Monday, March 12, 2012

Horizontal buttonholes, including diagrams for the new "TULIPS" buttonhole (part 5 in a series)

This is the fifth in a TECHknittng series about buttonholes for hand knitters.The first half of the post shows a traditional horizontal buttonhole; the second half shows an improved horizontal buttonhole called the "tulips" buttonhole, and includes, not just illustrations, but also a link to a video how-to. 

Simple Horizontal
  • Row 1: Cast off several stitches using the chain bind-off (in the below diagram, 3 sts are cast off, shown in red). Slip last chain to L needle. Next, use the running yarn to cast that same number onto the R needle, using a backwards loop cast-on (shown in gray). After cast on, knit sts on L needle, then turn work. 
  • Row 2: On the next row, every stitch is knit, including the looped cast ons, and voilĂ : the buttonhole is made. 

As you can see, the simple horizontal buttonhole is neither sturdy nor beautiful.  The lower right corner is particularly prone to stretching out and the buttonhole itself is asymmetrical top-to-bottom as well as side-to-side. 

To combat these deficiencies, traditional knitters added reinforcement via the buttonhole stitch (as shown on the simple vertical buttonhole, previous post in this series).  This strengthens the edges, and hides them, too. Yet, sewing is something of a pain in the neck.  It also looks clunky. So, here's TECHknitting's improved "tulips" horizontal buttonhole introduced last year. Tulips is self-reinforcing and symmetrical, requiring no touch-up with the sewing needle.

The editor of Interweave Knits, Eunny Jang, made a video about the tulips buttonhole, and you might want to follow along with the video as well as the diagrams--tulips is a bit difficult to work the first few times, because it uses techniques not usually found in knitting. You can click the link above to view via you-tube, or there is a direct link at the bottom of this post. 

Oh, and before we get to the nitty gritty, the name "Tulips" came about because in stockinette, the buttonhole looks like TWO LIPS.  However, in garter stitch or other textured stitches, this buttonhole looks quite refined, as Eunny's video shows. 

I've written these instructions as though you were going to make an 8-stitch-wide practice swatch.  Once you get the process, you'll see that a minimum of 7 stitches is required (three for the buttonhole itself, and two on each side) but there is no maximum number. 

* * *
CO 8.  The buttonhole is made on center 4 sts (pink), worked in 6 steps. (Although tulips can be worked in garter st, the drawings and instructions below are for stockinette, so you can tell for sure which side things are done on.)

Step1: set up to bind off. 
Using dpn’s, knit several rows in stockinette, end purl row, turn work. Next row: Knit 1. Wrap running yarn (red) clockwise around next st (green) as follows * Bring yarn to front. Slip st to R needle, bring yarn to back, return st to L needle, bring yarn to front again. Return st to R needle. * Per illustration Tulips-A, the green st at the working tip of the R needle now has the running yarn wrapped clockwise around its neck but it has not been knit. Drop the running yarn, it will not be used again until step 3.

You don't actually cut the red (running yarn).  I just illustrated
if short to give the idea of simply letting it hang there without
using it. The red represents the yarn running back to the skein
so in reality, it's quite long

Step 2: bind off bottom edge. With L needle, snag the loop you just made, draw it up, untwisted then slip it onto R needle. Next, slip a stitch from L to R needle. As shown on illustration B, counting the drawn-up loop, there are now 4 sts on R needle.

*With tip of L needle, draw the second stitch (red) over the stitch (pink) on the tip of the right needle—this is an ordinary chain bind off. Repeat from * until 1 st remains on the L needle. Slip the last st on R needle onto L needle to make two sets of 2 sts. As shown on illustration C, there are 2 sts on R needle, 2 sts on left needle, and a stretch of bound off stitches between the two groups.

Step 3: set up to cast on. “Park” the L needle by shoving it upright anywhere through the left side of the fabric—now it’s out of the way and those stitches won’t slide. Slip the 2 sts on the R needle onto a dpn (light blue) at least 3 sizes smaller than the main needles. Now, unwrap the top leg of the red running yarn from the green st at the R needle tip, then re-wrap counterclockwise as follows: slip green st onto L needle. Slip the running yarn to the back and return the green st to the R needle. Draw the running yarn up firmly, but not so tight as to remove all slack. * Bring the yarn to the front. Return the green st to the L needle. This has re-oriented the red running yarn in front of the green stitch instead of behind. Now make the additional loop shown in gray as follows: bring the running yarn (now shown in dark gray) to the back, return the green st to the R needle, bring the yarn to the front again. One more time, slip the green stitch to the left needle, then bring the yarn to the back, then slip the green stitch to the right needle where it will finally remain, as shown in illustration D.

Do you wonder where the dark gray yarn came from?  It is
actually just part of the red (running) yarn, now colored dark gray so you
can tell it is the part you work the top wrap with

Step 4: cast on upper edge. Insert a small crochet hook (light green) upwards into the gray loop created by the last full wrap. * Wrap the running yarn around the small dpn counterclockwise. Catch this yarn on the crochet hook, and draw it through the gray loop, as shown in Illustration E. *

Do you see what you’ve done? You have actually crocheted a single crochet stitch (sc) with the upper leg of the sc wrapped around the needle. (You may have seen this before: this the same manuver as the provisional crocheted cast on, when that is worked around a knitting needle.) Repeat within the stars 3 times more for a total of 4 stitches cast on—6 stitches on your right needle and one loop on the crochet hook.

