Tales from the Bound Buttonhole
The first bound buttonhole I ever attempted was in a Clothing and Textiles class my freshman year in college. It was, as they say, an exercise in futility, as my 18-year-old brain was simply not geared for the rigors of buttonhole science . That early experience caused me to avoid the dreaded things for years to come; I was convinced I wasn’t up to the job. Not so, as I shall now show you.
A great lesson I learned from my college experience is that there are alternative methods to getting a desired result. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another until you find one that does. The method I will demonstrate here works for me and I hope it will give those of you who may like to learn the art of creating a beautiful couture buttonhole some tips for success.
1. I begin the process by carefully marking the button layout. Always make your buttonhole 1/8 inch larger than your button measurement. Some button styles require more ease, but 1/8 is adequate for most buttons.
2. Machine (or hand) baste over buttonhole width so that placement line shows through to front side of fabric. Cut a 2″ x 2″ bias square for each buttonhole. The bias creates the piping in the buttonhole and can be in a contrasting fabric if desired.
3. Steam and stretch bias strips in both directions to eliminate the “give” in the fabric.
4. Place bias strips on the right side of the garment over the basting lines and pin in place. Be sure to have right side of garment and bias strips facing each other.
5. On the wrong side, machine baste on the buttonhole line as originally marked in step 1. Once basted, shorten stitch and sew 1/8 inch on either side of basting line being very careful to keep both lines even at buttonhole end. Good markings really help with accuracy in this step. Once stitched, remove basting thread on bias strip and cut through the center of strip.
6. On wrong side, cut down center line, carefully snip to left and right corner creating a triangle at both ends.
8. Hand stitch piping into place being sure to catch inside edges within the piping. Conceal stitches in the “ditch” of the seam line.
9. Once piping has been stitched into position, baste the piped edged together to secure for next step.
10. When piping is secured, turn to inside and machine stitch the triangles created in step 6 at each end with a small stitch. This is an important step both for creating a nice clean edge on the end of the buttonhole and also for giving strength and durability.
When triagles on both ends are stitched, remove basting stitches on piped edges. Trim excess from bias strip and lightly tack down.
Voila! There you have it… a bound buttonhole.
Here are the four that I made for my coat. As you can see, each one has its own personality, and that’s the beauty of a handmade garment.
Next time I will show you how to complete an interior finish for your buttonhole. Until then, happy sewing!