Hello! How is your week going? Mine has been rather dramatic! I’ve been unwell, hence my absence on the blog, but I am feeling much better now. Yay! So let’s get back into some sewing goodness. Today I want to show you how to sew bound buttonholes. This techniques looks beautiful on tailored garments such as coats. I’ve found that people are often intimidated by this technique as it’s quite involved and a little bit fiddly. However, if you approach it with patience and take your time (including taking the time to do a practice one first), I think you’ll find they’re not so scary after all. I’m sorry this post is very long and image heavy, but I really want this tutorial to be thorough and easy to follow for people who want to give it a go.
Before we get started, there are a few things to keep in mind when sewing bound buttonholes. Firstly, any area that is going to have a buttonhole sewn on it should always have interfacing on the back of the fabric. This includes bound buttonholes as the interfacing not only stabilises the area, but also helps to reinforce the fabric and prevent fraying around the corners of the buttonhole. Secondly, buttonholes are usually one of the last things so be sewn on a garment. However, when sewing bound buttonholes you will need to do them fairly early on in the construction of your garment, as once the facings are sewn up or the collar attached it will be very difficult to get inside the garment to sew the buttonholes. Also, bound buttonholes should only be done on garments that are completely lined so all the raw edges are enclosed within the lining (and facing) of the garment. If you are trying bound buttonholes for the first time, the easiest fabrics to use would be nice, flat, tightly woven wools or cottons. Loose weaves that fray easily, or plush fabrics (like the velveteen I’m using) are more challenging.
Okay, let’s get started on the buttonholes. The first thing you’ll need to do is work out how big you need your buttonholes to be. Generally speaking, a buttonhole will ned to be the diameter of the button plus the thickness. For example, my chunky fabric covered buttons are 30 mm wide and 5 mm thick so I’m making my buttonholes 35 mm long. This is why it’s important to do a practice buttonhole first, to double check that the size is correct. Once these buttonholes are done, that’s it, you can’t unpick and re-do them!
Each jet (the lip of the buttonhole) will be a finished width of 5 mm. (If you are working with imperial measurements, it might be easier to make your jets 1/4″ (6 mm)). So to cut the pieces of fabric for the jets, measure rectangles 2 cm wide (2 x 5 mm jet plus 2 x 5 mm for seam allowance) by the length of your buttonhole plus 2 cm, in my case this is 5.5 cm (3.5 cm plus 2 cm seam allowance). If your fabric is thin, flimsy or frays easily, you should also iron on some light weight interfacing to the back of these jet pieces. You will need two jets for each buttonhole. Fold each jet in half with the right side of the fabric facing outwards and iron them flat.
On your garment (or scrap fabric if you’re doing a practice buttonhole) mark the buttonhole placement on the back of the fabric as shown. You just need to mark the middle of the buttonhole (where to two jets will meet) and the ends where it will finish. This is shown on the right hand side of the image, the rectangle on the left indicates the whole area of the buttonhole on the facing. you can mark this now too, though we won’t get to sewing that bit until later. The line down the middle indicates the fold line, to the right is the right side of the garment, to the left is the facing. You don’t need to mark this line on your fabric if you don’t want to, but for the sake of making this tutorial easy to follow I have marked it. The placement of your buttonhole and the distance from the fold line (the finished edge of the garment) will depend on the pattern you’re using, the size of your buttonholes and your personal preference. I am sewing my buttonholes 12 mm (1/2 “) from the fold line. Make sure that the markings for the buttonhole (on the right) and the buttonhole facing (on the left) line up perfectly. They need to be exactly the same distance from the fold line and must correspond perfectly when folded over. When marking the buttonhole placement on the back of your fabric you can use chalk, fabric pencil, or just pins – whatever you find easiest. I’m using pencil as it’s accurate and is easy to see for this tutorial.
This next bit is where it starts to get a little tricky, so just take your time. Use pins on the wrong side to mark the buttonhole placement and flip it over and use chalk to transfer the buttonhole placement to the right side of the fabric.
