Today’s topic: bound buttonholes! If you’re doing regular buttonholes, they’re often the last thing you do on your garment. But if you’re doing bound buttonholes, they’re usually one of the first steps! They’re one of the first steps in sewing the O Dress, so that’s what I’m working on. Let me show you my favourite method of doing bound buttonholes!
My favourite method is a little different, but it’s always worked for me! Maybe it will become your favourite method too.
- The garment piece that requires buttonholes, marked with the buttonhole placement
- Scraps of your garment fabric, at least one 4″ by 4″ piece for each buttonhole
- A buttonhole cutter or small, sharp scissors
- Marking pen
First, make sure the buttonhole placement is marked on your fabric piece. If you’re using a mysteriously labelled vintage pattern like mine, figure out which markings are meant to be the buttonhole opening.
On my piece, the buttonhole is placed between the two rectangles.
Measure the length of your buttonhole. We’ll need to know how long the finished buttonhole should be, so we can cut our bound buttonhole strips. For my dress, the buttonhole length is 1″ (2.5cm).
If your marking is on the inside of the garment, transfer your markings to the right side. Draw a line down the middle of the buttonhole, and mark the ends.
On your scrap of matching garment fabric, draw a straight line. This line should be either parallel to your selvages, or at a right angle. If you have a striped fabric, choose whether you want the stripes going across the buttonhole or along the length of the strip. (There’s no right or wrong, it’s up to you!)
Now, we’ll need to cut strips for each buttonhole. I have two buttonholes (as we learned last week!) so I’ll need two sets of strips.
Math time! We’ll need to calculate two measurements for each strip: the length and the width.
For the length: I add 1″ to the buttonhole length. So if my finished buttonhole should be 1″, then I’ll cut my strip 2″ long.
For the width: Decide how wide you want the buttonhole ‘lips’ to be when they’re finished. I like mine a bit thicker, 0.5cm wide. Just under 1/4″ on each side. Take that measurement, and multiply it by 4. So if I want my strips to be 1/4″ wide, then I’ll cut my strips 1″ wide.
Cut your rectangles 2″ by 1″ wide. You’ll need one strip for each half of the buttonhole, two strips per buttonhole. So I need 4 strips total.
Was that confusing? We’re done with the math now, now we can get back to the sewing!
Take each strip, and press it in half lengthwise. So your 2″ long strip is now only half an inch wide.
Now, line up the strip, centering it along the buttonhole placement line – RAW EDGES IN and FOLD OUT.
(Very important! If you do it the other way around, you’ll have some unpicking to do.)
Take the other strip and line it up along the buttonhole placement markings the same way – RAW EDGES INWARDS. The raw edges should meet along the buttonhole marking line.
Pin strips in place. Now, we’re going to stitch right down the middle of each little strip. If it helps, draw guidelines down the middle of each buttonhole strip. Mark the starting and ending points as well. (Once you get it under your machine, it’s a lot harder to see what’s going on!)
Stitch from starting point to ending point. Use a small stitch size for better accuracy. (I used 1.5 stitch length on my machine.) Basically, you want to stop at the exact same spot on each side.
Backstitch at both ends – if you can do it without going farther than your start point. If you’re worried you will backstitch too far, stitch in place for a few stitches instead, to secure the ends.Here’s what it looks like on the opposite side. It’s really clear to see because of my underlining! I’ve done a pretty good job of stopping and starting, so that both sides line up. If yours are a little off, go back in and make an extra stitch at the short end, so they match up.
This next picture shows you what’s going to happen when we finish off this buttonhole. The lips that we had facing outwards, are going to turn inwards and fill in the hole. They’ll meet in the middle, because we sewed each strip exactly in half. Can you picture how it’s going to end?
Brilliant, no? I’ve done bound buttonholes a few different ways, and this way always turns out the flattest and the most even.
Ok, so in order to turn the strips right-side out, we need to cut a hole. If you have a buttonhole knife and mini cutting mat, that’s the best! Alternately, you can fold the buttonhole in half and make a small snip, then use small scissors to cut the rest.
It was really hard to get a decent photo of cutting the buttonhole so I hope this gets the point across!
Even using the buttonhole slicer, I only use it to start the cutting, and make the rest of the cut with scissors. Here’s what the first cut looks like:
From this point, cut a ‘Y’ shape into the corners. Use small scissors if you have them! Be careful not to cut the lips on the opposite side. You just want to cut through the bottom layer (and in my case, the underlining too.)
Repeat the ‘Y’ shape (or V shape) cut into the other corners, too.
Now, let’s turn the buttonhole lips to the inside! One at a time, turn each side of the buttonhole through the hole.
And then the second one:
On the inside, arrange the buttonhole lips so they’re flat, and the little triangle from the ‘V’ cut is turned to line up with the buttonhole lips.
Here’s what it will look like, when everything is lined up:
And from the reverse side, showing the triangle of fabric:
Ok. A couple of important things happened in this step:
- Our buttonhole lips (or welts) are lined up with each other, and don’t cross over each other.
- They should meet in the middle of the opening
- The triangle is turned to the inside as shown
- The triangle is centered over the place where the welts meet
- The triangle is turned out as far as it can go, so that it forms a nice, clean rectangle.
Now we’ll stitch down the triangles, forming the shape of our buttonhole.
This is the most important step in the bound buttonhole: sewing these little triangles. It makes all the difference, so take your time!
What I like to do is stitch it down once, without backstitching, to check my work. If it’s good, then I’ll go over it a few more times. But if it’s bad, at least I have less to unpick!
Stitch down across the triangles without backstitching. Be careful not to catch any of the garment fabric, just the triangle and the welt ends.
Now, check your work. Flip over your garment and check the right side of the buttonhole.
Success! It looks even, it’s square to the edges of the buttonhole, and there are no puckers at the corners. To really make it strong, I’m going to run it under the machine a few more times so it’s nice and secure.
Look at the photo – I’ve ran it under the machine back and forth about five times. That triangle’s never coming undone!
Repeat with the other side of the buttonhole, stitching down the triangle, checking its position, and stitching it securely.
Voila! A pretty little bound buttonhole. What do you think – that wasn’t too hard, was it?
Repeat with the rest of your buttonholes. Done and done! I love how professional they look. You rarely see bound buttonholes on ready-to-wear clothing, unless it’s a heavy coat.
Here’s a little checklist for successful buttonholes:
- Buttonholes are straight, either parallel or at perfect right angles to nearby garment edges.
- Buttonhole lips are even on both sides
- The buttonhole mouth stays closed and doesn’t gape open
- There are no puckers at the corners
One thing I didn’t do: apply fusible interfacing to the buttonhole area before starting. You may want to reinforce your fabric with a rectangle of fusible interfacing, for strength, and so the cut edges don’t fray and fall apart when you sew your triangles.
What do you think of this method? Do bound buttonholes intimidate you?
For me, I like the reliability. I like that you do bound buttonholes at the beginning of a project, so you have a chance to get them right mid-project instead of when it’s all finished. Like the hand-picked zipper, bound buttonholes are time-consuming, but add a professional touch to your projects, and have a great chance of success!
Have an awesome weekend everyone!