Lesson four (part three): hand-sewing buttonholes

To finish your shorts, you will need to make buttonholes!  This lesson will show you how to stitch them by hand.

1.  First, the Blanket Stitch (aka the Buttonhole Stitch)

The blanket stitch is generally used on an edge that has previously been finished either with a hem or facing.  To make the stitch, secure the thread in your fabric, then place the needle in the fabric about three-eighths of an inch to the right, and then bring it out directly below and over the thread (see photos below).  Continue working from left to right keeping the stitches about a quarter inch apart.

2.  Staying Buttonholes

The buttonhole should be about a sixteenth of an inch larger than the button that is to be used, or in this case, the ribbon you’ll be using to fasten the shorts.  (If you are making a row of buttonholes it is a good plan to mark them all before you cut the first one so that you can be sure to have them evenly spaced.)

Mark the length you wish the buttonhole to be with a pin at each end of the space it is to fill and make a straight guide mark between these pins with a pencil, chalk or your water-soluble pen.  Cut the buttonholes exactly.  ✄

Buttonholes should be strengthened with a long stitch at each side of the slit so that they will not stretch out of shape.  Bring the thread through to the right side at the left end of the buttonhole and very near the lower edge, then take a small stitch at the right end, and bring the thread back to the left end, like so:

You can also use interfacing on the reverse to strengthen your buttonhole, like Mathyld showed you in part 2!

3.  Overcasting the Buttonhole (Optional)

If your fabric is at all inclined to fray (mine is), the buttonhole should be overcast* all around, as shown below, before you start to work it.  You will find too that the overcasting stitches are helpful in holding the stay thread in place.

*Overcast stitches are most often used for finishing raw edges to keep them from raveling.  To do overcasting, bring the needle through the fabric from the back, drawing the thread over the edge of the fabric with even slanting stitches.  The stitches should be a quarter to three-eights of an inch apart.

4.  Stitching the Buttonhole

Always work a buttonhole from right to left; hold it so that the needle points toward you in taking each stitch.  You will be using the buttonhole-stitch (just an upside-down blanket stitch) around the hole as follows:

Place the needle through the button slit and then through your fabric.  Keep the needle pointed toward you and draw the thread to the right from the eye of the needle and then under the point.  Draw the needle through the fabric and away from you until the stitch at the edge of the buttonhole is firmly in place.

See how the thread is coming up through the buttonhole?  And make sure that it goes under your needle.  The stitch tightens at the cut edge of the buttonhole.  Make sense?

Make these stitches as close together as possible, and slant the stitches at the outer edge of the buttonhole.

Voila! In all its imperfect perfection.

(On this finished one, I used thread that matches the fabric for the stays and overcasting, so that it wouldn’t show through under the contrasting black buttonhole stitches.  You may want to do the same..)

Let us know how it goes, kids!



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