Bound Buttonhole Bravery

Sometimes you just need to get stuck in. You know?

In my last post about the V8548 coat, I voiced my fear about making bound buttonholes through two layers of wool and one layer of interlining. Well, some part of my brain must have been telling me: that just doesn’t sound right. I mean, how does even the most expert Sewist do a good job through all those layers? Thank goodness I went away and checked. No, Karen. You make your bound button hole through the surface layer of the coat at an early stage in the make. (A second stage opens up a slit in the lining to push the buttons through.)

This meant my need to practise became more pressing. Time to roll up my sleeves and conquer my fear!

Gertie’s bound button hole tutorial is superb. There’s nothing I can say that she hasn’t already carefully explained. But I found I could add one or two extra pointers, as we’ll see.

The making of these button holes is so clever. So very clever! See my little button hole windows, lined with organza:

Did I mention that this process is fun, too? Once you’ve reached this stage you are meant to press the windows open so that the organza is barely noticeable from the right side of your make. This is one part of the process that I slightly struggled with. No matter what I did, I could still see the organza peeking around the edges. Can you see the right hand side button hole in the below shot? Can you see that organza?

The button hole on the left is performing better. Here are my top tips:

  • Press over a tailor’s ham rather than on the flat.
  • Press on the wrong side of the make and pull the organza back so that a lip of wool rolls over to the rear.

Can you see how I’m pulling the organza away from the little window here? Can you see that lip of wool fabric rolling to the rear? That’s what you want!

Press your button hole like this and you’ll have a much better ‘window’ in your fabric. Don’t worry about tearing the organza – it’s strong.

After this stage you make the ‘lips’ of your bound button hole:

And pin them in place:

Here’s my other top tip. Gertie suggests that you ‘may’ want to slip stitch around the edges of this button hole ie where the top rectangle sits against the lips pinned to the rear. I am going to replace the word ‘may’ with ‘absolutely should’. Any remaining glimpses of organza will disappear and you can be confident that your pieces are going to stay accurately in place as you do your last bits of machine sewing. Your slip stitching doesn’t even need to be that great with fabric like this – the stitches sink into the wool and disappear out of sight.

One last minute-long session at the sewing machine, and I had these:

Not bad for a first attempt! I guesstimate these two buttonholes took me an hour and a half. So for my four button holes on my coat I need a three-hour window. That’s a nice morning or afternoon’s work.

I honestly found these far less stressful than the machined button holes I’ve made on my Beignet skirts. With a machine-bound button hole you can be such a victim to the vagaries of your machine and its mood! I felt very in control of this make all the way along.

Yet again, I have Gertie to thank for making a new process painless and I feel slightly less scared about ploughing on with my coat. And, as always, remember – if an idiot like me can do this, so can you!

Now, all I need to do is duplicate this work on the coat itself. Oh, dear. I’m feeling ill again…

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41 Responses to Bound Buttonhole Bravery

  1. Elizabeth says:

    They look positively gorgeous and professional! Well done! Now go have a glass of well-deserved wine. 🙂

  2. mujerboricua says:

    They look fab! I’m sure you’ll do great with the coat fabric.

  3. Jane says:

    Oh I can’t wait to see the finished coat, it’s going to look absolutely perfect. Thanks for this post – it’s taken some of the fear out of bound buttonholes for me, although I agree with you about the lack of control with machined ones. For my grey jacket I had to unpick three buttonholes and start again!!!! A very deep breath was called for… x

  4. Sheryl says:

    WOW! What a star! Your bound buttonholes look so neat and professional. I really must get over my reticence to try these soon.
    I too am a fan of Gertie and agree that her tutorials are awsome. Thanks for your added tips too x

  5. Sarah says:

    Nice work – I’m sure you’ll do a fab job on your coat – it promises to be gorgeous

  6. Amelia says:

    I agree Gertie’s tutorial on this helped me out as well, especially since she illustrated with a lot of photos. Whenever I read the process of this in a sewing book it didn’t make sense but once I saw it, the whole thing really became obvious. Your right it isn’t difficult really it’s just time consuming with all the steps. Yours turned out beautifully by the way, your wool is killer.

  7. gingermakes says:

    These look lovely! I can’t wait to see your coat in all its glory!

  8. Suzie says:

    Oooo – these are beauties!

  9. These look fantastic! I used Gertie’s tutorial for bound buttonholes I added to a dress recently. Loved her instructions. I like your tip for pressing over a tailor’s ham. I must try that next time.

  10. Lena says:

    I have never seen bound buttonholes worked like this before, quite honest 🙂 I just make them like a teeny-weeny welt pockets

  11. Kerry says:

    Is it weird to describe buttonholes as gorgeous? Well, yours are!

