear with me, I have a feeling I might be able to sway a couple of you my way. The Uniform Cardigan I just finished knitting is a prime example of how buttonhole swatching can be a magical thing. It not only helped me make the right fitting holes, but allowed me to use buttons that were near and dear to me. Win, win in my knitting book.

I’ll tell you why I started using this method to begin with... I collect buttons probably more than yarn, especially while travelling, and I love using them sooner rather than later. I do not search for projects to fit my button collection, but buttons that I like for my current projects. There are some limitations to this theory, such as: not enough or too many buttons, too small or too big to be the right fit for the fabric of the garment, etc. But, overall this method works and I enjoy being able to make almost any set of buttons an instant success when complete.  I’m also a stickler on having functional buttonholes and buttons that stay in place. A buttonhole swatch allows me to determine not only which buttonhole is my favorite in the working yarn, but also how tight I need to make it to assure my buttons stay put.

Not all buttonholes are made equally, so try out different ones! I like to always test out the one recommended in the pattern (it’s there for a reason), but I also like to attempt others in case they’re a better match for my yarn/fabric. This is especially useful when you’re subbing yarns. Some of my button hole methods:

Here’s a few of my tips & tricks on swatching for a buttonhole:

  1. Cast on enough stitches to give you some room to swatch and test a couple of buttonhole styles and sizes.
  2. Work enough rows in the button band pattern (garter, ribbing, etc.) to give you some fabric on your swatch. I like to work the same number of rows that the pattern calls for before launching into the actual buttonholes.
  3. Once you’ve swatched a style or two, you’ll want to find the nice and tight fit for your buttons. Buttons don’t only have different diameters, but they also have various heights and can be made of different materials that will cause more or less friction against your knitted fabric. You want to find a clean looking buttonhole that will also be a very tight and snug fit for your button. Knitted fabric has give to it and will overtime stretch, some fiber contents more than others, so you want to make sure your button is needing a good push to get through that hole!
  4. So now you have the match-made-in-heaven buttons and their counterparts the buttonholes, but you need to work them into your pattern. There is this wonderful buttonhole calculator that some angel out there made for us knitters! You’ll need to pick up your stitches around your button band first and mark off where you would like the buttons to stop and end to know how many stitches you’ll be working with, but from there it’s smooth sailing.
  5. And, just in case you were wondering, this is how I sew on my buttons when they do not have a shank of their own. Hand knit fabric especially needs a little room between the button and the band so the buttonhole side can lay nice and flush.

All in all, I’m definitely not a master at knitting buttonholes, but I do know that swatching them in advance in the needles, yarn, and pattern that your button band will be knit in is such a good way to find the right fit!

Thanks for having me on the blog and if I didn’t make you a complete buttonhole swatching convert every time, at least maybe I put a little bug in your ear to try it out when those perfect buttons for that perfect sweater happen to come along, and I promise, they will!