How to Make Appliquéd Buttonholes and More

comments (4) March 13th, 2009     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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Appliqués can be a beautiful buttonhole detail.
To make the appliqués, choose a fabric that has interesting motifs with simple outer edges.
Mark the buttonhole on the wrong side of the appliqué. Place the right side of the appliqué to the wrong side of the bag (the red leaf fabric is the lining).
Appliqués can be a beautiful buttonhole detail.

Appliqués can be a beautiful buttonhole detail.

Photo: Mary Ray

Although there are lots of ways to make fine-looking buttonholes—like bound buttonholes, hand-worked buttonholes, beautiful loop buttonholes, and perfect buttonholes turned out on a sewing machine with or without an attachment—sometimes they can be quite challenging to do. These appliquéd buttonholes, however, are fun and easy and may just be the perfect alternative when your buttonhole-making skills aren’t up to par or the ones your machine turns out aren’t so great.

The buttonhole on my little striped linen bag is an extension of the appliqués used to embellish the flap. I cut out the organic motifs from a piece of printed cotton. It’s the perfect material for this technique because it’s stable, lightweight, and tightly woven, which means it won’t add extra bulk to the closure and it won’t fray when trimmed close to the stitching.

To make appliquéd buttonholes:
1. Cut simple shapes from fabric or use motifs from a printed fabric for the appliqués.


To make the appliqués, choose a fabric that has interesting motifs with simple outer edges.

2. Complete your bag or garment, and mark where you want the button. Be sure to interface the wrong side of the bag or garment in the area of the buttonhole to reinforce the stitching.

3. Determine the placement on the right side and transfer the marking to the wrong side.

4. Place the right side of the appliqué to the wrong side of the garment or bag, and mark the length of the buttonhole.


Mark the buttonhole on the wrong side of the appliqué. Place the right side of the appliqué to the wrong side of the bag (the red leaf fabric is the lining).

5. Pin in place and stitch a narrow rectangle around the mark. Use a short stitch length (1mm). Start on a long edge, pivot and turn at the corner, stitch two or three stitches to complete the end, pivot and turn to stitch the other long edge, complete the remaining end with the same number of stitches as the first, and pivot to finish the first long edge of the box.


Sew a narrow rectangle the desired length of the buttonhole using a short machine stitch.

6. Cut the buttonhole, clipping diagonally into each corner.


Slash the buttonhole with sharp scissors, cutting diagonally into the corners to ensure a crisp edge when the appliqué is turned to the right side.

7. Pull the appliqué to the right side. Press and pin in place. Trim away any loose threads from the outer edges of the appliqué.


Pull the appliqué to the right side.

8. Satin-stitch the appliqué in place through all thicknesses. (A satin stitch is a zigzag that uses a very short stitch length.)


Press carefully to flatten the appliqué, pin, and satin-stitch around the outer edges.

This technique works well on heavier fabrics that don’t fray, such as wool melton, wool fleece, or boiled wool. Use a straight stitch or a decorative machine stitch to stitch the outer edges in place.


This technique adds a great detail to a coat or jacket when a decorative machine stitch is used to hold the buttonhole in place.


A rectangular patch stitched down with a straight stitch forms the appliquéd buttonhole on this wool fleece jacket.

Loop buttonholes for extra-large buttons:
Loop buttonholes are the best solution when you don’t want to cut into your fabric and when the buttons are especially large. Here’s a tip: Use elastic hair ties to make the loop. They come in lots of colors and widths and are generally easier to find than colored cord elastic by the yard. FYI—H & M stores have great selections.


Elastic hair ties are perfect for large loop buttonholes.

posted in: buttons, buttonholes

Comments (4)

nikkikn writes: Thanks Mary! this is a great tutorial. I'm sure going to use your beautiful technique on my next project!
Posted: 11:49 am on October 24th
mama50 writes: Hello Mary, thank you for the wonderful inspiration - learning applique , and many councils, which it desperately wants to learn, you have a golden heart, tell me more, I like flowers, leaves, and other Accessories for women. Also I would like to learn to sew with the fabric - Cup of tea cloths and other fun your art. decorations, and wait and read a copy of your work,
Best wishes,
mama50
Posted: 7:51 pm on February 15th
Kathyncat writes: thank you! It's such a beautiful take on buttonholes!
Posted: 2:47 pm on March 15th
Miba writes: I love this idea! I'll deffinately be using it.
Posted: 10:44 am on March 14th
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