Measuring for Buttonhole Length

The Donna Blouse is at last emerging from the long process of patternmaking, fitting, fabric selection and experimentation with construction techniques. It is so easy to rush through the final details in the excitement to finish a garment. However, the rush is just not worth the risk that the finer finishing details require.

Buttonholes are always tricky whether you are sewing them by hand or machine. I choose to make mine by hand because of the greater precision that results. I just have never done well with machine made ones and do not like the remaining shreds of fabric that sometimes result when the slit for the button is opened.

Instructions for marking buttonholes and calculating buttonhole length from “The Vogue Sewing Book” 1970 edition.

Of all the books in my Dressmaker’s Library, “The Vogue Sewing Book” (1970 edition) has the best instructions for determining the placement of buttons as well as calculating the buttonhole length.

Close-up of instructions for calculating buttonhole length.

According to “The Vogue Sewing Book” the length of a buttonhole is usually calculated by adding the width of the button and the height of the button. This results in the length of the buttonhole. An extra 1/8″ should be added if the button has a shank.

No matter how good the instructions are, it always pays to practice on a scrap of fabric before applying the construction technique to the garment. Here’s what happened to me when I followed the instructions as written…

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Seams & Seam Finishes: Free Downloable PDF Available

Seam finishes are part of the inside story of a well made garment. Many sewing books have illustrations of the well known seam finishes. A guide that has photographs of exactly how each finish will look when completed is even better.

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has just published a new booklet of instructions for finishing a variety of seams. Clear photographs of each finish are included. A variety of techniques are presented that include hand sewing, machine sewing (zig-zag for example) and serging.

I recommend downloading this file as part of your Dressmaker’s Library even if you already have a few sewing books on hand. It’s always possible to pick up a new approach or a few tips from a different source.

“Seams and Seam Finishes”
by Linda Heaton and Marjorie M. Baker, Textiles and Clothing
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Lexington, KY 40546
Issued March 2014

URL to download:

Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Parts 4 and 5: Finishing and Steam pressing the facing

4 A. Wright’s Flex-Lace Hem Tape is pinned, basted and stitched around the entire outer edge of the facing after it is pinked.

4 B. View of the inside of the facing. A straight stitch was used on the inner edge and a zig-zag on the outer edge to sew the lace in place.

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Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Part 3: Finger Pressing the seams open and stay stitching by hand

Many sewing books show the pressing of a collar using a Tailor’s Board and steam iron. At school we were showed a way of finger pressing seams open that created a clean finish without the extra wear and shine that over pressing and handling can produce.

3 A. Remove all basting threads, grade seams and clip neckline seam. Use a Tailor Board for this pressing.

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Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Part 2: Preparing the collar and sewing the facing

The Roll Collar is constructed and steam pressed before this part of the process is begun.

2 A. If steam pressing has diminished the visibility of the dressmaker’s tracing paper markings, use Tailor’s Chalk to mark the neckline curve. You may stay stitch the neckline if needed before clipping it so that it will curve smoothly to the neckline of the bodice.

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Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Part 1: The pattern

Instructions from “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing”, Pleasantville, NY, 1980.

1 A. The instructions from “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” are the basis of my approach combined with what I remember from the technique I learned at the French Fashion Academy. The Rolled Collar is prepared as previously described before creation of the facing and this phase of the garment construction.

The facing for the front of the blouse is in one piece with the bodice.

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Back to the Donna Blouse–New Developments

I had time in the evenings this past week to do further work on The Donna Blouse. The weather has not been quite as cold as last month and I’ve kept my heaters on for longer periods of time during the evening. I decided to put aside the previous version of the blouse made up in red cotton broadcloth. Although the fabric is a beautiful color it turns out to be too thick for a blouse with a waistline yoke. As I became better acquainted with this weight of broadcloth I realized it would work better for summer skirts or a dressmaker’s suit.

I had on hand some lightweight cotton blend shirting that I had ordered that has a very pretty print. I decided to cut the pattern out again. This time the sewing went so quickly and so easily that I knew at last I was getting my touch back thanks to the selection of the right fabric.

I also constructed the rolled collar differently, using a neckline facing this time. The results are so beautiful and so easy that this is now my favorite way to sew a collar in.

It’s my hope that in showing how the process of drafting your own patterns, and then following through to the construction of the garment, will heighten awareness of the evolution of the style. This is in all sense of the words an evolutionary process. It’s not always a smooth process but the results are very satisfying if you’re up to the challenges.

What you’re seeing here is what happens in the workrooms of any designer, although their methods and processes are faster and utilize more machine sewing. Samples that arrive from off-shore producers are often evaluated and re-evaluated several times as the designer, patternmaker and manufacturing facilities work out the details. It can take two or three versions of a sample before the roll of a collar or width of a cuff and length of a blouse are finalized.

In the next series of postings I’ve detailed how to create the neckline facing for a roll collar along with instructions for providing a pretty finishing touch.

I’m very excited about these new developments. I’ve ordered 3 yards of black Linaire which matches the black dye lot of the new fabric for the Donna Blouse. I plan to make another half circle skirt from it that will have a softer drape than the cotton denim one. It’s a good contrast and exercise to make a favorite garment in different weights of suitable fabrics. The experience brings to life the properties of each fabric.

Please refer to these postings for details of the process from start to finish:

Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Part 1: The pattern

Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Part 2: Preparing the collar and sewing the facing

Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Part 3: Finger Pressing the seams open and stay stitching by hand

Roll Collar with Neckline Facing, Parts 4 and 5: Finishing and Steam pressing the facing