Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook, by Montse Stanley
should be on every knitter's shelf. You may ask yourself when you first crack it open why you would ever need 948 (give or take a couple hundred) methods of casting on, but once you get a load of the World's Most Perfect Horizontal Buttonhole, which Montse modestly calls the "Standard Buttonhole" (p. 195), you will be happy to hear there is a "Buttonhole Cast On" that -- get this -- is perfect for buttonholes (p. 76) Once you figure out how to actually do a Buttonhole Cast On, that is. There's quite a list of instructions, with one measly drawing and a cross reference to the Twisted Loop Cast On (p. 66).
Any time I don't like the way a standard technique turns out in a particular situation, Montse is there, with her 948 methods of casting on, or her 357 ways of increasing and decreasing.
Here are some not-so-great buttonholes:
The one on the left is a 2-row buttonhole using a cable cast on. The buttonhole isn't bad, but the stitches to the left of it are enlarged and the whole thing pulls in. Blech. The one on the right is the Revised One-row Horizontal buttonhole from Nancie Wise's The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques. A good book, and this buttonhole looks fine in a single rib buttonhole band, but seed stitch lays flat, so you can see everything bad about a particular buttonhole.
Here's the buttonhole that made me love Montse:
Granted, this was done within a single rib band, but it looks great, and stretches right along with the ribbing.
Here it is in a full-size double rib band:
Montse? Wherever you are in the hereafter, this one's for you: Mmmwah!