Not all buttonholes are created equal. I found this out a long time ago. I’ve done everything from a simple yarn over to a complicated affair involving two layers of hand-knit fabric with blanket stitch to attach them to each other, some where it’s all done on one row, others that you don’t finish until you return on the next row, and everything in between. Some are quite messy, some hard to find when you’re buttoning, some are, frankly, way too much work. In the end, I found the two-layer-blanket-stitch concoction to be just as unsatisfactory as the simple yarn-over buttonhole. In the end, the one I (currently) like best is a three- or four-stitch buttonhole that’s a trifle fussy to make, but is done all at once—no need to remember to finish it on the way back—requires no sewing, and stands up well over time. It is a little fussy, though, so I took some photos last night while I was doing them for my latest sweater design (yarn is the lovely Merino 600 from The Sheepwalk Fiber Arts Studio in View of the Guadalupe).
Work as established to the stitch where the buttonhole will start, bring yarn to front between needles, drop yarn. Just drop the yarn. Really! It will just be in the way if you don’t. A note here: this sweater is reverse stockinette on the right side, and so we actually are looking at the front of the work.
Slip 1 stitch knitwise from left needle to right needle, then (slip 1 stitch knitwise from left needle to right needle, pass second stitch on right needle over first stitch) three times. You have just bound off three stitches. No, you don’t knit these stitches first. Yes, they create a slightly stiff edge. This is exactly what is needed.
Return last stitch on right needle to left needle. This opens up the whole you just made.
Turn work so that wrong side is facing, and bring yarn between the needles to the front. Note here: if I were making a buttonhole on a garter stitch band, I would leave the yarn in back.
*Purl into first stitch on left needle, the slip new stitch onto left needle; repeat from * until 4 stitches have been made, and are sitting on the left needle. If this doesn’t seem quite tight enough, and it does need to be firm, purl each new stitch through the back loop. Note, I bound off three stitches, and I cast on four. This was for a three-stitch buttonhole. If I were making a four-stitch buttonhole, I would have bound off four stitches above, and cast on five stitches here. Also, if I were making a garter stitch button band, I would knit stitches on, instead of purling them, and I would definitely knit into the back loop for the additional firmness.
Turn so that right side is facing you again, and yarn is in back. Slip first stitch from left needle to right needle, pass second stitch on right needle over slipped stitch. This closes up the unsightly gap that is left by so many other buttonhole techniques.
With this, Voila! The buttonhole is done. It sometimes still seems a little iffy, insubstantial, until I have some fabric on the far side, but once the ribbing is all done, and everything has been bound off, this buttonhole shines.