How to Hand-Sew a Buttonholecomments (45) February 19th, 2016
Technology in sewing buttonholes by machine is incredibly advanced these days: Pop a button into the special foot, press a button, and a perfectly sized buttonhole is done in a moment. But there are many reasons why you might want to sew a buttonhole by hand, and most people don't even realize it's possible! If you don't have access to a machine, or yours doesn't make particularly nice buttonholes (it happens), or you're making something delicate that might not survive the heavy needling of a machine-made hole, or you just want a handmade one for aesthetic reasons, a hand-stitched buttonhole could be the solution. You might just never go back!
All you'll need is some heavy-duty buttonhole or quilting thread (or embroidery floss), a needle, something to mark the placement with, and a ruler if you need to plan out the placement of several holes.
Buttonholes should always be stitched through a minimum of two layers of fabric, so if you only have one layer where you want the hole(s), you'll need to do a fold-back facing (essentially a wide hem) or a separate one. If your fabric is very thin, insert a layer of interfacing in between. I began by stitching a 1-inch hem, which will be my facing.
1. Mark your placement. Use tailor's chalk or another temporary marking tool to indicate the size and placement of the hole(s). They should be centered and evenly spaced. You might find it helpful to mark the center point of each hole for the next step.
2. Cut the holes. Fold each buttonhole in half, and carefully snip through both layers. You may want to cut them a little short and then unfold and finish snipping each end separately.
3. Begin stitching. Thread your needle and tie a knot with both ends together. You'll be using the double strand for extra strength. Starting in the middle of one side of the hole, insert the needle between the two layers (to hide the knot) and come out on the right side, about 1/8 inch from the cut edge. Take the needle around the cut edge to the wrong side, and pierce both layers so that the needle exits on the right side in the same place where it originally came out.
Use this first stitch to anchor the top of your first blanket stitch by inserting the needle from right to left under the top of the stitch. Now begin blanket-stitching around the hole from left to right (if you don't know how, hop over to Erika Kern's tutorial here), working your stitches pretty close together.
Work around until you get to the end of the first side, then continue around the end of the hole in about three stitches, with the second stitch extending out straight from the cut hole, until you are on the other side.
Work across the second side and the remaining end in the same way, until you have reached the starting point. To finish, slip the needle through the top of the first stitch to complete the circle, then from the wrong side, make a tiny stitch (picking up only two or three threads of the fabric) at the base of the first stitch, and before pulling the stitch tight, insert the needle through the loop to make a knot. Finally, insert the needle just next to the knot, through only the wrong-side layer, and pull through to bury the tail between the two layers for a clean back side.
You can play around with the size and density of your stitches to get different effects, or try fun contrast colors or novelty threads such as metallic or variegated! Hand-stitched buttonholes can add the finishing detail to all kinds of projects, and are the perfect complement to a handmade button.
After you make this project, show off your work to other members!
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