I love bound button holes. They’re beautiful beasties. The problem is, I don’t like fat bound button holes with a smaller button. Many bound button holes are half inch, top to bottom. To my eye, that’s too much for a polite jacket. I prefer 1/4″. If you are similarly persnickety, this is the bound button hole for you. This is not the infamous turnsy-foldsy bound button hole you see in a lot of sewing books, which is difficult to do in some fabrics (like leather). This one is for those of us who are better at sewing than ironing. It is what I remember from a tailoring class, which may or may not be what was actually taught in the class. It does work out well, though.
You will need:
- TO MAKE A SAMPLE FIRST (I am not kidding – don’t try this for the first time on a garment!)
- Interfacing (I am using fusible weft)
- A clear, gridded ruler
- Normal Sewing Stuff ™, hand and machine
First thing’s first: math time!
For a 1/4″ button hole, this method requires a 1 1/4″ wide prepared strip of fabric. The length of the button hole, and therefore the strip, is generally 1/8″ longer than the diameter of your button. I do not have my buttons yet, so I have decided that the button of my dreams will be 7/8″. I can love anything that involves even numbers. (7/8″ + 1/8″ = 1″ I mention this because teaching Flat 1 has made me aware that everything my sister said about teaching high school math, and the state of math education in this country, is abysmally true. Le sigh….)
Yes, this is a different chunk of interfacing than the one shown in the last step. I, ahem, made a little boo-boo in my maths the first time. It happens more often than I like to admit…
I have to apologize – it’s hard to hold a camera and an iron at the same time, and in this case, plopping the iron down on my work while I fiddled with the camera seemed unwise. The jacket I’m making is for my mother, and I have literally no extra for mistake-making after that little math oops earlier. (I actually had to darn some sort of moth hole to get everything cut!)
There are a couple things to note here: If you are using a commercial pattern, they should have given you a little chart-thinger to show button hole placement. If you have made your own pattern, or made significant alterations to a commercial pattern so as it no longer resembles the original, start your button holes on the center line of the jacket. Measure the width of the finished button hole towards the body of the jacket.
I do my marking on the inside, because I can use a pencil and it won’t show. It saves me from the fear of disappearing pens that don’t, easy-to-remove-markings that aren’t, and such-like. I transfer them with hand basting because I find that machine basting can sometimes stretch things. Also, I like hand basting. It is easier to remove. However you choose to put in your guide lines, you will want to use a contrasting color so that you can *see* them. Guidelines you can’t see easily while sewing are sort of silly. I mean, it would be like putting road lines in in black… ;)
I actually do this all the time. I show students how to do it, and I strongly advocate making it part of your sewing process. Take your gridded ruler and place it on the machine. Line it up so that you can sink the machine needle in one of the holes. (I like to make sure that my sewing foot is veeeeeery far away from the machine pedal when I’m doing this.) Pretty much every modern machine (and by modern, I mean “not a treadle”) has a marking indicating the center of its straight stitch foot. It’s the arrow on mine. It might also be an inscribed line, a thin split in the foot, a dot…. There’s generally some marker. Line your center marker up along the same ruler line than your needle is sunk into. Now, note some sort of landmark on your machine foot that is at that location. On this foot, there’s a little split next to the arrow. Under that split is a little upside-down stair case. My 1/8″ is at the edge of the first stair. My 1/4″ is 1/3 of the way into the toe of the foot. Etc….
You can’t sew accurately if you’re guessing where the right line is.
I’ve seen people use pins to do this, but for me they just get in the way. Also, they get into my fingers, which is annoying.
These are meant to be permanent stitches, so you’ll want to secure them by backtacking (or whatever method you prefer).
This is one of those sitations in sewing where you want to sew both sides of something from the same direction to avoid any sort of weird-stretchy-twisty-torquey-monkey-business. (I feel like there’s a technical term for that, but my brain can’t grasp it right now.) The easiest way to do this is:
This is also the easy way to start a rolled hem, btw – take three normal stitches, do the magic loop trick above, and reposition your work into the rolled hem foot. The loopsie gives you something to hold on to to control your work at the beginning, which is always the fun part. You can run corners of a roll straight off the ends so you can make the magic loop to start the next side if you’re unfortunate enough to be rolling something with corners.
This is usually my cursing point…. A small, sharp pair of snips will help. You want the kind for embroidery, not the big orange-handled fiskers. Alternately, if you have a very sharp exactly knife (or other razor based-cutting tool), that will work. You could also use a button-hole chisel in an X pattern. You will also want to cut the binding strip out to the ends on the center line so you can do the next big of bind-a-gami:
At this point, you can lather, rinse, and repeat. I find that sewing each one of these little boogers shut as you go is the best practice. They will affect any others in line with them if they shift. I will have no sass from my buttonholes!
The top one looks a little catywampus in the picture, but it is level when the jacket is on the stand. I did some rather weird jiggery-pokery with dart transfers. The final jacket lying smoothly is going to depend a lot on my skill at steam-shaping wool, I fear, and the silk-linen bias band along the seam that needs the shaping might not have been the best choice. Le sigh.
Usually, I do this in a contrasting material – silk and leather are personal favorites. I just feel that if I have to put this much effort into a buttonhole, it should be noticed and admired. ;) You can also use the same method to do bound slits at the top of a doublet or in sleeves.
We’ll talk more about what happens to finish the inside of the buttonholes in another post. Hint: it’s as much hand sewing as you fear it might be…. ;)