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Video: Use Elastic to Space Buttons

produced by Evamarie Gomez and Judith Neukam; Shot by Gary Junken

If you’re putting buttons and buttonholes down the front of a blouse, you know that accurate spacing can be a challenge. First, you have to measure the space, and then divide it into equally long pieces. But there’s a better way.

Linda Boston of Woodbury, Connecticut, tells us how to position a series of buttons, buttonholes, snaps, or any sewing detail. She says to place evenly spaced marks on a piece of elastic. Align the first mark on the elastic with the starting point on the garment, and stretch the elastic until the correct number of marks fit the space. Then, transfer the marks to your garment.

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  1. dicksie | | #1

    The tip abut elastic to mark button holes is good as far as it goes. One end of the elastic in each hand, the elastic is stretched...HOW DO YOU MARK THE GARMENT??????????

  2. User avater
    kneedlez | | #2

    I haven't found working from the top button provides consistent results. This is because of the length of the top, pattern style, etc. The most important button, to me, is the one that needs to strategically cover the bust area so there is no gap. I start with that buttonhole and measure up and down from there.

  3. user-2657171 | | #3

    Let's see. I use one hand to hold each end of the elastic. Then I use my third hand to mark the garment making sure one mark falls in the "sweet spot" at the bust line. Or, I could pin the elastic to the garment..nope still wouldn't work! I think I'll just continue to use basic math which shouldn't be a problem for most of us.

  4. User avater
    FigMint | | #4

    As already so aptly stated by user-2657171 (very funny, BTW)and dicksie......how the heck are you supposed to mark the garment whilst holding the elastic with both hands? Math works for me!

  5. rhodeanie | | #5

    Terrific tip!! Thanks!

  6. User avater
    TextyleMaven | | #6

    I love this idea and it took a while to figure out where I'd get the third hand ! Once I know where the top button will be, I put the elastic there and put it under the machine foot with the needle down. Then I can pull with one hand and mark with the other :-) I used to just put down pennies or buttons and rough space them. Then I liked the general look, I measured between the centers and used that as the spacing.

  7. redbughill | | #7

    Why don't you pin the stretched elastic to your ironing board and then hold up the edge of your garment next to it to transfer the marks?

  8. User avater
    trishapat | | #8

    I wondered the same thing as many others; How are you supposed to mark the garment when it takes two hands to hold that elastic taut. If you have another person it could work and maybe there is a way around it - but in the meantime heres something that works beautifully.
    Simflex Expanding Gauge, you can buy it on many sites. Nancy's Notions has a better price than Amazon right now.

  9. denisebb | | #9

    I love this tip. I would use a ruler to "measure" the distance between the marks on the stretched elastic. 1)Place the garment on a flat surface. 2)Position a ruler with the 0" mark at the starting point on the garment - this is the same point as the first mark on the elastic. 3)Stretch the elastic to fit the spacing as described in the video AND note the distance between the first two marks on the elastic. 4)Use this "measured" distance to equally space the remaining button marks.

  10. User avater
    teariana | | #10

    This tip is a fail in too many ways. The first fail that's caused a lot of confusion to most is fairly easy to fix. A lot of my work involves pinning things to cardboard this is no different. Use a piece of cardboard underneath fabric and elastic and pin top and bottom marks to board.

    The second fail concerns the nature of elastic, for this use elastic would have to stretch evenly along length. I've been working with elastics for years and have never known it to stretch evenly it always stretches more at the ends and less toward the middle. This would make the top and bottom two buttons the farthest apart with the spaces becoming closer and closer as you near the center. This would work great if you wanted too create a graduated appearance, but for most applications this isn't the desired result.

  11. User avater
    LauraLeeSews | | #11

    Unfortunately, this is not a helpful video. Given the vast number of independent bloggers that have great tutorials, you would think that Threads Magazine's website could produce a video or article that would appeal to sewists in a creative and meaningful way. Not trying to be too critical but I am always hoping this site has more to offer.

  12. lindalouise | | #12

    Agree with the descending posts. Would be better off using something stable. I have one of the guides that can be put in different positions it works well.

    Does not seem you though this through.

