Handworked buttonholes

First, I wanted to send out a thank you for those that have commented about my (poor) DH’s remark about the value of art.  Of course, this is one of thousands of very kind, encouraging and supportive comments I get daily from him, and it was probably not very fair to share the one that rankles me most!  His original comment was actually in the context of an art gallery in Canmore, Alberta, which we were browsing through last winter.  I has spied a pair of double loop hammered 18K gold earrings that I would have been extremely happy to purchase, but the asking price was CDN$1200.  Needless to say they were left behind, although he did say he would have purchased them if the price was less one zero.  Smile  So my humble apologies for giving everyone the wrong impression of the one man that I’ve known for 23 years that is quite happy to see me sewing, smocking and embroidering with economy – not excess – in mind.

And second, I wanted to share my new hand-stitched fun to add to garments that I would not otherwise embroider:  handworked buttonholes.  I didn’t plan on every really using hand-stitched buttonholes.  They sound nice in theory, but why bother when you’ve got the option of bound buttonholes or a lovely machine that has 8 different buttonhole options?  Well, enter DD3’s winter coat.  Between interfacing, underlining and two layers of fashion (mystery) fabric, the feed dogs on my machine completely refused to work properly.  It was too late to do bound buttonholes, so I could either use snaps or work the buttonholes by hand.hand worked BH

This is the 3rd buttonhole of four that I worked last night to have the coat ready for today.  I could not for the life of me find buttonhole twist anywhere except online, and I didn’t want to wait for it to arrive in the mail.  So I used cotton button weight thread from my local Fabricland.  It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am impressed with the strength of these buttonholes.  They will still be standing when the rest of the coat is in shreds.

Now for the technical stuff.

  1. I did not use a fray-stop or beeswax to seal the edges of the buttonholes.  I confess my laziness.  I just trimmed the threads as they frayed.
  2. The facing side is quite messy, which I blame on a less-than-ideal thread and lack of practice. Smile
  3. My source for buttonhole twist, after much online searching, is here. I confess to stash addition, as I ordered 54 of the 80+ colours they have in stock.  You never know when you’ll need it, right?  And it beats parking downtown in the Fashion district and walking miles in and out of every single store hoping they have silk buttonhole twist, never mind in the colour you need.

I referenced several sources for technical drawings and instructions:

  • Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch has great instructions and pictures.  She’s also posted a tutorial at BurdaStyle.
  • Claire Schaeffer’s book Couture Sewing was indispensible as a reference, as I don’t usually do sewing in front of a computer screen, and don’t own a tablet or other such “smart” device that I could have sitting beside me on the sofa while working the buttonholes.

And your piece of trivia for the day:

According to Claire Schaeffer’s book Couture Sewing, couture ateliers have buttonhole specialists, which handwork the buttonholes after the rest of the garment is complete. Imagine. “Hi, my name is Tia Dia, and I’m the buttonhole specialist at Hermès.” I cannot imagine doing buttonholes all day.

5 thoughts on “Handworked buttonholes

  1. My friends mom was a tailor, she tried to teach me how to hand bound button holes. They weren’t as easy as they looked! She finished them off for me, which was very kind. The results are fantastic though.

    1. Actually, I was surprised that they didn’t take as long as I thought they would. I remember reading somewhere recently that 30 minutes per buttonhole was a maximum time frame at some atelier or other. I think these 4 took about that each. I didn’t really keep track of the time, but they went rather quickly!

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