On the right side of the fabric line up the raw edges of one of the jets with the chalk line so the edges poke beyond the length of the buttonhole by 1 cm on each end. Pin along the middle of the jet (5 mm from chalk line) and pin at each end of the jet according to the chalk marking the length of the buttonhole.
Pin the other jet on in the same manner, with the raw edges lining up with the raw edges of the first jet.
Flip the fabric over and check that the pins line up with the length of the buttonhole markings on the other side and that the pins along the length of the jets are evenly spaced, 5 mm to either side of the central buttonhole line.
By hand, baste the jets in place along the middle of the jet from the start to the end of the buttonhole. Basting, or tacking, the jets in place by hand holds them securely so you can sew them accurately with your sewing machine without them slipping around. If you’re very brave/clever/impatient you might be tempted to skip this step, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as basting really is worth the extra couple of minutes it takes. Unpicking wonky jets will be much more annoying.
Once the tacking is done you can work from the wrong side, where you have your clear markings of the length of the buttonhole. Using your sewing machine, sew the length of the buttonhole along both sides 5 mm from the central line. These two rows of stitching will go through the middle of each jet. Flip it over to the right side to check that the stitching is along the middle of the jets and then you can unpick the tacking.
Using a small pair of sharp scissors cut the buttonhole as indicated in the diagram. Cut in as close to the corners as you can, but do not cut through the stitching or beyond the line marking the length of the buttonhole.
Carefully poke the jets through the hole so the folded edges of the jets meet and all the raw edges are now on the wrong side of the fabric (the side with the interfacing). Make sure the little triangles are poked towards the wrong side, too.
Hold the main part of the fabric out of the way and pin the triangle to the jets. Sew in place along the line on the triangle that indicates the length of the buttonhole.
The main part of the bound buttonhole is now done! Now it’s time to work on the facing, which is a bit simpler.
To finish of the facing side of the buttonhole you will need a piece of lining fabric that’s a couple of centimetres bigger than the entire buttonhole. For example, my buttonhole is 1 cm by 3.5 cm so I’ll cut a piece of lining fabric 5 cm by 7.5 cm so it has an extra 2 cm around all the edges. It’s better to have a piece of lining fabric slightly bigger than you think you’ll need as you can always trim it later. Place the lining fabric on the right side of the fabric over the facing area.
Flip it over and pin from the wrong side. The lining fabric should extend beyond the rectangle you have drawn.
On your sewing machine, sew around the rectangle exactly as you have marked it. Use a fairly small stitch length. Using a small, sharp pair of scissors, cut along the middle of the buttonhole facing and into the corners, through both layers of fabric. Be very careful not to cut across the stitching.
Pull the lining through the hole and spread it out around the buttonhole facing. Iron it flat. Trim away any of the lining the extends beyond the fold line of the facing and you might like to round off the corners too, just to make it neat. Now the buttonhole facing is complete. If this is your practice buttonhole, go ahead and follow the instructions to finish off the buttonhole hole. If you need to do multiple buttonholes on your garment, continue on with the others now, then finish them all off together later on. Depending on what your making, you may need to work on other aspects of the garment, such as the collar, etc before sewing the buttonholes together. Once the buttonhole and facing are joined together it will be hard to sew the other buttonholes, or attach a collar, that’s why you need to leave the finishing off until last.
To join the buttonhole, fold over your facing so it lines up with the buttonhole with all the raw edges enclosed between the layers of fabric. Pin around the edges of the buttonhole.
Thread a hand sewing needle with thread to match your fabric and sew the facing to the back of the buttonhole all around the edge using tiny stitches.
Your stitches should not be visible from the right side of the buttonhole. This is how it will look from the back once you’ve finished.
Now your bound buttonhole is finished! Look how pretty it looks! Well done for giving it a go and making it this far. Remember that as with most things, the more you do it, the easier it will get!
Sorry I don’t have a better photo of the jacket that I made for my niece (it’s the first image of this post), I was naughty and left it to the last minute and was in a mad rush finishing it on time. I was running out the door after taking that picture and actually only finished sewing on the buttons in the car on the way to the party, with Matt driving of course! Good luck with giving bound buttonholes a try!
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