Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tutorial: Buttonholes

Another old-but-new tutorial! This one focuses on creating buttonholes by hand, as not everyone has a sewing machine with a buttonhole attachment. Besides, hand sewn buttonholes have a unique charm that machined ones lack. How many times can I say 'buttonholes' in a paragraph? Buttonholes.


Buttonholes are an essential part of any garment, especially on men’s clothing. They can be found at the center front of a doublet, the sleeves’ wrists, and various forms of pants. During the Renaissance period, buttonholes sat perpendicular to whatever they were closing up. This means that your doublet’s buttonholes would sit horizontally, as well as those on a wrist closure. They are rather simple to do, once you get the hang of the stitch. Like most of what I do, these are the quick and dirty version. We could do them the prettier way, but this method is easy and only requires learning one new stitch. And my way has more character. Yeah, character.

What you’ll need:

Your garment
Thread (preferably buttonhole twist, though embroidery floss can do in a pinch)

Step 1: Decide just how large it needs to be. Generally, when you’re sewing a buttonhole, your stitches are going to close up the space a bit. Plus, you want a little bit of room to be able to button a garment with ease. The button I’m using is about ¾”, so I’m going to mark the hole at 1”.

Step 2: Carefully make your incision, ensuring that you have evenly cut through all layers of your garment.

Step 3: Starting from the backside of the garment, let your thread form a loop over the buttonhole. Pass the needle over the top of the loop, into the buttonhole, through the garment, and back over the thread. Pull your thread taut, and you have completed your first buttonhole stitch! Buttonholes look best when they’re sewn about 1/8” to 1/4” from the edge of the cut.

Step 4: Continue stitching your way around the hole in the same manner. Once you come back to where you started, tie off your thread.

Hey, look! A completed buttonhole! If you’ve followed my crap directions well, your buttonhole should have little knots around the edge, protecting the fabric from fraying with use. Do not be too concerned about having a messy buttonhole – there are plenty of extant garments with sloppy finish work. An imperfect buttonhole or eyelet is historically accurate!

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