Part 2: Beautiful Bound Buttonholes by Laura Mae

November 5, 2013 by Lilacs & Lace 0 comments

Our retro queen Guest Blogger Laura Mae of Lilacs & Lace has a fabulous new project in store for us. There are so many details to this gala outfit that we have decided to break down the process into many fabulous technique-rich posts. Part 1 offers tons of pattern handling tips. Part 3? You’ll just have to wait and see.


[Britex has generously provided the fabric and sewing supplies for a dress I will be wearing to a formal event in October.  I will be sharing some of the steps and construction techniques with you as I work on this project over the next couple of months. All materials were selected in-store.]




I am an avid fan of the bound buttonhole.  There are quite a few variations, but today I will focus on one of my personal favorites.

The first step is to apply any interfacing you will be using.  (For this project, I am using hair canvas, which is hand-basted into place.)



I generally create my bound buttonholes before construction of any kind begins.  This way there is less fabric to manipulate.  You will need to rotate the fabric 360 degrees while at your sewing machine, and the less fabric you have to contend with, the easier it is!  And if, heaven forbid, a mistake is made, you have only cut a hole in one piece of fabric and not a finished garment.


Measure the diameter of the button as well as the width of the button (ignore the shank if there is one).  Add these two measurements together to calculate the length of the buttonhole you need to create.  My buttons are about 3/4” in diameter.  When it is turned to the side, the widest part is a little over ¼”, so a 1” buttonhole should be sufficient.  Something to keep in mind is that a bound buttonhole is a lot more flexible than one made with a machine, so if they end up a skosh too small, the button should still fit through the opening.




But a test buttonhole is always a good idea!



Mark the placement of the buttonholes.  To create a bound buttonhole, you are working on the right side of the fabric.


I generally use chalk (or a fabric pen) on the wrong side of the fabric – just make sure that the mark will not show through!



Measure how far from the edge of the pattern piece the buttonhole markings begin.  Working on the WRONG side of the fabric interfacing, draw a line of chalk as a guide.  Because this buttonhole needs to be 1” wide, draw a second line 1” from the first chalk line.  Thread a needle with a contrasting length of silk thread and sew a running stitch through each of the marked lines.  (I suggest using silk thread because it is easily removed and will not mar fabric as it is pulled out.)



The next step is creating perpendicular lines where the buttonholes will be sewn.  Again, mark the wrong side of the fabric, and sew a running stitch as marked.



Your placement lines are now magically visible on the right side of the fabric!



The actual buttonhole is created with extra pieces of fabric.  I like to use a square that measures approximately three times the length of the buttonhole.  For a 1” opening, I cut a 3” square piece of fabric.  I like to have plenty of fabric to work with, especially if the fabric is prone to fraying.  Yes, they will overlap, however, you can always trim some of the excess off later.



I divide the square in half both length and widthwise with chalk to find the center of the square.  From the center point, measure ½” on either side which gives you an opening of 1” or however long your buttonhole needs to be.



For this particular technique, you will need two squares of fashion fabric as well as a single square of organza for each buttonhole.


I like to start working with the facing piece, which will also need to have an opening to match the buttonhole openings.  These will not be visible when worn, and are a perfect opportunity to practice the first part of the buttonhole process.



Use pins to place the organza squares on the fabric as indicated by your basted lines.



Decrease the stitch length on your sewing machine.  The fabric will be clipped close to the stitching line, so a small stitch is important.


I like to begin sewing in the middle of a long length of the rectangle with my needle sunk into fabric.  DO NOT BACKTACK.  Begin stitching until you come to a corner, sink the needle, lift the presser foot, rotate the fabric, lower the presser foot and continue stitching until you have outlined the rectangle.  When you come back to the beginning of your stitch line, overlap the first few stitches.



Remove the fabric from the machine and make sure to clip any excess threads from the front and back of the piece.



Cut the buttonhole opening, being careful to snip only the fabric within the stitched box.  Leave two triangles at each end.




Push the organza through to the wrong side of the piece.




This first layer will create a finished opening.  Pull the organza square tight, open a rectangular “window” and iron!


Your facing openings are now complete.



Lay the facing on top of the bodice to ensure that your basted lines are visible through the center of the facing openings.



Repeat the process on the front of your bodice with the organza squares.



Now cut two 3” squares out of your fashion fabric.  Baste these right sides together at the center.  Press them open so that basting line is now at the center.



Pin the basted pair of squares on top of the organza so that the basted line is centered in the window.




Baste the fashion fabric squares to the organza (they should match because you cut them the same size).



Now it is time to secure the buttonhole.  Push the fabric to one side to reveal those tiny triangles.  Secure by basting through the fabric, organza, and triangle.




Repeat for all of the buttonholes marked on your pattern.


You can trim and grade down the squares if they overlap.  I like to catch-stitch the flaps to the interfacing to help keep everything in place.



Now it is time to start your garment construction!


When the garment is complete, the basted buttonhole lips are opened with a seam ripper.



Is this more labor intensive than making a machine buttonhole? . . . yes.  But in my opinion, a bound buttonhole adds an extra special touch to any garment that is absolutely worth the extra time and effort!