Master Class: Artistic Button Loops
Updated: Jul 28, 2022
If you want to make your next project stand out, add artistic button loops! Button loops have more applications than any other closure without the limitation of their counterparts. They are placed in lieu of buttonholes, used as ties on baby garments, and to hold elongated toggles. They are ideal for cardigans, pocket closures, coats, decorative cuffs, purse closures and children’s mittens to attach to their coats. You can adjust them to allow garments to peak through for a pop of color or cool garments in warm weather.
Knitters often choose button loops as an afterthought closure to an open front cardigan. The easy, breezy look of an open cardigan looks great on a model, but after we’ve knitted and worn the cardigan we end up deciding we really want a closure after all. Just one button, at the top, to hold it all together. Enter the button loop! It is added after the garment is finished without prior planning. It is created on the inside of the open edge and can be placed anywhere you want. They're fantastic for funky, odd shaped buttons because of their flexibility and capacity to accommodate odd shapes.
Button loops can add decorative whimsy to a garment and are great on children’s garments when worked in contrasting, bright colors.
With fingering weight yarn, a delicate loop can be made for small, covered buttons, perfect for lace. They bring an old-world charm to an heirloom cardigan when used with ornately carved, metal buttons.
Button loops are often chosen over buttonholes to secure a lightweight summer cardigan without the extra fabric that an overlapping button band creates. By leaving a slight gap between the left and right sides, it keeps the summer piece open and airy. If the button is placed further away from the edge, button loops can be used for extra warmth in the winter by laying the fabrics of double-breasted jackets and are better than holes at accommodating larger sized toggles on coats. They are also a good alternative when buttonholes will distort a pattern.
Beyond closures, they are useful as hanging loops for garments. Simply add a button loop to the inside, center back of your favorite cardigan, zippered hoodie, or shawl and you can easily hang it on a hook by the door – great for daily walks. Add them to dish towels too.
Two of the most common ways to make button loops are the Sewn Button Loop using the buttonhole stitch and the Crocheted Chain method. Before you start, decide where to place your button loop. You can work from the edge but the base of the loop will be visible. I like to work my button loops entirely on the WS of the fabric. It gives a neat appearance, emerging from behind the fabric with the button loop base hidden. It maintains an undisturbed edge and looks as good when the button loops are buttoned or left open. [Figure 1 below] shows a loop worked on the edge at the top and a loop worked on the WS at the bottom.
Sewn Button Loop
Step 1 Thread a tapestry needle with your button loop yarn, leaving a 2’ tail.
Step 2 (a) To place at the edge: With RS of work facing you, insert needle tip where you want your button loop to begin, from back of garment to front between the complete edge stitch (2 strands) and the stitch next to it. Pull yarn through, leaving 6” tail. Insert needle tip where you want your loop to end, about the width of the button, from front to back between the complete edge stitch and the stitch next to it, leaving a loop large enough to fit your thumb through. Insert the needle from back to front through the same hole as you began leaving a same-sized loop. You will have a large circle with one loop on the RS of fabric and one loop on the WS. You’re now ready to work the buttonhole stitch. [Figure 2 below]
Step 2 (b) To place on the WS of fabric: With WS of work facing you, insert the needle tip under a stitch, from one stitch in and pull yarn through, leaving 6” tail. Loop the yarn around your thumb and insert needle tip under a stitch where you want your loop to end. Loop yarn back over your thumb and go through the same stitch as you began. [Figure 3 below]
Step 3 Hold both loops together and adjust the size of your double stranded loop so that it’s slightly bigger than your button. Test your loop size by sliding it over the button.
Press the fabric between your left fingers with the loop rising above and take the yarn over your left index finger, and bring needle tip through the center of the loop from back to front. [Figure 4 below]
Step 4 Turn the needle and take it from front to back, over the top of the loop and under the yarn draped around your index finger. The needle will pass in between the loop and index finger yarn. [Figure 5 below]
Step 5 Remove your finger and pull yarn tight. Wiggle it down next to the fabric, so it’s the first stitch on the left side of the loop. One buttonhole stitch completed!
Repeat steps 3-5 until you’ve made enough buttonhole stitches to fit around loop. Note –Slide the stitches next to each other and decide if you should make another stitch or two. Keep “knots” of each stitch on the outer edge and each stitch tightened to the same size.
Cut yarn and weave in tails.
Crocheted Chain Method
With a crochet hook and button loop yarn,
Step 1 (a) To place at the edge: With RS of work facing you, insert crochet hook where you want your loop to begin, front to back between the complete edge stitch and the stitch next to it. Draw up a loop and work a crochet chain to the desired length. Enlarge that last loop, remove the hook and insert it from front to back where you want your loop to end, between one complete edge stitch and the stitch next to it. Put the enlarged loop back on the hook, snug it up and pull it through your fabric. [Figure 6 below]
Step 1 (b) To place on the WS of fabric: With WS of work facing you, insert crochet hook where you want your loop to begin, under a stitch one stitch in from edge. Draw up a loop and work a crochet chain to the desired length. Remove the hook and insert it from the WS, under a stitch, one stitch in. Put the last chained loop back on the hook, and pull it through the stitch.
Step 2 With RS of work facing you, insert hook from front to back through the top strand of the last chain worked of your button loop, pick up the yarn and pull it through both loops on the crochet hook. Repeat until you’ve worked around the loop. Fasten off the last loop.
[Figure 7 below]
Cut yarn and weave in tails.
Figure 8 shows a completed crochet chain button loop when worked on the WS of the fabric.
By changing the weight of yarn and varying the lengths, you can make a button loop as thin and delicate or large and durable as needed. With so many creative applications, the easily-formed button loop is a fun accent to add.
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Hiatt, June Hemmons. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Hoenig, Pam. Knitting Tips & Trade Secrets. Newtown, CT: The Taunton Press, 2006.