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Conversational Threads

alternative to button holes on cardigan

denise | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I am about to make a cardigan on a beautiful pure wool fabric.

I am afraid that as good as my machine is at button holes something may go wrong,

Does anyone have an alterntive to a nice front finish not using botton holes.



  1. woodywoodpecker598 | | #1

    I saw a picture one time of a jacket with really nice looking buttons on it, but they were just for decoration as the actual closure was done with round pieces of hook and loop tape. What about frogs,zipper, some kind of hardware closure item you can but from a hardware shop? Sometimes I go into an automotive or hardware store just to check out the kind of closures that are available and were never meant to be used for sewing but certainly could be.

    1. denise | | #2

      I knew two minds where better that one,

      Thankyou,  I t hink the loop sounds  good as well,  I have bought some double sided ribbon in a matching colour to face the inside perhaps i could attach  loops in the wool fabric   before i add the facing, and even make covered bottons,  now that would be something i have never done.

      what do you think,


      1. woodywoodpecker598 | | #3

        Sounds like a good plan to me. Make sure to take some pictures. I love looking at other people's work. It inspires me.

        1. denise | | #4

          will do but it 30 deg here in aust  today

          so imay wait a couple of weeks till the temp  drops not good working with wool

          and getting hot also.

          1. woodywoodpecker598 | | #5

            Oh lucky you. It's -15 C here with a wind chill factor as well. When I go out I have a down jacket on.

      2. FitnessNut | | #6

        If you didn't want to use hook and loop tape, you could also use large covered snaps.I have a thing about fine fabrics and hook/loop tape. I think it "cheapens" the garment, not to mention all the snags that are inevitable. Though velcro does have its place. Just my opinion. ;-)

        1. denise | | #7

          yes I agree  I thought of it through the middle of the night  10.06 sat morn here,

          I picture things and then think them through.

          I wondered in the middle of the night if I made my stretch band first cut it out doubled it and then put water soluble backing and did the button holes and if they are o.k. then sew  the band on.

          I am not good at making covered grommets I think its the arthritis in my hands.


          If you or any one comes up with something that would be good,  it is a lovely wool and mohair mix spun in Italy,  the wool may of come from Tasmania, as we have wonderful fleece here

          1. Ralphetta | | #8

            There has been at least one article in Threads, I think, showing how to create vertical buttonholes by sewing a separate band onto the bodice at center front.  The buttonholes are formed by spaces between the garment and the strip.  Does this make sense.  Maybe someone remembers which issue it was in. I've never tried it, but I thought it looked interesting.

          2. denise | | #9

            Thankyou,  Ralphetta,

            I do hope someone remembers i will try the search engine later today,

            Off to our Grandsons and daughters birthday barbacue.

            28  deg in in aus.

            isnt it wonderful that you and others reply if only we could solve the world problems like our sewing.

            thanks heaps

          3. User avater
            Becky-book | | #10

            must remind myself that 30 deg in Aust is not the same as 30 deg in Georgia!!

            C x 1.8 + 32 = F    am I right?

            30 deg here is below freezing!



          4. fabricholic | | #28

            Hi Becky,I am so glad you put up the formula for the temperature. I kept wondering why she acted like she was hot, but she should be cold. LOLMarcy

          5. katina | | #11

            Hi Denise

            I visited my childhood friend in Adelaide some years ago - loved it.

            I avoid buttonholes like the plague! A bad experience when finishing a blouse in a hurry seems to have scarred me for the rest of my sewing life. I use plackets, and inseam b/holes wherever possible and must say I'm very happy with the results. It's amazing how many interesting little design possibilities present themselves when you try this. I tend to sew fairly simple items for myself, relying on the best workmanship I'm capable of, and lovely wools, ethnic fabrics, handwovens and the like, together with unusual closures/buttons. Many of these fabrics have a very good-looking 'wrong' side, and so lend themselves to cuffs and bands, etc which give a nice finish to the item.

            I've found these two articles in Threads which may help you:

            #103 page 42; #112 page 34

            Have fun - Katina



          6. denise | | #12

            Dear  Katinna

            first of all thankyou for replying,

            Can you please tell me which book number in Threads.

            Yes I like Adelaide too lots of lovley churches and old buildings and nice city centre


          7. denise | | #13

            Sorry i have read it again and the books are there

            silly me

          8. katina | | #14

            You're welcome - enjoy designing your button bands.


          9. HeartFire2 | | #19

            Another option (I'm also petrified of buttonholes going bad) is if you have an embroidery machine, I have lots of plain and decorative button hole embroidery designs that work out very well. I use sticky paper so I don't have to hoop the garment and its really easy to get them placed right.Also, I think the kind of buttonholes someone was talking about is called a slot buttonhole, I did a quick search and didn't find anything, but look around on the web and perhaps you could find something. Picture a seam line with a section (one inch) not sewn shut - this would be the buttonhole. it works very nicely esp when the garment is lined, you hand sew the lining to the face fabric in the slot.

          10. denise | | #21

            Do you think that this could be what might be called a bound button hole.

            I think i saw a video somewhere on the web site will check it out.

            Thankyou yes it would be a very tidy professional look.

            Everyone is so great for replying.

            Thankyou, taking a break from hand embroidery at the moment as i have this annoying arthritis in my right hand.


