"Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit either." ~ Elizabeth Zimmerman


Adding A Button Hole After The Fact

I love it when I learn something new in my knitting. Last week I did and I'm passing that knowledge on to you.

Every once in awhile the fearless leader of our KnitWits group will bring me an unfinished project someone donated for me to take care of. I can either finish them, or unravel them so the yarn can be used for something else. Most of the time I unravel because either there's no pattern to tell me how to finish the thing, there isn't enough yarn (if any), or there's just not enough of the project done to make it worth it finishing it. But once in awhile one comes along that I do finish.

The last project she gave me was a baby sweater. It was done except it needed buttons sewn on (which were donated with the sweater) and button holes. The knitter had forgotten to put the button holes in as she knitted the sweater. (I suspect that's why it was donated.) I did a bit of research and discovered it IS possible to add them in after the fact. I started out with the instructions I'd found on the web (my Google Fu is strong), but as I was working the first button hole, I came up with an even better way to do it. That is what this post is about.

I started working on this project at Rathdrum Knitalong on Tuesday. I did 4 of the 5 holes, then decided to take pics of the last hole so I could do this tutorial. You'll notice a change in background. That's cuz half way through the meeting ended and I went home and finished it. I used my phone to take the pics. I have not given the camera in my phone enough respect. It did much better than expected. Anyway, on to the tutorial.

1. The first thing you want to do is determine where you want the button holes to be. On this particular project, I wanted button holes along the front band so I put safety pins at each knitted row where I wanted the holes.

2. After determining the row for button hole placement, take a sharp pair of scissors and clip the yarn in the middle of that row. This band was 6 stitches wide, so I clipped the 3rd stitch.

You will have a hole like this with two little yarn ends.

3. Carefully and gently unravel the stitches in the row you just clipped until you have the number you need for the size buttons you're using. I had really big buttons, so I unraveled 5. I used a tapestry needle to coax the yarn strands out of the stitches. There will be stitch loops above and below.

4. Now you need 2 circular needles the same size that would probably give you the approximate gauge the garment was knit at for the next step. Double pointed ones would work just as good if you have them (I don't). I used two size 3's. Gently put the open stitches on the knitting needles. Put the ones above the hole on one needle, and the ones below the hole on another.

5. Push the two strands of yarn that are now on each side of the hole to the back. You can see mine here through the rather large hole.

6. Starting with the stitches on the needle at the bottom of the hole, you will bind the stitches off as follows:

Step 1-  Slip the first 2 stitches to the right needle.

Step 2-  Then, with the left needle, pick up the first of the two slipped stitches,

lift it up and over the second stitch and off the needle. The arrow in this photo is pointing at the stitch that is now off the needle and wrapped around the base of the second stitch.

Step 3-  Slip the next stitch from the left to the right needle and repeat step 2.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have one stitch left on the right hand needle, then turn your work around so the needle with the stitches at the top of the hole is now in front and on the bottom of the hole. Continue to bind off across until you have one stitch left.

7. Now we finish it off so it won't unravel. Pull the closest yarn strand on the back to your open stitch through to the front. I got lucky. It was the longest of the two.

Using a tapestry needle, thread the yarn end onto the needle

and draw it through the open stitch.

Pull the strand back through the button hole to the wrong side and weave in the two ends. Here is the finished button hole.

And another one, which I did a much better finishing job on.

And here's the finished front of the sweater with buttons sewed on. (I really need to steam this thing.)

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial.

Live long and prosper. \\//


  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial. It is very well presented and clear. You have saved me a lot of trouble!!

  2. So you need 3 needles in order to do this?

    1. 3 double pointed needles, or 2 circular needles.

  3. Thank you!! My first thought was to use yarn and catch the open stitches i wanted instead, then clip the yarn of the stitches i wanted removed (I need more of a box area than a hole I think for a dog leash to come through the sweater). This looks much easier. Only issue is I don't have matching yarn so hopefully my knit skills are on "point" (pun intended hah!) And I'm successful, otherwise I'll be paying for a new dog sweater for my family friend :)

  4. Worked like a charm. Thank you so much.

  5. You are a life saver!!! Thank you so much! I purchased a pattern and wanted to put buttons on the sweater, but the written pattern unfortunately had mixed up the left and right front panels so after knitting what I though was the left panel, I realized it was the right panel, the one I needed to put the button holes on!!!

  6. Génial !! Vous êtes tout simplement géniale !!! Merci!