If you find yourself without a sewing machine and you need to know how to sew a buttonhole by hand, read on. While it may sound complicated, the truth is that sewing a buttonhole by hand doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, especially if you know what you’re doing. And knowing what you’re doing is easier than you think.
Sewing a buttonhole by hand involves cutting a slit in the fabric and then reinforcing all of its sides so that the fabric doesn’t fray when you’re done. Some fabrics are more prone to fraying than others, but when you sew a buttonhole correctly, you won’t have to worry about any fraying at all.
Getting Started with Sewing a Buttonhole by Hand:
When you think about it, buttonholes have to be strong because they go through a lot. Even if you’re working with fabric that doesn’t normally fray, passing a button through the buttonhole on a regular basis can make fraying a lot more likely to be a problem. The solution is to sew the buttonhole so that it’s as sturdy as possible from the very beginning.
Today’s sewing machines have buttonhole features on them that make creating the perfect buttonhole a piece of cake, but if you find yourself needing to know how to sew a buttonhole by hand, don’t worry because you’ll get the hang of it in no time. It all comes down to knowing how to bind the fabric edge once the opening is made so that opening is strong enough for the button to pass through time and time again.
It helps to remember that the buttonhole stitch involves more than merely wrapping thread over an edge of fabric using something similar to an overcast stitch. With each stitch of a buttonhole stitch, you’ll be making a knot at the opening’s edge and locking each stitch together, so the opening is strong and sturdy when you’re done.
And if you’re wondering why anyone would sew a buttonhole stitch by hand when they have a sewing machine that does it for them, it’s really quite simple. The truth is that hand-sewn buttonholes allow you to have a lot more control over the size of your buttonhole and the shape of it as well. Unusual garments, such as costumes, sometimes require buttonholes that are oddly shaped and sized.
Sometimes the fabric you’re working with and the corresponding buttonhole will simply be too thick and bulky to do the buttonhole on a sewing machine. This is where knowing how to sew a buttonhole by hand comes in handy.
Often, you’ll be instructed to reinforce your buttonhole with interfacing or simply by using a double layer of fabric. And while a double strand of quality thread is usually used, you can also use embroidery thread if you like. You also have a choice between using matching or contrasting thread, and that option is up to you.
For now, though, let’s take a look at the steps necessary when you’re learning how to sew a buttonhole by hand.
Step 1: Measure the Button Size
When learning how to sew a buttonhole by hand, the first thing you’ll want to do is choose the button that will go with the buttonhole. Mark on the fabric where the buttonhole will go. If the button is thin, mark either side of the button close to where the edges are. This way, the buttonhole itself has the ability to become bigger after it is stitched.
If you use a thicker button, add the width of the stitching to the thickness of the button. In other words, if your button is 1/2 inch wide and it is 1/8 inch thick, your buttonhole should be 5/8 inch wide total.
Step 2: Marke Where the Slit Will Be
With some type of sewing chalk or other type of marker, mark where the slit will be. Keep in mind that this is where you’ll be cutting the fabric for the buttonhole. Second, use small running stitches and place them around the buttonhole space.
This running stitch indicates where the edges of the buttonhole will be, which makes it easier for you to make a nice even cut during the next step. It also means that the fabric won’t be likely to fray once you start to stitch. Once you’re done with the marking and the running stitch, keep the thread attached to make sure that you can continue with the next step.
Step 3: Make the Buttonhole Cut
Take small sharp scissors, such as embroidery scissors, and cut the marked line so that it’s a slit. Be careful not to cut your working thread or the stitches themselves. Always make sure that the scissors you’re using are extra sharp so that making the slit is easier.
Step 4: Start Your Buttonhole Stitch
Make sure that the thread is anchored from the running stitch, then bring your needle through the opening itself. Next, insert your needle through the fabric on the outside of the running stitch, and when you’re done, bring your needle back up through the actual opening. Pass your working thread in back of the tip of your needle and pull the needle through.
Step 5: Continue with the Next Stitch
Using the instructions in the previous step, continue with this step for each of the buttonhole stitches. Then, place your needle outside the line of the running stitch and bring it back through the opening. Always keep your working thread in back of the needle and pull the needle through in order to complete the stitch.
Step 6: Making More Buttonhole Stitches
Keep making your buttonhole stitches all the way around the cut opening, and make sure that they are nice and even, as well as very close together. If you are just learning how to sew a buttonhole by hand, your stitches may not look perfect. But with a little practice, they’ll look neat, even, and very professional.
Step 7: Stitch the Ends of the Buttonhole
At the ends of the buttonhole, you have two options. You can use a satin stitch and stitch the ends straight across, or you can continue to use a buttonhole stitch. The latter is often a more consistent finish, but either of these stitches is fine. You can also fan out the stitches if you prefer more rounded ends.
Step 8: Finish Your Buttonhole
Keep stitching until you’ve stitched around the whole buttonhole. If you have to end your thread and start a new piece, make sure you go through the fabric just the same as you do when you start each of your stitches. Then secure your thread on the back.
Always anchor a new thread using a knot and a small stitch on the back. Afterwards, bring the needle through the opening and catch the last stitch so that the new thread will lock with the previous one. This gives the stitch a little consistency and makes it a little sturdier as well.
Step 9: Add Your Button
At this point, all you have to do is add the buttons and you’re all set to use your new buttonholes!
Learning How to Sew a Buttonhole by Hand: Tips to Make it Easier and Better
Buttonholes done by hand take a little practice, so it’s unlikely that your first one will be perfect. That being said, there are still some things you can do to make it easier on you when you’re practicing your buttonholes.
Below are a few of those things.
- Always make sure that your stitches are very close together and look as even as possible. Precision is crucial when it comes to buttonholes.
- At each end of the buttonhole, use either a straight stitch or a fan stitch for a more consistent and professional look.
- Always stitch several times at both the top and the bottom of the buttonhole whenever you’re trying to secure the ends.
- If you want extra support for your buttonhole, place a piece of fine cord over the edge of the buttonhole then sew over that cord. This not only gives the buttonhole edges a little more support but it also creates a nice-looking raised edge.
- Keep in mind that a buttonhole stitch and a blanket stitch are two completely different stitches. If you have to, practice your stitches with some leftover fabric before you get to the real thing.
Knowing how to do buttonholes has other advantages as well. For example, did you know that you can use a buttonhole stitch for some fancy embroidery work and even to make some cute flowers on your fabric?
Video: Handmade Buttonhole
Learning how to sew a buttonhole by hand is not that complicated, but it does take some practice for most people. It basically involves making a slit in the fabric then using the right stitching to reinforce that slit so the constant use of the buttons doesn’t fray or ruin the fabric.
A high-quality thread is also important because a cheaper or weaker thread will not make a sturdy buttonhole. Once you get used to what it takes to make the perfect buttonhole, it’ll be a lot easier for you from then on.