To begin our buttonhole journey, we’ll first start with preparing some fabric samples to imitate the front of a coat. I’m using scraps of wool, linen, and silk, but you can use whatever you have available. It’s good to practice on a variety of fabrics to further your skills, as each feels a bit different than the others.
Mine are 14″ long by 6″ in width, though this can vary if you want. I’m able to get 16 buttonholes out of each sample by utilizing both long edges. You’ll need two of each of the fashion fabrics to mimic the coat front and facing.
You’ll also need a piece of linen in the same size to act as a coat’s canvas would, stiffening and giving some shape to the chest and buttonhole area.
The first thing to do is mark the wrong sides of the fashion fabric pieces.
Next, draw a line using tailor’s chalk, or even a pen, 1 1/4″ from one or both of the ends. This is going to give you the opportunity to practice seamed buttonholes, so doing one end will give you two of those buttonholes.
Mark the wrong side of the smaller pieces and then cut along the line.
With right sides together (yes, I messed this up in the video!), align the smaller pieces on the ends. You can baste or pin if you like, but if you’re skilled enough you can just hold the pieces in place as you sew them together.
Sew the seam using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Remove the basting stitches, and press. I like to press with the following method:
- Press with the right sides still folded together to set the stitches and make the fibers a little more pliable. Use steam as necessary.
- Press the seam open from the wrong side.
- Press the seam from the right side, using a heavier iron for heavier fabrics.
Now, lay first your piece of linen on the table, followed by one of the fashion fabric pieces, wrong sides together. Lay the remaining piece of fashion fabric on top, right sides together, as shown (though you’d obviously align all of the pieces).
Baste or pin the pieces together if necessary and sew along both long edges using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Trim off the excess 1/2″ (one inch if you resewed both ends).
Turn the assembly right side out.
Using your thumb and fingers, manipulate the fabric so that the edges are aligned, and baste along the long edges about 1/2″ to 3/4″ from the edge. These stitches will remain in place until you are done with the buttonholes to help stabilize the area.
On a coat or waistcoat, the facing would be turned under by about 1/16″ but it’s not really necessary to do for this practice piece.
Press the edges firmly, forming a crisp edge.
Topstitch both edges using a 1/4″ to 3/8″ seam allowance.
Begin by figuring out the spacing for your buttonholes. Generally, the top buttonhole will be located at 1/2″ below the bottom of the collar. The bottom buttonhole will either be in the waist seam in a frock coat, or about 1/2″ from the bottom of a waistcoat. Then space your buttonholes equally in between.
In this practice piece, I’m spacing the buttonholes 1 1/2″ apart starting from the in-seam buttonhole.
Next, draw a line perpendicular to the edge about 1 1/2″ to 2″. This gives us the angle of the buttonhole. On some coats, you’ll have a curved edge to the chest front. In that case you want to make sure the buttonholes are perpendicular to the curved edge, so each buttonhole will be at a slightly different angle to the next.
Set your seam gauge to 3/8″ to 1/2″ and mark the outer edge of each buttonhole.
Now set your seam gauge to that distance plus the width of your buttonhole. In my case I’m making a 7/8″ buttonhole as they’re the easiest size to work with, so my total measurement is 1 3/8″.
For the in-seam buttonhole, there’s no need to mark the position or angle of the buttonhole, because the seam itself gives us that position.
That’s it for today’s lesson! Your assignment today is to make up your practice pieces and layout the buttonholes on one or both sides. If you have any questions or problems, feel free to email me, or post a message in the support group!
Finally, here’s the video for today’s lesson, covering all of the above steps in detail.