Learn How to Hand-Sew Buttonholes, 'Cause Every Detail Counts!

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We know that only the most eagle-eyed sewing pro can spot the difference between a hand-worked buttonhole and a machine-sewn one. Doesn't matter! Sewing buttonholes by hand is a next-level skill that's definitely worth the effort.

Why's that? For starters, unlike machine-made buttonholes, hand-sewn ones are cut first, then sewn afterward. That means the edges are less likely to fray. So they do a better job, and look nicer too.

Convinced? Good! Here's some info to get you started.

Sewing Tips

  • The beauty of machine sewing is that every stitch comes out even. But when you sew by hand, precise stitching requires skill. So be careful not to pull the threads too tight, to keep the depth of the stitches consistent and to maintain even tension.
  • Sometimes people like to use a double thread. But that can make it harder to retain the right tension. So just use a single thread at a time. 
  • Do a test or two on scrap fabric. And make sure your practice runs are as close to the real thing as possible. So if the final buttons have to go through two layers of fabric, then so do the test ones. And don't forget to measure the button!
  • To strengthen the buttonhole, place a thin cord or embroidery floss under the stitches. That provides stability and gives the buttonhole a lovely raised look. 

How to Sew a Buttonhole

1. Mark and Cut

Using the pattern as your guide, figure out where your buttonhole goes. Mark the short ends and the center as well as the long sides so you can sew consistent stitches for the buttonhole depth. The depth should be approximately one-sixteenth to one-eighth inch.

Make clean, sharp lines that are easy to see, either with a marking tool or by hand with a baste stitch in a contrasting color. Once you've decided on the final placement, cut along the center of the buttonhole, from one short end to the other. 

2. Sew the First Side

Thread the needle and knot the end. Starting on the right side of the buttonhole, poke the needle through the top corner to secure the thread in place. Take the needle from the top corner and place it through the hole from the right side to the underside. Poke the needle through so it comes out the along the top edge of the mark.

For the next stitch, poke the needle into the hole and pull it along the top as you did before. But with this pass, loop the thread under the point of the needle and then pull through to create a purl stitch.

Repeat all along the sides of the buttonhole. 

3. Sew the Second Side

When you get to the end of the first side, sew several long stitches to form a bar tack. Then continue sewing purl stitches until you reach the other side. Form another bar tack on the opposite short end. 

4. Finish Up

Once you've gone all the way around the buttonhole, tightly tuck your needle and thread under the stitching to secure it on the other side. 

Creating Fan or Keyhole Ends

If you want to make a keyhole or fan end on either or both short ends of your buttonhole, simply draw or baste another line as your guide. Instead of forming a bar tack at the ends, stitch in a curve until you reach the other side. Then continue stitching as usual. 

Make the effort to learn these skills and you can feel proud of your handiwork every time you button up!

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Learn How to Hand-Sew Buttonholes, 'Cause Every Detail Counts!