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small bound buttonholes HELP

Guest | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I have been trying various methods for making a small ( less than one inch) bound buttonhole and I am not having success.

I have tried Betzina’s method and Vogue’s methods and even went back to my first sewing manual from highschool.

I stabilize the fabric and the sewing is straight, then when I slash it and turn out out I either get bunching at the corners (suggesting I didn’t slash far enough into the corners…grrr when I do I get a hole) or the lips don’t line up perfectly. I have tried using just a piece of material, two strips corded and not corded, a patch, and folded bias strips. one was close to perfect but I want to make a slew of them.

Should I just give on this and go back to a less attractive machine buttonhole? I hate those whiskers. A previous Threads article showed how to eliminate whiskers but my machine gets stuck going over twice.

This is for a silk noil shirt (Kinenbi Top from the Sewing Workshop) and I want the workmanship to shine.


  1. LizMaynard | | #1

    I find making bound buttonholes that small to be very tedious!  Not enough room to work in.  Go back to the machine buttonhole but use a soluble stabilizer over face fabric and under--work buttonhole, shortening stitch length if possible.  The stabilizer should help cover the whiskers, then you can tear excess away.

    1. dinahu | | #2

      how does stabilizer , once removed, prevent those little cut thread ends? that's what is so unsttractive about machine buttonholes. RTW avoids them, how can hand made avoid them?

      1. LizMaynard | | #7

        My buttonhole is made so that there are no cut thread ends.  The buttonhole is zig-zag down each side with enough space between the rows to cut without cutting the threads--I use a cutter that I place and then press to cut NOT SCISSORS as it's a lot more accurate where you cut.  Re: stabilizer, I was thinking the stabilizer would wrap around the z.z. row but it can't since it's not cut! Duh.

        1. dinahu | | #8

          I wasn't refering to threads from the sewn button holes but threads from the fabric in which you are making the button hole. My buttonholes look perfect until I cut them to let the buttons in.

          does this make sense? I tried a little fray check and that helps.

          1. SewingSue | | #9

            Sorry about butting in but how about converting to loops and buttons?  Or, buttons over snaps?  But, I agree those little thread whiskers can make things look messy.  I am a strictly washer and dryer type of girl and after the garment is washed and dried I take my tiny scissors to each buttonhole and trim everything up.  I normally only need to do this one time and then everything is neat and tidy.


          2. ClaireDuffy | | #10

            I'm coming in a bit late here but I might be able to help.

            When I have cut a buttonhole I push the button through from the right side to the wrong side, firstly to make sure I have cut the hole big enough, and secondly to push all those ugly threads through to the wrong side.

            Then I pinch the buttonhole so that the cut edges are facing up. Then I carefully tuft up the edges to bring all the loose ends up and trim them off.

            I hpoe that helps.I hope you can understand me!


            CLAIRE in Oz

          3. DorothyH10 | | #11

            I use iron on (black) tricot on both sides of the fabric. Then when I  sew the buttonholes I put Aqua-solve on BOTH sides of the buttonholes (in fact I use a blue pen to mark the aqua-solve  with the hole size. Aqua-solve will be perforated remove it and press the remainder  (wet finger) on both sides and let it cool down nicely.  Then use a cutter cut 1/2 with the  hole help over the side of the wood if small than the blade.  Always check your tension and keep your hands OFF while it sews, you may be creating some torqued fabric adding to the messy look.

            Edited 8/21/2002 6:18:41 PM ET by Dorothy

  2. rjf | | #3

    Hi Diane,

    Have you tried handmade buttonholes?  Since they're worked after cutting, you go right over the fringies and since you're making a silk shirt, I think they would look terrific.  If you're using silk fabric, I'd try to find silk buttonhole thread but that might be difficult these days.  Maybe if you're using silk sewing thread, a double strand would work.  But you need to find directions for the "real" buttonhole stitch which is quite different from the blanket stitch that most people use.  I'll look around here and see if I can find something.                 rjf

    1. dinahu | | #4

      this link describes the two different stitiches, many people think they are the same and you are right, they are different.


      1. carolfresia | | #5

        If those nasty little cut threads are your problem, maybe you need to cut the buttonholes open differently. If you use a chisel you can often get a better cut, and since you're sort of whacking straight through the fabric, rather than slicing it (with scissors) or tearing it (with a seam ripper), you don't pull threads out of the weave so readily. Just be careful when you align the chisel that you don't chop the buttonhole stitches!

        YOu can use a regular carpentry chisel (pick a very small size), or you can also buy special ones designed for buttonholes--I think they have shorter handles allowing for greater control. Check online sources like http://www.clotilde.com or http://www.nancysnotions.com.

        Another suggestion offered by Threads's bound-buttonhole guru, Judy Neukam, is to use a different fabric for the lips of the bound buttonhole. In her opinion, silk noil would be pretty tough to control in a small buttonhole, but if you used a lightweight, tightly woven cotton, you might find the whole process will work fine. Dupioni is great for bound buttonholes, too, though it can split where folded if subjected to lots of stress.

        Good luck!


      2. DonnaB | | #13

        Thanks for the informative link.  It was very helpful!

        1. mem | | #14

          IN Roberta Carrs book on couture sewing she uses the Spanish snap buttonhole for small button holes .I have made these and they easy once you have practiced them and quick to do. Basically you cut bias patches which area sewn onto the right side of the blouse in an oval shape . Getting the oval the right shape and uniform is the trick I draw mine . The oval also has acute corners at each end so it is football shaped . Cut the along the midline and into these corners ,I use duck bill scissors, (very Useful ), turn the patch through to the wrong side and the snap it pulling along the long middle section . This needs to be quick . This then forms two lips which cover the seam allowance on the inside . I then stitch in the ditch by hand with a very small needle as you stitch even up the size of the lips  . The back is finished off in the same way that the usual. bound buttonhole is with a rectangular hole slip stitched in place . .I do this hole with silk organza.This is a technique well worth getting good at It gives great result and is particularly good applied to boucle fabrics . It is also good on fine fabrics.

          1. marijke | | #15

            Bias patches is how I learnt to do bound button holes, but instead of an oval, I was told to sew a rectangle.  Two stitches across is fine for most shirt-sized buttonholes, and however many lengthwise you need for the size button you are using, count the stitches and make sure you have the same number on both sides.  Slash and cut into (but not through) each corner, pull fabric through the hole and, if you tug just a little at the short ends, it usually folds to form the lips of the buttonhole automatically.  Roll the lips into shape to be perfect, baste, press.  I did use a small patch of interfacing on the front to reinforce. 

            Haven't made one of those in a long time, but I have done a shirt (front and cuffs) that way, before I owned a zigzag machine and before I had machine buttonholes!


          2. DonnaB | | #16

            Thanks for the information.  I will give it a try.

          3. mem | | #17

            What is good about the football shape is that you dont have corners which you need to cut into Its not so bulky.

      3. mygaley | | #18

        Thank you, thank you for the link about blanket stitches and buttonhole stitches!  I have been driven crazy about this issue for years.

  3. mommydionne | | #6

    Check out Peggy sayer's webside,  Silhouette patterns she has online instructions for a simple welt pocket that works well for buttonholes.

    Also there was a threads on leather sewing that showed how to make a small bound buttonhole that may work, can't remember the issue number but has a pair of teal leather pants on the cover

  4. BUNZINO | | #12


    Check the Threads index -- several articles on both bound and regular machine buttonholes. I use their suggestion of going around twice on plain old machine buttonholes. Cut the "hole" after the first time arnd and then the 2nd time around gathers up all the straying threads.


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