through the button hole

8 Jul

It may surprise people to know, but buttonholes can be a fairly touchy subject among people who make them. Not the buttonholes themselves, you see, rather how one should go about opening them.

In knitting, there are heaps of ways that buttonholes can be made and almost zero agreement as to which is the best. In sewing, there are fewer and it completely depends on the type of button you’re going to use as to which you choose. Few would argue that much. However, opening the buttonhole is different. There are a myriad ways buttonholes can be opened and debate can be — well, not fierce per se, but definitely uncomfortable when you try to tell someone your preferred way and they just look at you like What are you talking about? That sounds like a recipe for DISASTER. This isn’t entirely strange or unnatural. Buttonholes are an intimate expression, usually the last thing to be done before a project makes the transition from WIP to FO.

One of my favourite tutorials on buttonholes is from Stitchywitch, who is a tremendous seamstress and a constant inspiration. And if I had a chisel and the courage, I might just try it. I like her method heaps better than using buttonhole scissors, which really does just seem like you’re asking for trouble. In any case, though this is the method that Stitchywitch got out the chisel to avoid, I like the intimacy of this one. It’s probably slower, but I feel like I’ve got complete control over the situation and it’s perfect for navigating those buttonholes that somehow end up crooked, narrow at one end or otherwise wonky.

1. You’ll need a pair of short-blade thread snips and a seam ripper. And some buttonholes that need opening, of course — in this case, a fresh batch of Sock-Perfect WIP bags.

2. I always make sure all my ends are woven in and the buttons are sewn on BEFORE I open the buttonholes, as otherwise I find the buttons don’t line up evenly.

3. You will almost always find that you have very cleverly placed the buttonhole so that the weave of the fabric allows three to four weft (horizontal) threads to nestle comfortably inside the hole. Use the weave to help find the centre between the sewn edges of the buttonhole. Insert the tip up to the hilt, between the halfway and the two-thirds point of the buttonhole.

I tend to find it easier and my ripping skills more accurate if I open the hole in stages rather than in one fell swoop, as I’m only using the blade for a short distance which makes it easier to control.

4. Slide the seam ripper, keeping it centred, to just before the end.

It’s a good idea to use a pin as a blockade at the end of the buttonhole, so you don’t rip straight through it. This is ESPECIALLY a good idea if you aren’t used to the technique OR if you’re using a brand new (and thus super sharp) seam ripper.

5. Reposition your seam ripper and repeat the cut. Using the previous cut as a guideline will make this even easier (I was going to say ‘seamless’, but I’m not sure I’m ready for sewing puns).

6. Use your thread snips to CAREFULLY cut away the loose ends — get as close to the edge as you can, but take infinite care not to cut through the threads of the actual buttonhole.

I’m not sure if this really is the case, but I like to think that when you cut away the hairy thread ends the buttonhole is not only be more aesthetic but also more stable as the button won’t catch on it.

7. See? Pretty.

8. At last, button and buttonhole will meet their destiny.

I like to save up a bunch and do them all in one go. The sense of satisfaction, a job well done and general accomplishment is perhaps a little more intoxicating than it should be, but what a rush!

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4 Responses to “through the button hole”

  1. stitchywitch 8 July 2010 at 8:26 am #

    You are so sweet, thanks for linking my blog! Your seam ripper buttonholes look loads better than mine ever did… you must have the touch!

  2. Ruth 8 July 2010 at 8:44 am #

    I use a craft knife – from one edge to the middle, then the opposite edge, and tidy up the threads later. :) I liked Stitchywitch’s post too!

  3. Roobeedoo 8 July 2010 at 9:47 am #

    That’s my method too! BUT I put a pin at either end of the buttonhole, across the bar tack, in case of slippages – the pin stops the ripper from going too far.

  4. nora 8 July 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    I really like the bees on the honeycomb fabric!

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