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Bound buttonholes are a great alternative to machine worked buttonholes. They are commonly found on coats but if made narrower can also be used on lighter garments.
In this tutorial I am using boiled wool so imagine that this buttonhole would be at the centre front of a coat.
Bound Buttonhole Video Tutorial
If you’d rather watch than read I’ve created a video tutorial that walks you through the process step by step.
How to Sew a Bound Buttonhole
Preparing the Buttonhole
To begin we need to figure out how wide we want the buttonhole to be. To do this we measure the diameter of the button we are going to use. Make sure to add the depth of the button to this number otherwise the button won’t fit through the buttonhole.
We work our bound buttonhole on the flat pattern piece from the right side before we sew the garment up.
For this example I am treating this selvedge edge as the edge of the pattern piece. I am then drawing in a line 1.5 cms from this raw edge to act as my sewing line.
The line furthest to the left is the centre front of the garment. If you are using a commercial paper pattern this should be marked on the pattern piece. For this sample, I am marking the centre front 3 cms away from the sewing line as this is the diameter of the button I am using.
This will centre the edge of the button between the centre front and the edge of the coat.
Next I draw in where I want the opening of my buttonhole to go. The finished width of my buttonhole needs to be 3.5cms, but this needs to be offset slightly so that the buttonhole extends past the centre front by 3mms.
I then draw in vertical line to clearly indicate the edge of the buttonhole.
Next, I draw in the finished height of my buttonhole. For this heavier wool I want each welt, that is the fold of fabric that covers the buttonhole opening, to be 6mms wide. When finished you should have a rectangle with a horizontal line through the centre like this.
Tacking in the chalk lines
I then began tacking in all of these chalk lines. I have to be honest with you this takes a long time but it is so important to do. We will want to be able to see these lines from both sides of the fabric and tacking is the most accurate way to do that.
I am using a bright red thread here so that it is easier to see but you may want to consider using a colour that matches your fabric. This will prevent some fiddly unpicking later on.
We can now see our markings on the wrong side of the fabric as well.
Cutting the fabric for the bound buttonhole welts
The fabric patch that will become the welts of your buttonhole needs to be as wide as the buttonhole plus 25 mm and at least 5 times as tall as the total width of the buttonhole plus a little extra for seam allowance.
In my case this meant my patch had to be 6cm by 7cm.
Fold this rectangle in half widthwise to find the centre and finger press the crease in place.
Pinning the patch in place
Centre the patch over the buttonhole.
I measure and mark where the edge of the patch needs to come to, and then using a pin I match the centre of the patch to the centre line of the buttonhole.
I then pin and tack the patch in place.
Sewing the patch on
Then working from the wrong side I am going to stitch around the outside of my buttonhole, following my tacking exactly.
I turn my stitch length down to 1 to get very short stitches and then carefully position my buttonhole in place so that I can stitch along my tacking lines very precisely.
When you start sewing DO NOT reverse just leave a long tail of thread.
When you get to the corners, go very slowly, turning the fly wheel by hand until the needle is precisely in the corner of the buttonhole. Then with the needle down, lift the presser foot and rotate your work 90 degrees to carry on sewing.
Keep working in this way pivoting at the corners until you reach the place where you started.
Again DO NOT reverse to finish just leave a long tail of thread.
Tying off the threads
Pull the bobbin threads through to the wrong side of the fabric by pulling on the top threads until a little loop appears. Then with a pin pull that loop through and tie them off tightly with a knot. Then trim down the threads.
Remove the tacking
Leave the markings for the centre front and the centre of the buttonhole but remove all the other tacked lines.
Where you have stitched over the tacking the threads may be caught tightly down. I find the best way to remove these stitches is carefully with the end of a pin but tweezers may also be helpful.
If you used a matching thread you may be able to get away with leaving some of these tacking stitches in.
Cutting open the buttonhole
I started by cutting diagonally into the corners from the centre. You want to cut into the corner as close as possible to the stitching without going through it. If you do cut through your stitching it is really difficult to rescue so I recommend taking your time and doing this very carefully.
