Links to Postings about Buttons and Buttonhole Series

Links to RetroGlam Tutorials on Buttonhole and Buttons

Measuring for Buttonhole Lenth

Determining Buttonhole Placement

How to Determine Button Placement & Silk Twist vs. Poly-Cotton Thread for Buttonholes

Links to RetroGlam postings about Tutorials at Other Blogs and Downloadable Booklets

Links to these resources are included in my postings.

Free Downloadable Booklet: “Buttons and Buttonholes”

Excellent Tutorial on How to Sew Handmade Buttonholes

RetroGlam Postings about Blouses with Waistline Yokes

Background Info on Blouses with Waistline Yokes

Donna: 1950s inspired half circle skirt and fitted blouse with waistline yoke


Handmade buttonhole results: A comparison

Even though my buttonholes look alright in the end I still think what happened during the process of making them shows why silk buttonhole twist is better to use than poly-cotton thread.

Buttonhole made using double strand of poly-cotton thread. The resulting buttonhole did not completely cover all the fabric. It also was not strong enough to withstand repeated buttoning and unbuttoning.

Since all the buttonholes had already been hand stitched once I discovered how unsatisfactory the double strand of poly-cotton thread was, I had to find a solution. Here it is–I restitched each buttonhole again, using a double strand of poly-cotton thread.

I had to sew another series of buttonhole stitches around each buttonhole. This completely covered the buttonhole so that no fabric showed through. It also reinforced the buttonhole so well that now the buttonholes button and unbutton with ease and there is no fraying.

How to Determine Button Placement & Silk Twist vs. Poly-Cotton Thead for Buttonholes

Since the Donna Blouse is a self-drafted pattern, I have to work out all the details as the process of construction is underway.

Handmade buttonholes sewn with double strand of poly-cotton thread. The first series of stitches were not strong enough resulting in a need to stitch the buttonholes again. Clearly, this indicates that I must learn to sew them with silk twist next time.

Close-up of the finished buttonholes.

I had some difficulties getting buttonholes to come out looking small and neat when I practiced using silk buttonhole twist. I also found that it needs a bigger hand sewing needle than the one I usually use. So, I decided to experiment with using a double strand of poly-cotton thread. The resulting buttonholes were not sturdy enough. I ended up having to do another round of buttonhole stitches on top of what I’d previously done to keep them from fraying.

I plan to become very friendly with silk buttonhole twist after this! I also need to find a needle size that I can use with it that produces neat stitches. Since the twist is as thick as embroidery floss I’d tried an embroidery needle but it proved too big. I need to find smaller embroidery needles that will work with the twist but be light enough and easy enough to handle so that my stitches turn out neat.

Considering that I haven’t made handmade buttonholes in such a long time I’ll consider this at least is progress and work on improving gradually.

Sewing on a shank button. From “Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Sewing”, 1971 edition.

1. I followed the directions for sewing shank buttons that is given in “Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Sewing”, 1971 Edition.

2. The flat, bottom part of the shank must align with the direction of the buttonhole opening. Since the buttonholes are vertical the bottom of the shank was placed along the center front line.

3. To determine buttonhole placement the blouse was put onto the dress form. The blouse was then pinned in place along the Center Front lines of both sides.

Each buttonhole was opened and a glass headed pin inserted through the top on the right side and then through to the left side along Center Front.

All other pins were then removed except for those on the left side of the blouse.

Note: There isn’t any photo for Step 3.

4. From the pin (the white glass pin head shows in the photo) I measured down half the length of the buttonhole and marked with Tailor’s Chalk. This is where the flat end of the shank will be sewed.

5. This method worked well. The buttons were all in the right place. As noted in “Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Sewing” (1970 edition), with a vertical buttonhole, the buttons rest towards the top of the buttonhole leaving slightly more of the buttonhole visible below.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the outcome and feel a great sense of accomplishment at having gained confidence in these small but important details. I hope these tutorials have helped others and give them the confidence to try making handmade buttonholes. The details for buttonhole placement might come in useful when alterations have been done to the front of a blouse which is buttoned down center front.

Excellent Tutorial on How to Sew Handmade Buttonholes

Tasha at By Gum, By Golly has one of the best handmade buttonhole tutorials I’ve seen.

She includes a scan from a vintage sewing pattern that is large enough and clear enough to give you the exact stitching information you need.

There is also a good summary of the types of silk buttonhole twist available and some alternative threads that can be used.

Tasha’s photos are bright and clear. She uses a red thread for the buttonholes so you can easily see how the hand sewing should proceed.

You’ll be very glad you stopped by her blog to get this information. I’m very happy I can recommend this posting because it fills in the needed information on this topic over here.

Determining Buttonhole Placement

Instructions for buttonhole placement from “The Vogue Sewing Book”, 1970 edition.

