~bound buttonholes~

If you haven’t made bound buttonholes before, sit down and make a few in a row, you will soon get the hang of them.  They aren’t hard – you just need to be accurate.  When stitching small areas like this, even an error of 1mm is noticeable – I try to be accurate to within 0.5mm.  And of course 100% wool is more forgiving than the junk I am working with  polyester/viscose/elastane.

I always make a sample buttonhole before beginning one on the actual garment, it is handy to check that you have cut the correct width of welt, determine how far you need to clip, pressing technique, and all those little reassuring things, you know, before you cut into the real thing…..

Your front panels should be blockfused.
Cut rectangles for buttonhole welts to the following measurements:

  • finished buttonhole length + 2cm
  • finished buttonhole width x 4, + cloth allowance, ie a little bit extra

Finished buttonhole length = button size + button thickness.
The width can be whatever you like – I like 3mm welts, so the width of my finished buttonholes is 6mm.  I cut these welts 28mm wide (24mm + 4mm cloth allowance):

Mark the centre of the rectangle with a light press, then hard press the edges to the centre line so that the edges butt:

Mark button position on garment with a dot, and mark button position and finished buttonhole length on the welt with dots.  The button position is usually 2-3mm from the buttonhole end.


Stitching the welts:
Place welts, raw edges uppermost, on right side of garment and align button position markings exactly.  Ensure welt is perpendicular to front edge.
Stitch along the centre of a welt, between the dots marking the finished buttonhole length.  Check length is accurate and stitching is perpendicular to CF:

Stitch along the centre of the other welt between your dots, and once again check the length is accurate – stitching should start and finish even with first line of stitching (or to within 0.5mm) – it can be useful to count your stitches as you sew to achieve this.  The two lines of stitching should also be parallel:

Check the reverse as well:

Have fun repeating this exercise in accuracy for all your other buttonholes 😉

Check again that all stitching is parallel, perpendicular to the CF, and equal in length.  You can see I do a lot of checking!  Accuracy is the secret, so now is the time to unpick and make it perfect – once you have cut it is too late…..

Making the cuts:
Without cutting the front, cut down the centre of the welt between the butted edges to separate them:

Now cut the actual buttonhole opening.  I first fold it in half and nick the middle with the tip of my shears:

Then cut towards the corners, stopping 6mm short of the ends.  Clip diagonally into the corners, clipping close enough that your corner will turn smoothly, without clipping past the corner.  This is where you will be thankful that you did a test buttonhole – you did do a test buttonhole, didn’t you? 😉

Turn the welts through to the wrong side, being gentle with the corners:

They will look a bit random to begin with, but don’t worry – a light press and a wiggle will square them up:

The end is in sight:
To stitch down the ends of the buttonholes, first ensure the corner is sitting square:

Then fold back the front at the end of the buttonhole, so the fold is perpendicular to the welts, and stitch the clipped triangle to the welts, in line with your fold:
Check the end is square (the left end here is yet to be secured):

Repeat for the other end, then trim and grade the ends of the welts to reduce bulk:

Facing the buttonhole:
Now you will need to make an opening in the front facing to make your buttonhole functional and cover the raw edges.
Placement of the opening on the front facing may differ to the placement of the buttonhole on the front, due to turn of cloth.  Once the front facing is attached, buttonhole positioning can be offset 3-6mm, so I determine the exact placement once the front facing is on.  To do this, place pins through the corners of the buttonhole to mark its exact position on the facing.  Mark 3mm in from the ends with dots.
Cut rectangles of silk organza about the same size as the buttonhole welts, and using your dots as a guide, sew them to the right side of the front facing in a rectangle the same size as your finished buttonhole:

Clip the buttonhole opening as before, then turn the organza through to the wrong side and press:

Fold the facing into position, and check that the buttonhole and facing hole align:

Slipstitch the edges of this opening to the reverse of your buttonhole:

Now your buttonhole looks almost as good on the inside as the outside!
Happy Sewing!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

22 thoughts on “~bound buttonholes~

  1. I should give them another try, I have such a block about them. My piped buttonholes work out beautifully… The organza window has never ever worked for me, which has led me to take drastic action facing buttonholes. Or I make a machine buttonhole in the facing.


  2. I love your tutorials, and I spread the word of them whenever and wherever I can. I'm familiar with most of the techniques you've shown us, but I still like to see clear instructions and your work which is always impeccable.


  3. Fantastic tutorial! I have never even entertained the thought of making bound buttonholes cause I couldn`t visualize how they worked. Now I get it! Now I get to spend the rest of the day going over your other tutorials (I am in bed recovering from gastroenteritis). Thank you.


  4. Thanks for this great tutorial! I will definitely try this method. Mine is a bit different and I haven't made bound buttonholes in ages. I'm a bit scared but this makes it look kind of manageable. Thanks.


  5. Thanks for sharing – I too have been looking through your old tutorials because I'm making a sheath dress and something that simple looks best with good fit and good finish.

    Who sells silk organza in Auckland? If you reply in comments I'll come back and check.


  6. ~Elle C – I do hope you get better soon!
    ~Mary Nanna – Anywhere selling bridal fabrics should sell it – try Vinka Brides in Queen Street. If you have a choice, buy the crispest quality!


  7. Thanks for yet another brilliant tutorial! I'd never thought of silk organza to face the opening in the facing – that makes so much sense. I HAVE to try this now.


  8. Fantastic tutorial! So clear and straightforward. I do mine several different ways and I always like the methods that do the facing thing on the other side.
    Though I usually use a scrap square of lining, on the bias for some reason…in your expert opinion, is that just as good or should I start using silk organza?


  9. ~Tasia – I've used lining too and it works ok, but I love using silk organza because it is more well behaved! It presses well, is really strong and stays in shape. I haven't tried cutting it on the bias, but must do!


  10. A very belated thanks for this post. My mother-in-law gifted me the pieces to a jacket that she'd started in a tailoring class 20-30 years ago. I got stalled with the button holes. She'd already completed nice bound button holes on the front, but the facing, which was already firmly attached to the jacket, was button-hole free. I wasn't sure how to complete the bound buttonholes, especially when I couldn't get to the back of the facing fabric. Your tutorial and photos were exactly what I needed. If you don't mind, I'd like to link to this page when I complete the jacket and post it on my blog. Thanks!


  11. Dear Sherry.
    I've just made my second bound buttonhole using this method. The first was using Coletterie's method. My second bound buttonhole is flatter and sits nicely. The first is very bulky.
    I've linked this tutorial to my page so I can always find it.
    Now to make 5 bound buttonholes on my trenchcoat.
    Thank you again for a great tutorial.


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