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Any eyelet buttonhole experts?

dsrtrt2 | Posted in General Discussion on

I am working on a civil war ball gown that requires eyelet button holes on the back of the bodice.  Is anyone familiar with eyelet buttonholes?  How do I make them or is there a substitute?  I would greatly appreciate your help!


  1. momkelly | | #1

    Hi .. 

    I am a Civil War reenactor too..   and While I am no expert I have done a few button holes and eyelets..   

    eyelets are easy..   and in fact I did them on a gown for my daughter a couple of years ago..  she wanted them but I didn't think I had enough time.   LOL   then I discovered that it take as much (maybe more) time and effort to set hooks and eyes... LOL   so she got her eyelets and was pleasantly surprised.

    but you need a stiletto.    it is a pointy sewing tool, mine I have picked up at resale shops and sutlers.  they are made of bone.  I don't know if modern stores have an equivalent item..    but you need something like it.  

    bone is nice because it is pointy at one end..  widens enough to make the hole and is smooth so it easily goes in and out of the fabric with out damaging it.

    that is key..   a true eyelet made by period method does not damage the fabric.   the stiletto actually separates the threads in the fabric but does not break them  while they are apart you simply do a buttonhole stitch around the hole.  I find I  have to open the hole several times before I get it done.. but it is VERY easy to do.   

    What ever you do don't punch/cut a hole..   it isn't period and it will more easily tear.    punched metal eyelets will show and look wrong no matter what so please don't do that.  

    do you know how to do a buttonhole stitch?   If not I can find links to help you.  

    I'm in Delaware where are you ... are you going to the Remembrance day ball?  also thinking if we are close enough I could lend you a stiletto...   or I might even be able to show you how.


    Edited 9/12/2007 8:35 am ET by momkelly

    1. BernaWeaves | | #2

      You can also use knitting needles if you don't have a stiletto.

      Start with a really fine knitting needle (or tapestry needle)  to start the hole, then use bigger and bigger knitting needles until you get the size hole you need.


      Edited 9/12/2007 1:20 pm ET by BernaWeaves

      1. dsrtrt2 | | #4

        Thanks, Berna.

        Any particular tips on doing these eyelets on satin?  The gown I'm making is gold satin.


        1. momkelly | | #6

          Hi Terry again.. 

          sounds beautiful!!!   

          Hmmmm  I haven't done them in satin..    but I think there isn't any reason you couldn't..    and by using a stiletto you are less apt to break any threads so less chance to fray.    

          first I would grab a scrap fabric and make sure the layers in the scrap reflect exactly the same layers that are in the  finished  dress.      and practice first.  Satin is not forgiving of mistakes.      that is one thing I do know for sure.   and it frays like crazy  so doing this the period way  will help you that problem for sure. 

           open the hole slowly and make it bigger than you plan.   it will shrink back as the warp and fill threads try to go back to where they think they belong. until you get it stitched around...

              do your first few buttonhole stitches...  if it closes in .. just take your stiletto and wiggle it open again.   I have a thick old one that I thought was a crude one compaired to my fine beautiful one.. but I had lent my fine one out... so I had only the thick one to work with.. but I like it just right now because I can open the hole as big as I want or need to,  so it is the one I favor.    but as Berina says you can maybe try a thicker knitting needle if you need to. 

          let me know if you need more help.. 


          1. dsrtrt2 | | #8

            I will try to post a picture of it when its finished.  I still need to do the corset and a buy a hoop skirt.

            The dress is gold satin with black & white metallic lace and matching black, white & gold roses.  I used Simplicity 5724.

            Thanks for your help.  I will let you know how the eyelets do.


          2. momkelly | | #9

            if you haven't made the dress yet .. do the corset first.

            as I mentioned before Satin is not forgiving of mistakes..  it can show every needle mark.   you should have your corset made before you fit your bodice.     the good news is your bodice will most likely need to be taken in with a corset.   so the old seams are not as likely to show if you started it already.    but it is always best to do your corset and underpinnings first.     then fit your dress.



    2. dsrtrt2 | | #3


      Thanks for the info.  I'm actually in Arizona.  Actually, I am not a part of a re-enactment.  Ever since I was a young girl, I have loved the ball gowns and dresses of the 18th & 19th century.  I decided to make these costume dresses because they are so beautiful.  I have tried to do everything using period methods and it has been an education. 

      I do have a stilleto.  Do I do the buttonhole stitch on my machine or by hand?


      1. momkelly | | #5

        well Arizona is not exactly next door.. LOL  so any help will have to come by email..   LOL  unless you would like to come for tea???    

        you will have to do the buttonhole stitch by hand for it to work properly....  but it doesn't have to be real tight like you see on a buttonhole..    of course it will take more than 1/2 dosen stitches ..  but it really doen't take too many stitches around to work.  

        ball gowns are easy to make and they are so beautiful when they are done.  I have made my DD 3 now..   and myself one.    

        and yes period methods are an education.   the more you learn the better your gown will look  it is amazing.. but if you follow period methods your results are far better than our modern methods.    


        1. dsrtrt2 | | #7

          You are so right, Catherine.  It makes me realize how much we miss with all of our "quick" methods that save time but sacrifice the workmanship.  I find myself using more of the old methods because the quality of the garment is so much better.


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