          11. HeartFire2 | | #22

            No, a bound buttonhole would work also, they have 'lips' on them. good luck with your project

          12. Ralphetta | | #23

            I recently read something referring to "in seam" buttonholes. That's the kind I was describing earlier. The latest issue of Vogue pattern magazine features Claire Shaeffer's jacket with no buttonholes, but decorative loops and fancy buttons and that might work.

            Before I gained confidence in my buttonhole skills I used a variety of alternatives.  I was never happy with snaps or hooks  on jackets.  Buttons sewed on the top of something else looked okay when it was closed but the metal on the underneath side gave things an unfinished, amateurish look if it was left open. It looked weird  and was obvious what had been done. So, consider whether or not you're going to wear it open and how it will look.

          13. denise | | #24

            perhaps i should practice and trust my machine.

            Or  perhpas have no button holes make it an edge to edge cardigan.


          14. user-51823 | | #25

            i have made small loops from ribbon, braid, or a tube of fabric and sewn them into the seam between lining and fashoin fabric edge. they are visible, but can be thought of as a nice accent, or made from a color that blend in. or sew ties on each side front and tie them (kind of oriental) also oriental would be frogs.
            personally i don't care for buttons that are just disguises for snaps or hooks, and ITA about velcro closures not being appropriate for nice clothes.

          15. Ralphetta | | #27

            Either thing would work.  I was just mentioning a problem I didn't think of until too late, (how it would look when open.)  As someone else mentioned, the "disguises: just didn't look good to me.  But, all of those other things that really make the closure a part of the design are good options. Don't get discouraged, it's good to think things out in advance like you're doing.  Good Luck

  2. roschjm | | #15

    Another possibilite would be a hidden placket. Then , you still have buttonholes but

    they are completely hidden, so who care if they are less than perfect?  I would not put velcro on good wool, its good only for "utilite" item ( to my taste).  Large snaps, maybe covered, with buttons only as decorations could be nice too.

    Good luck!

    1. denise | | #16

      thankl you ros   will type in hidden placket on site and see what i can come up with.


  3. Teaf5 | | #17

    A very beautiful couture closure is to sew/tack gorgeous buttons down the outside of one side of the opening, and then use silk-covered snaps underneath that.  Some wonderful buttons don't wash or dryclean well and use little clips on the under side so that you can remove them when necessary. 

    Large snaps can be covered with very thin fabric in the same color as your wool, using tiny running stitches to gather the edge of a circle of silky fabric onto the back side of each half of the snap.  I used a thread spool as a pattern for very large covered snaps.

    Another another beautiful option is to use tabs rather than buttonholes, either in the fashion fabric or a coordinating one.  I think this was also mentioned in Threads in an article about "alternative closures." (About a year ago, I believe.) Try using that as a search word, or "decorative closures."

    1. denise | | #18

      Dear Teaf.

      I am wondering whether the translation  may be something different.

      When American ladies say snaps do you mean those silver clips with prongs.

      And you have to use a clamp to put them on they are usualy on babies grow suits, the towling ones.

      Or do you mean covered button kits that come with a button bottom with a shank on the back.

      I think it sounds very nice.  Do you think doubled sided ribbon could be used

      will try the web site as well

      thank you so much.

      1. katina | | #20

        Hi Denise

        "Snaps" are what you know as press studs. I use 5/8" snaps/press studs (black for dark fabrics) on jackets and cardigans sewn of fleece, and sew the buttons on the outside merely for decorative purposes. This works very well as the snaps almost disappear into the fleece. Teaf's suggestion is a very good one for your purposes - I've seen them done that way on couture garments.

        Let us know how you get on.


      2. woodruff | | #26

        Americans have two different types of snaps. One is indeed the pronged kind that you attach with pliers or some other specialized tool. The other is an older invention, and has holes around the perimeter, by which you can attach them via hand stitches to the fabric. This latter type can be covered by tiny circles of fabric hand-gathered to cover the metal. It is considered a couturier touch, and is seldom seen except in high-end clothing or vintage garments.

        1. NovaSkills | | #29

          My mom always called the ones you pounded in, with prongs, Gripper Snaps, which I think was actually the brand name. She liked for me to make her robes with those.

          In theatrical costuming, we refer to the other kind of snap (or stud) as a "popper." Large ones, nearly an inch in diameter and sewn in for quick costume changes are called "whopper poppers." We go through lots of those! But, we also do the covered snap trick in sheer pieces that still have to have quick-change or effects rigging.

          Funny what's got a different name in different places.



          1. fabricholic | | #30

            Can you call the big gripper snaps, whopper poppers, also? I would like to say that I am putting whopper poppers on my husband's wrap I am making. Marcy

          2. NovaSkills | | #31

            You can call them whatever you like, and your husband may even be flattered, depending on what comes to his mind when you say that!

          3. fabricholic | | #32

            Too funny.Marcy

      3. Teaf5 | | #33

        Katina explained the translation very well; I didn't know that we use a different term for sew-on snaps/snap fasteners.  The French term is broches de presion, if that helps!  Satin ribbon would indeed work well to cover them, if it is very, very thin.  A thick satin would prevent the parts from snapping together tightly.

        On a cardigan, a large set--size 4 or so(1.5cm) would hold nicely.  A thread spool makes a nice template to cut circles of fabric to cover each half before you sew it onto the garment.

        1. denise | | #34

          Dear  Teaf 5   we  just say covered buttons.

          The French word as always is very beautiful.

          My mother in law came from french stock.

          I cannot wait to tackle my cardigan now with all this help

          1. Teaf5 | | #35

            Oops, sorry, covered buttons and snap fasteners are two different things in the States...

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