    I see Laura Lee's point. I have been repeatedly disappointed in questions I've posted either on your site or Facebook go unanswered. Makes me feel your main interest is getting subscriptions/renewals but not attempting to serve your customers.

  13. User avater
    copperwoman | | #13

    How awkward. I'm with the (so far) majority here. In addition to all the problems noted so far, this actually seems more complicated to me. I use a metric ruler or tape - it makes the arithmetic really easy. I establish the location of the critical buttonhole, and measure from there. I never mark it with pins. Use something such as chalk, or on white or light colors, a tiny dot of water-soluble marker. Put the needle down, and then before beginning to stitch, use a dampened cotton swab to remove the mark. (If you stitch over it, it might be harder to remove and show.) Or use thread markers.

  14. LindaG7 | | #14

    If this is an example of how to "Sew Better, Faster, Smarter" then I don't want this book. There are better, more stable and reliable ways to accurately measure and mark buttonholes, even if you want to avoid the simple arithmetic required. Most women don't want to start measuring at the top button, either, since there are usually other areas of the garment that are more critical to make sure they stay closed, like over the bust or across a wide waist or hips.

    Using elastic as a measuring tool is unstable and stretching it to transfer spacing is likely to result in uneven results. Elastic doesn't stretch evenly across its length and may stretch while you are making the initial, spaced "guides". You should always use a stable instrument when making accurate measurements and placement. And, as others noted, using this elastic method to actually mark the garment requires at least 3 hands to accomplish, whether it is accurate or not, and, certainly, that makes this method worse, not better or easier.

    If you are uncomfortable doing the calculations and don't wish to purchase one of the spacing guide tools available, here is a simpler, more stable method to get even spacing for 3, 5, or 9 buttons that won't require extra hands to accomplish:
    Cut a 1" wide strip of stable paper the length of the space from the top button to the bottom button on the garment. For 3 buttons, fold the strip in half once. For 5 buttons, fold the strip in half again. For 9 buttons, fold in half one more time.
    Open the strip and mark the folds.
    Carefully press the strip flat (without stretching).
    Using the ends of the strip as the positions for the top and bottom button and the marked folds as positions for the others, you will have a stable guide for transferring your placement positions. This can be pinned to the garment and it will stay in place while you work. You can position the strip using one of the marks for critical button placement, like at the bust line, and mark the positions of all the buttons in relation to this.

    Keep in mind, the best, most accurate way is to do the math and make minor adjustments for specific problems or needs.

  15. cynsew | | #15

    I actually like this tip and think it would be easy and simple. Can't wait to try it on my next button project. Thank you for sharing it!

  16. XIII | | #16

    @trishapat thanks for the tip about the Simflex sewing gauge! I have been looking at it on Amazon, and you are right, Nancy's Notions has it cheaper right now, even with shipping.
    As for the video: I was also wondering how I was going to stretch elastic and mark at the same time, but wait.... there are already buttons on the garment they show? Why not just use those to mark where the buttonholes will be?? I'm a new at this so I must be missing something. Can someone enlighten me?

  17. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #17

    Yup, something seems to have been left out here. This instructor is usually spot on.

  18. SharonPicone | | #18

    I too am very confused by this video. It's impossible to hold the stretched elastic with both hands and mark at the same time.

  19. jozica | | #19

    This is indeed not a great tip, you never will be able to do this allone.....

  20. fuzzfuzz | | #20

    I agree that this method isn't "doable". Most patterns have buttonholes marked on the pattern piece. I use that as a guide and then sew the buttons on after I make the button holes.

  21. User avater
    michaelmaloney | | #21

    This video is GENIUS! Not that I would have to worry about stitching and sewing though! That's what the wife is for ;) But in all honesty, she would love to see this video and put this into her repertoir and storage of sewing tips and tricks. I, on the other hand, will stick to the DIY videos of the same ilk, because there is always a better way to do things!

  22. marijkapaprika | | #22

    Good grief, people, you just pin each end of the elastic to your cutting mat and lay the garment edge next to it for marking. This is a genius tip, but I guess she forgot to spoon-feed the ending.

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