Thoughts on B-holes

Wren’s lace cardigan should be finished today. The only part remaining to be knit up is the button band.  I’ve actually started it, but I needed to take a break to look up the rules of button hole placement.  What side do I put them on?


I’m directionally challenged when it comes to knitting garments.  I love it when a designer draws out a schematic labeling what is meant by the innocuous phrase “front left.”  Otherwise, I will debate for no less than four hours is it front left as I’m wearing it or front left as I’m looking at it.   So unless there is a helpful pneumonic, I’m never able to easily recall if the buttons go on the left or right on a men’s or women’s sweater.  And because this sweater is of my own creation, I don’t have a schematic to rely on.

If I have learned anything from the Master Hand Knitting program thus far, it is to reference at least two sources for each technique.  Knitting Without Tears and Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Workbook by Debbie Bliss, and even Principles of Knitting by June Hiatt did not answer my question.  The “On Your Way to the Masters” article published by TKGA about buttonholes didn’t even address this.

Deborah Newton almost answered the question.  In her book Finishing School, she writes, “For a woman’s sweater, I often work the buttonhole row on the first row after the band’s pick-up row.”[1]  Okay…  Which way does she pick-up her stitches?

Unfortunately I have no source for the following as I read it ages ago.  I want to give credit to Elizabeth Zimmerman because she likes to explain the story behind her techniques.  However, neither of her books in my collection mentioned this at all so perhaps credit is due someone else.  I’m greatly paraphrasing.

Because young girls and women customarily required assistance when getting dressed, buttons — found on the back of the garment — were place on the right to ease the effort of the presumedly right-handed helper.  Thus buttonholes would be placed on the left.

Since men could dress themselves, buttons — found on the front of the garment — were place on the left.  Thus buttonholes would be placed on the right.  So a man, looking down, would be able to use his right hand to maneuver the buttons into the buttonholes on the left from his viewpoint.

Babies, regardless of gender, followed the rules of women’s garments because they required help getting dressed.  Obviously.  However, at some point in the modern era, people started following the men’s traditional button placement on a baby boy’s garments for aesthetic reasons.

I have actually no idea if any of that is correct.  I really do want to make sure I am placing them correctly as I want to submit the sweater in the county fair on Thursday (eep!).  So I looked at the pattern images in several books, and the buttonholes appear to be placed on the front left (as I’m looking at the sweater).

I’ll put the buttons on the right.

– –

[1]  Newton, Deborah.  Finishing School: A Master Class for Knitters.  New York:  Sixth & Spring Books, 2011.


2 responses to “Thoughts on B-holes

  1. I remember reading that explanation about button holes before so I bet it’s in Knitters Almanac, if that’s what you mean by source.

    I believe Purl-McPhee said she puts the holes on the right for adults who button their own clothes and on the left for small children who require assistance. Of course, this makes another assumption about the buttoner–that he or she is right-handed! What this means to me is that it doesn’t really matter. People will get by.

    Liked by 1 person

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