In today’s world of technology and computerization, it is refreshing to know that some handcrafts are still valued. The humble hand sewn buttonhole is a shining example of how a hand-stitched process can still be valuable in the world of machines. There are many occasions when sewing a buttonhole by hand is just the better option.
Why do a hand sewn buttonhole?
- You don’t have a buttonhole system on your machine and you really need a buttonhole
- Your fabric is too thick to be buttonholed by machine
- You are nervous about the confusing buttonhole gadgets on your machine
- A bad experience with a machined buttonhole makes you prefer hand sewing
- It’s a decorative option and you like the idea of crafting it yourself
Whatever your reasons, the handsewn buttonhole is not that difficult and with practice can be a work of art!
Handstitched buttonholes are assembled in a different order to the machine stitched version. The hand-stitched buttonhole starts with the cutting of the hole before the stitching begins. This is the exact reverse of the process when you machine stitch a buttonhole.
Hand Sewn Buttonhole
Step one: Prepare your fabric and measure and mark your buttonhole. This means using the actual button to mark the distance and checking how many buttonholes you will need.
For thicker buttons, don’t forget to add the depth of the button to the length of the buttonhole.
Formula: buttonhole length = length of button + depth of button + 1/8″ extra
In the preparation, decide on whether you will sew a horizontal or vertical buttonhole. This could be specified in the pattern or your own personal choice.
Step two: Choose a contrasting thread to run a row of small running stitches around the edge of the buttonhole before you cut. This is especially important on thick fabrics for coats and jackets and very thin slippery fabrics on blouses. It helps to secure the fabric and keep the multiple layers together.
Step three: Cut your buttonhole and mark the ends with a straight pin.
Step four: Decide if you want a keyhole (rounded) ending which is useful if the button is very big and you want it to sit well. The keyhole should be facing the center edge so when the button is done up it can rest in the keyhole position.
Step 5: Now start stitching using your buttonhole stitch. Always practice a few times to get the stitches correct. Buttonhole stitch is not the same as blanket stitch so cut a scrap of fabric and a slit to practice first.
Hand Sewn Buttonhole Stitch
Insert the needle for buttonhole stitch from the top (1) to the cut edge (2). Wrap the thread around the needle at the bottom going under the tip of the needle to make the buttonhole stitch.
When you pull your thread through there should be a little knot at the top on the cut edge. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘purl’ stitch and gives a nice ridge to the neatened buttonhole.
What is the difference between buttonhole stitch and blanket stitch? Blanket stitch is stitched in the opposite direction and there is no knot or ‘purl’ stitch finish. Practice first and you will see the difference.
- Keep stitches even and close together as precision is important.
- It is possible to lay a piece of fine cord along the edge of the buttonhole and to sew over the cord to create a raised edge. This gives some extra support around the edges of the buttonhole.
- Remember to stitch several times at the top and bottom of the buttonhole to secure the ends.
- Work the keyhole in a fan shape.
When your little work of art is completed you will be proud of the time and effort it took.
Buttonholes, sewn by hand on coats and jackets, have stood the test of time. Now you can proudly go out and……
Button up your overcoat.
When the wind is free,
Take good care of yourself… because you belong to somebody!
(Words adapted from a well-known song from way back in 1928!!)