With all of the preparation done and out of the way, we are finally ready to begin the buttonhole stitch itself. It’s not really difficult, but it takes a lot of practice to get truly comfortable with the stitch.
For a 7/8″ buttonhole, you’ll need about a yard of waxed buttonhole twist, and more if your buttonholes are longer.
Begin by knotting one end of your thread, and inserting the needle into one side of the buttonhole, between the layers, hiding the knot inside. The needle needs to come out at a point exactly even with the end of the buttonhole for best results.
For your second stitch, go through all three layers from the underside to the top. Stop before pulling the needle through all of way.
With your dominant hand, grasp the two strands of thread that are coming from the needle, and pass them around clockwise, under the tip of the needle, as shown.
Gradually pull the knot (purl) taught. It’s very important to get the tension correct here. Too loose and the buttonhole will look sloppy and wear out more quickly, while pulling the stitches too tight will give you a misshapen buttonhole as various things are pulled out of place.
The point where the needle leaves the fabric is very important, and one of the things that takes the most practice to get a feel for. It also depends on the fabric, how thick it is, does it fray, and so on, which is another reason it’s a good idea to practice on a variety of fabrics.
The needle must come out at the same distance each stitch from the buttonhole. I find securing the gimp in place like we did helps a lot with that. The stitch must also be spaced evenly next to the prior one. Not so close that the purls interfere with each other, but at the same time, not far enough apart to leave an unsightly gap.
Here’s a view of the purl from the side. This is an aspect of the stitch that you can change to suit your preference. Having the purl more on the top side gives a stiffer, more pronounced and three-dimensional feel to the buttonhole. If you place the purl more to the inside of the buttonhole it will give you a more relaxed, delicate appearance.
Continue stitching along the length of the buttonhole. Just try to keep relaxed, even stitches, and if you mess up, just keep going.
On my buttonholes, I prefer to keep the purls just to the inside of the gimp, rather than centered directly over the top.
However, when you get to this point, just before the teardrop begins, you do need to start gradually moving the purls towards the top of the gimp, so that when we go around the circular part, you can keep the same density of stitches, but the purls have room to sit nicely.
Here you can see over the last four or five stitches I’ve moved the purls to the top of the gimp.
Keep going around the hole with the same density of stitches, purls on the top. The threads on the inside will be closer together, giving more durability to that section of the buttonhole.
When you get to the end of the curved part, gradually move the purls back to the side to match the first half of the stitches.
And continue sewing until you reach the end of of the buttonhole. This part seems to play mental tricks, and has a different feel for some reason than the first part of the buttonhole. So be extra careful to keep the same density and size of each stitch as you get towards the end.
I forgot to photograph this, but after the very last stitch, pass the needle through as if you were going to make one more stitch, but leave out the purl this time. This prepares us for the following bar tack.
Now make a bar tack by making stitches across the width of the buttonhole about three or four times. Depending on the thickness of your fabrics, you may need to do a prick stitch, that is, passing the needle fully to the underside and then to the top each time.
Something I see that’s off in my buttonhole is that I allowed the gimp to flair out at the ends and failed to control it, giving somewhat of an hourglass shape.
Here’s the bar tack after those three or four stitches.
Now finish the bar tack by making about six stitches around the bar you just stitched. You’ll want to catch a bit of the fabric underneath as well to keep everything securely in place.
Here’s the last stitch of my bar tack.
Finally, pass the needle through to the underside and through the stitches forming the buttonhole. Do this three times, alternating direction, and snip off the excess thread.
Here’s the finished buttonhole from the right side. Not too bad though the camera is very good at point out all of my uneven stitches!
And the buttonhole from the underside. I suppose you could get picky with this and check the underside of each stitch before you make it, but all of the original buttonholes I’ve seen have been pretty messy compared to the top as well.
Finally, though not necessary for these practice buttonholes, on a coat it’s common to baste the buttonholes closed to keep them in good shape as the project is finished.
And here’s the video demonstrating the buttonhole stitch. Hopefully you can pick up something from watching.
Please share your completed photos in the Facebook group!