Sunday, August 21, 2011

Check the Technique: Bound Buttonholes, Baby!

I was going to buy some organza to do my bound buttonholes on Monday but then this happened...again.

Cue three days being stuck in the house. It wasn't like that just in Christchurch either. It seemed like pretty much the whole country got snowed in. Even subtropical Auckland (way up north) got a tiny smattering. I finally got to the fabric store by the end of the week, so I spent yesterday practicing my bound buttonholes and then doing the real ones on the bodice of my dress.

Bound buttonholes have always seemed to me like some sort of scary monster that only expert sewers tackle. I think the most terrifying thing is that you have to cut into the fabric before you know if they're going to work. If you screw them up you've ruined your whole garment. I was determined when I started Simplicity 5098 that I would finally do some. The pattern suggested doing bound buttonholes and I thought they would look neater because the button detail is a focal point of the dress. Also, because they are rarely seen on ready to wear clothes these days, they always seem vintage-y to me.

I used this tutorial from Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing. I've seen many different techniques for doing bound buttonholes but I definitely think this is the best. I think it gives you a lot more control and consistent results.

The tutorial says to use silk organza but, let's face it, I wouldn't even know where to buy that in Christchurch. The few fabric stores that would possibly sell it were destroyed in the quake and even a small piece would probably be way more than I am willing/able to spend. I just bought some cheap (about $5/m) polyester organza from Spotlight and it worked just fine.

These are a couple of my practice ones.

Not so Good


The first one wasn't that great because I used pins instead of basting. If you're going to try it I would definitely recommend basting everything.

These are the real ones.

I'm not quite sure why my camera made the fabric look lighter around the buttonholes but it isn't like that in person. They're not perfect but I'm pretty pleased with them. You can see the purple organza I used in the corners slightly but it's only noticeable if you look closely. It doesn't actually matter if they're not perfectly uniform because once the buttons are done up you can't even see the buttonholes.

Verdict: Not as difficult as I thought they'd be and definitely worth the effort. I see myself making lots of clothes with bound buttonholes in the future.


  1. Bloody well done,lovey!They really aren't too bad,just a teeny bit fiddly.Gawd,I haven't done anything remotely like that in years,I'd make a right mess of it,I'm sure!
    Can't wait to see the finished frock!

  2. Those are good!They kind of look like tiny little lips to me, with the pink fabric. I hate the cutting, too; it's terrifying.

  3. Helga!- Thanks. Yes, I realise now that they aren't that scary. It'd all probably come flooding back if you tried it.

    Molly- Thanks. Yes, I always think they look like weird little mouths. The cutting is definitely the worst part.

  4. That fabric rocks! You make it look so easy. Really looking forward to this dress :D

  5. Fabulous job! This is definitely on my list of techniques to learn! And wow...look at all that snow!!

  6. They are sooooo good. I love the contrast of colours, too. x

  7. Great job with the bound buttonholes! I've never tried them. The snow is pretty but I'm sure you're sick of it by now and ready for spring!

  8. Bound buttonholes make any garment look luxurious and expensive :D Nicely done! I try to avoid them because it takes too much time ;) (yes, I know, I'm always in a rush to get things finished).

    I have an idea why areas around buttonholes are lighter. I assume you ironed your garment. I assume you also used wool or woolmix on your garment. So, when ironing the hot iron flattens upper layer of wool fabric just a bit, where the seam allowances are. And if you look closely those lighter areas seem to be pretty square, just like seam allowances would be on the reverse side. Even if you don't see it, the fabric might be just a little bit more shiny and flat on those areas and that was caught by the camera. To avoid these kind of ironing marks you can iron wool fabrics through thin cotton fabric, like gauze/mull.

  9. Reana Louise- Thanks. Hopefully the dress doesn't disappoint.

    Debi- Thanks. I definitely recommend Gertie's technique if you do try them. I know, we hardly ever get snow here.

    Vix- Thanks. I love the contrast too.

    Stacy- Thanks. You should try them. It is pretty but being stuck inside isn't that fun.

    Rhia- They do take time but I think they are worth it for some things. It is a wool. I think as well the light caught the bulk of the fabric that is underneath. It is not noticeable in person so it doesn't matter but I will keep that in mind next time. Thanks.