Bound Buttonholes


Remember how I was going to make that cute Advance shirt dress next?  Well, I changed my mind.

My husband picked up the mail a couple days ago, and much to my delight I had about six or seven little padded envelopes fully of vintage pattern goodness waiting for me!  Inside of such envelope was this beauty:

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I’ve had some cute lightweight denim with a teeny-tiny bit of stretch in it that I’ve been wanting to put to use.  I found it at this small fabric shop in the town we lived in last year.  When I say small, I mean like the size of a large walk-in closet.  There was barely enough room for me to park my stroller inside the door.  All of the fabric was 3,000 won a yard, which is a little less than $3.00.  They didn’t have a huge selection, but they had some really pretty and surprisingly good quality stuff crammed on the shelves in there!  I bought three yards of this fabric (and a few others), thinking it would make a cute something. 


(Wrong side shown here–pinning a dart.)

Yesterday I cut everything out, and today, after dinner, while my sweet husband played dollhouse with the kids (I love him), I began to stitch ‘er up!

This dress has a really cute band-like collar with buttons down the front to the waistline and a side zip.  I love the sheath version on the envelope (that is what I am making up now), made with a plaid.  If all goes well with the first one and I like the end result, I may make a plaid one myself.


As I mentioned, on the band are three buttons and bound buttonholes.

Bound buttonholes!!!

I love bound buttonholes.  I love the way they look, and I love making them.  This is the stuff that really makes me love garment construction–they nitty-gritty detail work that makes the finished product look beautiful.  It’s a fun sort of challenge for me.  Keeps my fingers deft and my mind working.

Since bound buttonholes are a tad time-consuming, I figured I’d take a bunch of pictures and do a little walk-through with you on how I like to make them.  Perhaps it will be helpful to someone, or perhaps there are other bound buttonhole enthusiasts out there who might enjoy going through the process with me.  Perhaps some of you can give me tips on how to improve my buttonhole binding method!

The pattern instructed me to cut out strips of fabric yea-wide and yea-long and fold them in half to form the inner edges of the buttonholes.  I personally like my buttonholes to have a bit more stability, so I always place a piece of string (or yarn–honestly, for me it is almost always a sturdy yarn from my stash) in the center of the fabric strip and then fold it in half and sew.  This just makes the buttonholes look nicer and hold their shape better.

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So here you see my little buttonhole strips, all pinned and ready to stitch in place!

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Now it would have been smarter for me to just do one long strip and then cut it down into smaller pieces.  That’s what the Vogue Sewing Book recommends, and it makes much more sense.  Here’s what the afore-mentioned bible of sewing wisdom has to say about this particular method of buttonhole binding (for your reading pleasure):


Ok, so once you have stitched the little pieces you will want to trim the seam to about 1/8″.  The whole thing should be about 1/4″ wide at this point.  I forgot to take a picture with the seam trimmed, but here it is before.


You will have drawn on the buttonhole markings from the pattern.  It’s hard to see my chalk marks in the pictures, so I sketched that out for ya on my kids’ easel:


You can add to this a little box-like sketch if you would like a bit more of a guide while you are stitching.  I like to mark mine like this:


With chalk or a fabric pen, of course.  The horizontal lines on the top and bottom are the most important, as they indicate where to stop and start your stitching.  You can make those extra wide so that you can see them after you lay the edging pieces down.  It is very important that the stitching lines on both sides are the same length, otherwise your buttonholes will be lopsided and wonky when you turn them.

From here, you lay the edge pieces on the fabric and pin, one at a time, with the outer seam edge lined up with the middle of the buttonhole.  Stitch down the middle.  Backstitch at the beginning and the end, making sure not to go past the stop and start lines.  Here are mine, stitched in place and almost ready to turn!


Once you have both pieces stitched in place, you need to make an incision in the fabric so that you can turn it.  Below is the line you will need to cut.  Be very careful here, too–you want to cut exactly to the corners (the top and bottom of your stitching lines).  If you cut past them, you will have raw edges that can ravel and tear, and if you come up short, your buttonholes will be bunchy when you turn them.

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Once you’ve made the incision, it’s time to turn that baby!  Ohhh yeah.  Here’s what that process looks like:

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You will need to do something to stabilize the little triangle pieces at the top and bottom of your buttonhole.  Make sure they are turned under and sticking out the back.  I like to press my buttonhole first, to establish a line to sew on.  Then turn the piece around, and fold like this, being careful to keep it straight!


Next, just stitch across.  I like to stitch forward and then back-stitch over it.




Here are my three bound buttonholes.  The middle one turned out the best, but I think they all look purty good!

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(Middle buttonhole, in all her glory.)

The backs of these will be finished when it’s time to stitch the facing in place.

This is as far as I got last night, as I ran out of bobbin thread.  My machine was damaged on the trip over here (GAR!), and I’m currently having to wind bobbins by hand, which is tedious, as you can imagine.  Once my new bobbin is wound, I’ll start work on the next step–stitching the collar band to the bodice front and back!  From here on out, I imagine this will go pretty quickly, as long as I can steal away a few minutes here and there to sew.


(Poor Bernina baby!)

What are your thoughts on bound buttonholes?  Have any tips or pointers to share?  Please do!


P.S.  Really wishing I had one more of these–wouldn’t they be cute on this dress??



One thought on “Bound Buttonholes

  1. Bess, your talent amazes me! I can’t wait to see that dress completed! And the fact that you love doing it so much is so neat. To have a passion like that is how God wants us the live life. So since I can’t sew a stitch, I can’t comment on your beautiful bound buttonholes. But I see a great spiritual lesson there. What if we were all so passionate about Jesus, as you are about sewing? Like we just couldn’t wait to steal away a minute with Him? Our lives would change drastically, others around us would see it, and the Holy Spirit would be bound to touch others! You have inspired me to steal away moments, and pray, read, or just sit with Jesus. Thank you, dear Bess, as I can’t wait to open His Word and be, “spellbound,” by Him”. Love to all, Aunt Jayne

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