Handmade Buttonholes

Handmade buttonholes are almost always made horizontally, with the keyhole nearest the garment opening. Use your preferred method to mark the buttonhole position, the length should be about 4mm longer than the diameter of the button. The keyhole is centred over the button line, usually the centre front of a single breasted jacket.

You might want to learn how to do buttonhole stitch before starting your buttonhole. I would also practice a few buttonholes before starting ones on your garment.

Here's the link to take you to my tutorial about buttonhole stitch and other great ways to use it.

1.  Stitch around the buttonhole, widening for the keyhole. This can be machined or hand backstitched with a space of about 3mm.

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2.   Punch a hole for the keyhole and cut the buttonhole opening with sharp scissors or a buttonhole chisel. If using woven interfacing cut away one thread from each side of the opening. Whip stitch round the opening to help stop the fabric from fraying.

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3.  The buttonhole is strengthened and padded by stitching over a strong thread. Traditionally tailors use gimp, however buttonhole or embroidery thread works well giving a slightly softer appearance. Anchor one end under tacking stitches and the other with a small stitch before beginning the buttonhole stitch.

4.  I like to use John James Sharps needle size 5 and Gutermann Silk buttonhole thread, available from www.kentontrimmings.co.uk  

It is best to run the thread through a disc of beeswax, then pull it under a hot iron on top of an absorbent pad to absorb the wax.

You will need about 1m of thread for a 2.5cm buttonhole.

Begin at the square end, work along the left side, around the keyhole and back down the other side.

Put the point of the needle through the opening placing it against the underside of the cloth. Drag the point back until it is behind machine line, roll the fabric so the needle passes vertically into the cloth. Do not pull the needle through.

Holding the thread as it passes through the needle, wrap it from left to right behind the needle, pull the needle through, the thread will wrap round itself . Keep pulling until a knot forms on the cut edge


5.   Continue with this stitch. Keep the stitches close together and covering the gimp thread.

Near the keyhole the knot needs to lie on the top of the stitch, this is achieved by pulling the thread vertically as the knot is formed. You can settle the knots in the right place by pushing with your fingernail.


6.   Don't cut the thread when you've stitched all the way round. Pull each end of the gimp thread so that it tightens the hole slightly and tuck the ends through to the wrong side. Twist the gimp thread tightly.


7.   Use the buttonhole thread make about 4 stitches across the end of the buttonhole. Then push the needle through the back of this bar, stitching over the threads 5 or 6 times.


Push the needle to the back and stitch over the gimp thread where the twist is.

Snip off the ends of the gimp.

8.    Fasten off the buttonhole thread by sliding through between the layers of cloth.


9.    Whip stitch the edges of the buttonhole before pressing. This will help keep the buttonhole closed.