It is one of the most common sewing techniques, yet it is also one that many people often struggle with. The buttonhole of a garment needs to fit around the button snugly, but it also needs to be easy to close as well. Those factors can make creating the perfect buttonhole stitch a little tricky, even for a master seamstress. It’s important to learn how to sew a buttonhole so that you can create a broader range of garments. The following will explain how to sew buttonholes that will help you expand your wardrobe and allow you to create a variety of wardrobe favorites.
What You Will Need to Create a Buttonhole
Buttonholing isn’t as difficult as it may seem and once you get used to doing it, you will wonder why you struggled with it for so long. There are a few things that you will need to get started. They include a garment to make a buttonhole on, sewing machine with a buttonhole foot, thread, water soluble stabilizer, and a marking tool such as a Frixion Pen.
How to Make a Buttonhole
Using the marking tool, mark the placement of your buttonholes on the garment. If you have vertical buttonholes such as on a button-up shirt, you may want to create a horizontal line where the buttonhole should start. If you have a sewing machine that automatically determines the buttonhole length, you will not need to determine the ending point.
You will select the buttonhole stitch setting on your machine. If you increase the stitch slightly, your finished product will look more ready-to-wear.
You will need to cut two strips to place on top and underneath each buttonhole marking. Align your garment under the machine’s buttonhole foot so that the needle is at the starting mark. Then allow the machine to do the rest. Repeat this until you have completed all the buttonholes on the garment. You may want to use a product such as Fray-check in between the rows to prevent fraying of the thread.
It is time to cut open each buttonhole. Most modern sewing machines will have a tool that can help make this process much easier. You can use a buttonhole cutter that features a sharp, thin blade which makes it easier to only cut away the stitches and nothing else.
How to Make a Buttonhole by Hand
If you have mastered creating buttonholes using a machine and would like to attempt the challenge of making a plain buttonhole by hand, this process is a little trickier. Handmade buttonholes can add a distinctive touch to any garment, especially a vintage item. So, it may be worthwhile to learn how to do it.
Supplies you will need
A silk buttonhole twist, beeswax, and a buttonhole gimp or cord, u” wide button that is around upholstery thread, or button and buttonhole thread.
Mark your buttonholes as you always would. If you have a 7/8” wide and 1/8” thick button, you’ll want a 1” buttonhole.
TIP: Traditional methods for handmade buttonholes will suggest that you slash the buttonhole and the overcast the edge. You can also try a different method that involves using your sewing machine to sew a small window that is 1/8” wide. Then slash through the opening.
Work on the buttonhole as top edge, down the side, bottom edge, and finish with a bar tack. It’s usually best to flip your garment upside down when starting with your buttonhole.
Using upholstery thread, take the length of a buttonhole gimp, and choose a thread color close to the one on your fabric. Start the knot on your garment just a few inches from your buttonhole. Take one or two huge stitches in the fabric to anchor it in place. Leave the tail long because you will use it when you move the gimp as you work.
Cut the length of your buttonhole twist and run it through some beeswax to coat the thread. Knot it at one end and run the knot back through the beeswax. Starting at the right bottom of the fabric, start to make your first buttonhole stitch. To complete this, take the thread behind the needle and down, and under it, then pull the needle through. Pull the thread tight, which will form a small bump at the opening of the buttonhole. Continue making stitches until you have several formed. The purls will line up with the edge of the buttonhole, creating a nice outline.
When you reach the edge, you will need to start rounding the corner with the stitches. At the halfway point, the buttonhole gimp will start to get in the way. Pull out the large stitches you made with the tail of the gimp and place it across the edge of the buttonhole. Take a few final couple of stitches around the corner before you anchor it off in the other direction, causing it to lay across the bottom of the buttonhole.
Continue working buttonhole stitches along the bottom edge of the buttonhole, when you arrive at the opposite edge, make a small bar tacks to finish it. Make one or two long stitches from top to bottom edge of the buttonhole. And then a few horizontal stitches over the longer ones, bringing it all together. That’s it. Pull the tail of the buttonhole twist and the gimp to the back of the fabric out of sight.
Seamstresses have two options when it comes to creating buttonholes, using a sewing machine or creating them by hand. While using a sewing machine may be faster and much easier for some, it is still a good trick of the trade to learn how to create a buttonhole by hand. Especially when you are working with vintage items.