  12. Wow, those look so neat and tidy, it’s going to be beautiful on the final coat. I was going to say the next ones will go faster because you’ll know the process, but you’ll probably spend more time making sure they are perfectly placed on the coat netting out close to even.

  13. Judith says:

    If anyone can perfect the scary bound buttonhole it is you. I must admit I have always avoided them since one long ago disaster. Your practice ‘bound beauties’ are to die for – looking forward to seeing the finished coat….

  14. I haven’t yet made any bound buttonholes because I haven’t sewn anything that would need them, but I really like them because they get sewn so early in the project. Normal buttonholes can be quite scary because they are sewn so late and there’s no real going back if you get them wrong.


  15. Chris Fraser says:

    Totally in AWE of those beautiful buttonholes…

  16. Karen you’ve made some pretty darned fantastic buttonholes there – well done girl! 🙂

  17. Cindy says:

    They look perfect! Maybe I should try them again…my first time was a horror show. Your coat is going to be fabulous!

  18. Elisalex says:

    Amazing job! I have to admit I started a bound buttonhole practice run recently while making a 50s swing jacket. However, I was following the instructions from the pattern, which were vague and frustrating so I gave up… But yours look so effortlessly flawless that I am determined to give this another go! Thanks!!

  19. Olive says:

    Very professional…you’re giving me courage to try my hand, maybe make a coat with the lovely camel wool with the subtle sparkle I saw on sale today. YES!

  20. MrsC says:

    Beautiful job. I like this technique, it is pragmatic, unike the standard pattern instructions. 🙂

  21. Joanne says:

    I can’t wait to see your coat – is that your real fabric? It’s absolutely gorgeous. Those buttonholes seriously caused me to sit up and go ooooh! They are so beautiful.

    • Yes, that’s the final fabric. There are only shreds left, so if anything goes wrong… I cut out some wrong pieces last night and muttered to myself, ‘I don’t deserve this coat.’

  22. Camilla says:

    Your buttonholes look so professional. Can’t wait to see your finished coat, your material is gorgeous. Love the silvery blue colour.

  23. Gosh Karen. They look far better than mine when I did them. I must try that method with organza next time. Those buttonholes will be a delight !

  24. I am so impressed! I’ve shied away from bound buttonholes but a) they look beautiful and b) as you’ve said, it removes the stress of worrying whether or not my machine will feel like buttonholes! You’ve inspired me, Karen! x

  25. Roobeedoo says:

    Jeepers! This explains a lot. That is definitely NOT what I thought a bound buttonhole was all about. Well done!

  26. Elena Cresci says:

    I can’t quite face buttonholes just yet – they are my greatest sewing enemy. Well done for conquering the bound buttonhole though! The tutorial is excellent, I’ll have to suck it up and give it a try myself!

  27. They look amazing. Stunningly professional!

  28. LinB says:

    “Oh, what a loverly bunch of buttonholes! There they are, all standing in a row … .” I’m so proud of you. I gave up on them long ago, Last jacket I tried them on gets a lot of wear, and the wretched bound buttonholes are raveling at the corners, every nasty one of them. I’ve finally just started “facing” the rectangular slit from the wrong side, pulling the fabric through and handstitching it down around the hole, then fringing the raw edges of the facing for an “arty” effect — or using a shaped facing and needle-turning the edges for an “artful” applique. On blouses, you can echo an element in the print to good effect with an applique with a buttonhole in the middle of it. And, you DO deserve that coat! No more negativity, missy.

  29. redsilvia says:

    Last time I tried to make bound buttonholes my mom had to finish them for me. Dis-ass-ter. Yours look great and I shall have to try them with Gertie’s tute. Thanks for the link. Of course my coat in progress will have bound buttonholes since I’m still chicken.

  30. Debi says:

    Brilliant! Just love these bound buttonholes! Great job!!

  31. Annie says:

    Absolutely stunning bound buttonholes!

  32. Adrienne says:

    Wow! You did such a great job! Could never have guessed this was your first attempt! And, of course, you are anything but an idiot. I love your blog.

  33. oonaballoona says:

    it’s like you have machine parts.

  34. Evie says:

    Stunning buttonholes! I’m not entirely convinced these are your first attempt! 😉 Good job!

  35. Pingback: Pinstripe Spencer Jacket: the inside story | ooobop!

  36. Great tutorial! Your tutorials are very clearly written and useful. I am just in the process of making a winter coat where I want to make bound buttonholes and this is very helpful.

  37. Reblogged this on Red Point Tailor and commented:
    Very good tutorial on bound buttonholes…

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