Make sure you are cutting through both layers of fabric, the front of the garment and the patch.
I then cut along the central line of tacking joining the two V shaped cuts I had already made together.
Turning the patch to the wrong side
The next step is to push the patch through the opening from the right side to the wrong side.
I suggest finger pressing the stitching lines so that you get a nice crisp edge to the buttonhole. Rolling the seam between your fingers helps create a nice, precise fold.
Keep manipulating the buttonhole until you have a crisp rectangle and take it to the ironing board for a proper press.
Make sure your iron is on the correct setting and press the buttonhole firmly from the right side.
Folding the welts
We are then going to manipulate the fabric of the patch from the wrong side to create our welts by folding it up and back on itself so that the crease is in the centre of the buttonhole.
This step can be a bit fiddly but it is really worth taking your time to get the welts straight and even.
Once you are happy give them a press to keep them in place and then turn the buttonhole over and check them from the right side.
Measuring my welts really helped to get them to match. Once I was sure they were even I gave them a good press with a shot of steam from both the right side and the wrong side.
I then tacked the welts in place to stop them from warping out of shape. I also tacked them together using diagonal stitches to keep the buttonhole closed.
Sewing the welts in place
To machine the welts in place, start with the buttonhole right side up, and then fold back the fabric of the garment to reveal this little triangle and the folded fabric of the welt.
Position the presser foot as close as possible to the edge of the buttonhole. Stitch down the little triangle to the fabric of the welt. If your fabric is very bulky you may want to use a zipper foot.
Go backwards and forwards several times over the triangle to keep it secure. Repeat for the other short edge of the buttonhole.
Rotate the buttonhole 90 degrees and fold the fabric back along the long edge of the buttonhole. Stitch as close as possible to the previous line of stitching through all the layer of seam allowance. Repeat for the other long edge.
Then trim down any excess seam allowance around the edges of the patch.
Now that you have worked the buttonhole you can start to make up the rest of the coat.
Sewing the facing for a bound buttonhole
Although we have completed the actual buttonhole, when we make up our coat, it will be covered on the inside by a facing or a lining. Therefore, we need to make a little slit in the facing to exactly match our buttonhole.
The easiest way to do this is to attach the facing and press it around to the inside of the garment. You can see that we have now covered up the buttonhole.
To mark where my buttonhole is on the wrong side, I poke pins through the very corners of the buttonhole.
With my scissors I cut through just the fabric of the facing in the same way I cut open the buttonhole earlier; starting in the middle and then cutting diagonally into the corners where the pins are.
I then remove the pins from the right side.
Now tuck the raw edge of the opening under so that the folded edge of the facing matches up with the stitching of the buttonhole.
I then pin the folded edge in place. I use a pin to help tuck the fabric smoothly under.
Then slip stitch the edge of the facing down to the fabric of the welt. I am using white thread so you can see what I’m doing but with a matching thread this stitch can be almost invisible.
If you don’t know how to do a slip stitch I have a tutorial on that. Click the link to read my Slip Stitch Tutorial.
I keep my stitches small and close together for extra strength. I also find that doing an extra stitch in the corner helps to reinforce the weakest point of the buttonhole. This should prevent fraying and tearing as the buttonhole gets used.
I take my pins out as I go and work around all four edges of the buttonhole.
When I get back to my starting point I overlap the stitches slightly and then finish off my thread.
I give the buttonhole another good press from the wrong side and use the nose of the iron to really give the welts a firm pressing.
Then all that needs to be done is to take out those final bits of tacking.
And the bound buttonhole is complete.
The Finished Bound Buttonhole
If your fabric is very thick you may find it easier to cut the patch for the welts from a lighter fabric. Choose something that co-ordinates with your garment or turn your buttonholes into a statement with a contrasting colour.
You can also use this technique on finer fabrics. Just make the welts a bit narrower so you get a more delicate finish.
I hope this bound buttonhole tutorial was useful for you. Let me know in the comments if you have used it to make anything and even better tag me in your pictures on instagram!
Until next time,