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.

1. Most sewing guides recommend using an odd number of buttons to maintain visual interest. I decided to use 5 buttons. The first thing I had to do was get an idea of spacing, so I used ballpoint pins to place the buttons along the center front line of the dress form.

2. The first button was placed at the point where the lapel ended on the blouse. I then placed the last button about 3/4-1″ above the waistband of the skirt. Please note, that it is good to put on the skirt the blouse will go with to check out the overall effect.

The third button was placed at the stress point near the apex of the bustline. The remaining two buttons were placed between these three. Most of the placement was done between short breaks of time so that I could better judge if the process was working out. After a few times the resulting measurement from the top of one button to the next was determined to be 1 3/4″. I got this measurement while the buttons were still on the dress form.

3. The buttons were removed and the Donna Skirt and Blouse put onto the dress form. I pinned the buttons along the thread traced center front line to ensure the measurement and spacing would work out.

4. I used glass head pins because they show up better when pinning the place where the top of the button will be along Center Front line.

5. The blouse was then removed from the dress form and brought to the work table.

6. The pin represents the top of the button. Since the buttonhole must begin 1/8″ above the button for a vertical buttonhole, I measured 1/8″ above the pin using Tailor’s Chalk and a clear plastic ruler. The buttonhole length of 5/8″ was then measured down from this line and marked.

7. A pin was then placed between these two lines on the thread traced center front line (orange thread). I then secured each side using green basting thread so that there would be no shifting of the fabric when the buttonholes were slit open using the buttonhole cutter kit.

8. After all buttonholes were cut opened it was time to stitch around each one to prevent fraying. In order to achieve a reasonable depth to the stitches, I always use a head magnifier when working on the small details hand sewing a buttonhole requires.

9. To prepare the buttonhole for the handsewing, I used a waxed double strand of poly cotton thread. After taking two small stitches at the corner, small slanting stitches are made. The depth of the stitches should be no more than 1/8″ from the opening on each side.

10. Preparations for the buttonhole are finished. The buttonhole stitch can now be used. I use a double strand of poly/cotton thread.

Update: A double strand of poly/cotton thread was not thick enough to make the buttonhole sturdy. I had to make a second row of buttonhole stitches around each opening. The results were rather thick and indicate that I need to become more adept at using buttonhole twist.

When the buttonholes are finished I will post about sewing on the buttons and making a thread shank. Since handmade buttonholes require much focus I pace myself by allowing time for lots of breaks in between each buttonhole. This takes a bit longer but experience taught me that patience pays off.