“The Vogue Sewing Book”, 1970 Edition emphasizes that for a woman’s blouse opening in the front, all buttons are placed on the Center Front line. If a horizontal buttonhole is used it begins 1/8″ to the right of Center Front. If the buttonholes are vertically placed they will begin 1/8″ above where the button will be sewn.

All women’s blouses, continues the text, have buttonholes sewn on the right side and buttons on the left side when the blouse opens in the front.

The 1/8″ point at where the buttonhole begins provides an allowance for the way the button settles when the blouse is closed. On horizontal buttonholes, the pull is towards the right of Center Front. On vertical buttonholes, the pull is in the upwards direction.

The University of Kentucky’s booklet “Buttons and Buttonholes” advises to begin buttonhole placement by considering the stress points of the blouse. The first stress point is at the beginning of the neckline, followed by the bust and waistline. Consideration must then be given to where the last buttonhole must be placed. Buttons are then evenly placed in the space between first and last buttonhole.

At first I thought I’d be using my ruler an awful lot and having to divide the space into smaller units using division. I then decided to go with the flow and not be so technical in approach. The results worked out very well. Here is how I determined the buttonhole placement. I hope this helps others faced with the same challenge.

Cross References: “Measuring Buttonhole Length” for details on how I derived the correct length for the buttonholes of the Donna Blouse. It also includes some information about the buttonhole cutter used.

“Background Information on blouse with waistline yoke” to understand why buttons end above waistband of skirt.
Continue reading

Background Info on Blouses with Waistline Yokes

When I first read about blouses with waistline yokes I wanted to try making one of my own. The upper portion of the blouse is made with a fitted or unfitted blouse. The yoke below the waistline can be derived from a pencil skirt pattern. It controls the fullness of the upper portion of the blouse. There is less shifting and moving around of fabric so that the upper portion of the blouse always looks neat.

Blouse with waistline yoke from the revised and updated edition of “Couture Sewing Techniques” by Claire B. Shaeffer.

I have both the original and the updated editions of “Couture Sewing Techniques” by Claire B. Shaeffer and use them as starting points whenever I’m looking to incorporate designer details into my own dressmaking. Shaeffer explains that the yoke is often made in a lightweight fabric so as not to be noticeable under a garment. Sometimes it is hemmed, as shown in this silk blouse. Depending on the weight of the fabric, the hem may simply be finshed by hand overcasting.

The Donna Blouse, inspired by the kinds of everyday outfits worn by actress Donna Reed on her early 1960s TV show.

The finished version of the Donna Blouse is made from a lightweight cotton shirting. I thought chiffon would be too lightweight for the blouse yoke. Since the skirt for this outfit is made of a medium weight Linaire (poly/rayon blend) I thought making the yoke in the same fabric would work out well. And it did! The blouse fabric has the right weight to add just the right amount of support under the skirt and help it flare out a little more. Which turns out to be good since this skirt will have a full slip but not a 1950s petticoat underneath.

Meeting of the blouse bodice and the waistline yoke. Center front is traced in orange cotton basting thread.

One thing Shaeffer did not reveal was how the deisngers approach closing the blouse below the waistline. Since the Donna Blouse is using buttons that are raised, rounded and have a surface texture I wasn’t certain about continuing buttonholes past the waistline.

This is how the buttons would look if they were placed beneath the waistline when the blouse is worn with the skirt.

I pinned a button below the waistline on the dress form along the center front line. When the Donna Half Circle Skirt was put on over it a very unattractive bump resulted. I resolved the issue by planning to make buttonholes that began at the end of the lapel and ended slightly above the waistband of the skirt. The Donna Blouse will be closed by small snaps at the waistline and slightly below.

In the next posting I will detail how the buttonhole spacing was determined using instructions from “The Vogue Sewing Book”, 1970 edition.

Free Downloadable Booklet: “Buttons and Buttonholes”

Determining how to place buttonholes is an art in itself. One has to consider how many inches up from the hem where the last button will be. Then how far down from the neckline for the first button. In between this space the other buttonholes must be placed so that there is adequate closure and the garment will not gape when worn.

Another tricky part is calculating how much space should be between buttonholes. This is where I spend much time before marking and cutting the openings for the buttonholes. I use information from my sewing books as well as guides such as “Buttons and Buttonholes” to help me determine placement, number of buttonholes and how much space to put between each one.

I plan to show how this process goes in the next posting but for now thought some of my readers would find this booklet helpful. As always, read the instructions, experiment, practice, plan and then execute.

I recommend downloading this booklet since it makes a nice addition to your Dressmaker’s Library with easy, simple instructions and illustrations.

“Buttons & Buttonholes:
University of Kentucky-College of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
To download: Click on the File menu on your browser. Select SAVE AS. When the file save window opens leave the title and file type as is and select the drive on your PC to save it to.