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Learn an Easy Bound Buttonhole Method for All Ages

A method simple enough for a 12-year-old
Threads #197, June/July 2018
For style and longevity, try the time-honored bound buttonhole. It’s easier than you think. Pattern: Simplicity Threads 8604. Fabric: silk-wool double-cloth, MoodFabrics.com.

My mother taught tailoring. When I was 12 years old, she asked me to test her original bound buttonhole directions. She figured that if I could follow her written instructions successfully, her adult students would be able to, too. I had no trouble, and some 50 years later, I’ve never found a better way to make consistent, controlled, and perfect bound buttonholes.

My mother’s method uses a separate strip of material to create the buttonhole lips. The strip is prepared and then cut apart into individual buttonhole sections. This method’s accuracy relies on the preparation of the buttonhole location in the early construction stages. A machine-basted grid on the garment front is essential to making buttonholes that start and stop on the same warp thread and are parallel to a weft line. 

The buttonhole lips can be made of any material that holds up to the stress of supporting a button. I love to use a contrasting material to flaunt the buttonholes. The buttonhole lips on a 1940s to 1950s couture garment would have been a scant 1/8 inch wide, but I usually make them at least a 1/4 inch wide for visual impact.

Although this method has many steps, each is easy to do. More importantly, each element can be adjusted until perfect, up until the final step of cutting into the fabric. As with any new technique, I suggest practicing this method before using it on your garment. The results will not disappoint.

Showing the use of contrasting fabric for a bound buttonhole. Showing the use of contrasting fabric for a bound buttonhole.
If you like, you can highlight your work by using contrasting fabric for the buttonhole lips.


Model showing classy details like bound buttonholes on a sharp little jacket.
You can’t argue with classy details like bound buttonholes on a sharp little jacket.


Model showing a great set of buttons with beautifully crafted buttonholes.
Celebrate your sewing skills—and a great set of buttons—with beautifully crafted buttonholes.

Daryl Lancaster has been tailoring garments for more than…

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