How to Hand-Sew a Buttonhole

comments (0) March 3rd, 2009     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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I love the handmade look of these buttonholes! They have a lot more character than machine-made ones.
I used a 1-inch hem as my facing, but you may not need to do this if your piece already has two layers to it.
Mark the placement of your buttonholes.
I love the handmade look of these buttonholes! They have a lot more character than machine-made ones.

I love the handmade look of these buttonholes! They have a lot more character than machine-made ones.

Photo: Cal Patch
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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.


I used a 1-inch hem as my facing, but you may not need to do this if your piece already has two layers to it.

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.


Mark the placement of your buttonholes.

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.


Carefully cut each hole open.

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.


Your first anchor stitch just wraps around the edge of the hole. Hide the knot and tail between the two layers.

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.


Begin to blanket-stitch around the perimeter of the hole, keeping your stitches close together.

Continue stitching along one side until you reach the end...

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.


...then work around the bend, spacing your stitches evenly.

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.


When you've gone all the way around, tie a knot on the wrong side and insert the needle into the wrong side layer only. Pull it out an inch or two away, and snip the tail so that it's buried between the layers.


Wasn't that fun? 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.

 

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posted in: , embroidery, buttons, hand sewing, buttonhole, blanket stitch