Step 5: join cast on with bind off. Bring running yarn to front. Slide loop from the crochet hook onto R needle (7 loops on R needle). Put the crochet hook down and retrieve your left needle from parked position. Now slip the next st from the working tip of the L needle onto the R needle, 8 loops on R needle. Using tip of L needle, draw the second stitch from the R needle tip over the stitch on working R needle tip (chain bind off—7 loops on R needle, 1 loop on L needle). Illustration F.

Step 6: finish up and work back. Work the last st and turn the work. The buttonhole is finished (it is a 1-row buttonhole) but how you work back depends on what fabric you are creating. If you are making the buttonhole in stockinette fabric, you simply purl this entire next row. If, however, you are working in garter stitch, the next row is worked k2, p4, k2. If you are working any other patterned fabric (seed st, for example) you should swatch this both ways and see which you prefer. This improved horizontal buttonhole can be worked over more or fewer stitches, and the surrounding fabric can be (should be, actually) made wider because illustrations show only the minimum possible surrounding stitches—two on each side.
* * *
Good knitting, TK

PS #1: There is a new (September 2013) YO (eyelet) buttonhole which is reinforced using tricks similar to those used in Tulips. Have a look!   Thanks to Ellen at at Pile of Sheep Blog for this new trick.

PS#2:  Remember, there is a video of Tulips available.  Here is a direct link


Jennifer Crowley said...

I have to say, your pictures really help my understanding of this technique, and I've watched the video several times before.

Thank you again!

Anonymous said...

This is great- I tried it last year when Eunny did the video.
One small question, should your first asterisk under TULIP B actually be above that picture before, Next, slip one St. from left needle to right needle? Otherwise, when you go on to say to repeat from * it doesn't make sense. I am paraphrasing your exact words because I can't see your text now that I am commenting. Also, I am anonymous only because I can never remember my Google identity! I am HanKnit on Ravelry and I appreciate you and refer to your helpful index all the time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi TK,

This series on buttonholes is simply *priceless*. Thank you!


D. Carlen said...

I absolutely love your graphics/illustrations and your site is brimming with important and useful tips, techniques and insight. Glad to have found your site. Donna

D. Carlen said...

P.S. How to you produce your illustrations? (If you don't mind sharing.)

TECHknitter said...

Hi Donna--the illustrations are drawn by hand using Adobe Illustrator and the pen tool, controlled, believe it or not, via a standard mouse (old school illustration here). Adobe Illustrator is a vector drawing program--very powerful--and I am only barely scratching the surface of its potential with these simple line drawings. Glad you like the site and the illustrations. Thanks for writing, TK

sharonmattnadia said...

I look forward to trying this buttonhole! One small thing - I think that, in picture E, both red strands should be in front of the green stitch? Thanks for everything you do.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Sharonmattnadia! YOU ARE CORRECT! This was even published in a magazine and the tech editors there didn't even catch the error. Sometime in the next few days, I must rustle up the originals of this illo, correct it, and re-post. Thank you for your eagle-eyed catch! (or, given your avatar, should I say "thank you for sniffing this out?")

Thanks SO MUCH for writing. TK

Rachel said...

Actually I have a question about the process.... If you dont mind, please explain the purpose of switching to a DPN.... I really cant quite follow the reason and find it a bit hard to follow...


TECHknitter said...

Hi Rachel: the very small dpn is used so that you can form very tight stitches as base of the buttonhole's upper stitches. This prevents giant loops from forming, which is what would happen if you formed the base of those top stitches over your ordinary-sized knitting needle. In other words, the dpn is used for its very small size, not because you're actually knitting anything with it--the top stitches, as illustrated, are actually formed with the crochet hook.

Unknown said...

How does this work in other stitch patterns? Specifically, double moss stitch, which calls for K2P2 over 2 rows, then P2K2 over two rows...

TECHknitter said...

The best thing to do is going to be swatching. The top and bottom are going to differ, so try and see how you best like the look, and where the center best lies, according to your own taste!

Unknown said...

Just tried out your tulip buttonhole on a Salish sweater in a garter stitch band. Because of the gauge I had no choice but work the buttonhole on the wrong side. What do you know? I like it better that way. It's nearly invisible. (My gauge is 3 spi, 4 rpi, which means every row really counts!) Thanks! BTW The band is 6 sts so I worked the 3 st buttonhole 2 in from the outer edge & only 1 on the body side.

Catherine said...

My question concerns this technique and knitting in the round. This is such a great buttonhole method ! just what I've been hoping for, but I need advice: If I am knitting in-the-round and placing two horizontal buttonholes in a waist band, do I need to finish each hole by turning the work(?) or do I knit the front of one, part of the top (casting on) and continue on to the second buttonhole and then turn the work, and/or can I finish them by continuing in the round. The problem appears to be where the two border stitches join the knitting on either side. If I am turning the work do I need to incorporate additional short row turns to make a neat transition in-the-round? I hope this makes sense!

I'm thrilled to have discovered your wonderful site.

Thanks for your insights.

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem as Anonymous on March 13, 2012. I think where the asterick needs to go is where she suggested so that you keep slipping sts from the left needle for the bind off. My second attempt at this buttonhole was when I figured that out. Love the looks and stability of this buttonhole.