I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
Ah, bound buttonholes. Aren't they such a lovely detail?
The thing about bound buttonholes is that they're often the very first thing you do while sewing a garment—unlike regular buttonholes which get made almost last in the process. So if you're making bound buttonholes on your Lady Grey coat, now's the time to do them! After cutting your coat pieces out and serging the edges (if desired), this is the next step. (If you're not making bound buttonholes, skip this step and make your buttonholes when the pattern instructions direct.)
This is my absolute favorite method of making bound buttonholes. The first part is called the "windowpane method" because you make a little window in your fabric using a silk organza facing. "Lips" are formed with two squares of fabric behind the window.
Always make a test buttonhole in your actual fabric! Here I'm using some scraps in different colors so you can see it well.
1. The first thing to do stabilize the area with a fusible interfacing. Cut out a small circle of fusible (I like Weft interfacing for this purpose) with pinking shears. Fuse it to the wrong side of your fabric where the buttonhole will be positioned.
2. Next, mark the placement of your buttonhole. I like a chalk pen in a bright color for this purpose. Here is the buttonhole line and ends marked.
3. Now, draw two more lines: each 1/4" on either side of the horizontal buttonhole line—one line above it and one line below it.
This outer rectangle will form the "window". Here it is marked in red.
4. Now cut out a square of silk organza that matches your fabric closely. (I'm using a contrasting color here so you can see it). I made my square 3".
5. Now, center this square over your buttonhole marking, on the right side of the fabric. Pin it in place on each side of the square.
On the wrong side you'll only be able to see the pins. (Marked with arrows here!)
6. Now take this to your machine and machine stitch around the rectangle for the window. (Marked in yellow here.) Use a very short stitch length and follow your markings very carefully. Pivot at each corner. It helps to start along in the middle of a long side. If you want to be really precise, you can count your stitches per side to make sure it's even. Another handy tip is to use a clear foot so you can see where you're stitching.
Here it is on the right side. (Oops, my organza wasn't quite centered! That's okay, it will still work.)
7. Now use your stitch ripper to start a hole in the middle of the buttonhole. Use a small pair of scissors to cut to 1/4" away from each side. Then cut diagonally into the corners of the buttonhole, getting very close (but not cutting into!) the stitching. Follow the purple arrows in this pic:
Here's what it looks like on the right side:
8. Now you want to push the organza through to the wrong side.
View from the wrong side:
9. Use your iron to press the organza flat, pulling it through as much as possible so the organza is almost undetectable on the right side.
On the right side it forms the "windowpane."
10. Now it's time to form the lips of the buttonhole. (Note that I'm using a contrasting color of fabric here so you can see it.) You need to cut out two pieces of fabric that are 1-1/2" high and one inch longer than the width of your buttonhole. In this case, our buttons are 1", so your fabric pieces will be 1-1/2" tall by 2" wide.
Cut two of these pieces.
11. Now pin the pieces together, right sides together and mark a stitching line down the middle (vertically) of the two pieces.
12. Stitch down this line with a long basting stitch.
13. Now you want to "butterfly" the pieces open so the right sides are out and each piece is folded over itself, with the basting stitch holding the pieces together down the middle.
Press the piece so it retains this shape. These are your upper and lower lips of your buttonhole.
14. Place the lips behind your window and pin on the top and bottom (where the arrows are).
**Note: at this point, you may want to slip stitch the lips in place around the edge of the window. This will ensure that they won't move at all during the next steps.
15. The goal of the next steps is to secure the lips in place by machine stitching the lips to the "triangles" formed when you ironed the organza in step 9. Remember the little triangles on the back?
Fold one side over itself so you can see the triangle on top of the lips.
16. Take it to your machine and stitch the triangle to the lips. I like to use a zipper foot so you can get really close to the fold of the outer fabric.
Here you can see the stitching line.
17. Repeat this step on the triangle on the opposite side. Now, repeat it on each of the triangles on the long edges. All four triangles are stitched down now.
And your buttonhole is finished!
18. When your coat is finished, you'll remove the basting between the lips.
It's a good idea to test your practice buttonhole with your actual coat buttons.
Make sure it passes through the buttonhole easily.
That's it for now! After we stitch the lining and front facing onto the coat body, there will be another step where we'll make little openings in the facing for the button to pass through, on the backside of the buttonhole. Basically, it involves cutting open a window on the facing and slipstitching it around the back of the buttonhole.