A Real Live Teacher Helps Me Understand the Ins and Outs of Buttonholes

For years my sister was her young family’s seamstress–fashioning hand-worked buttonholes in most of their garments from shirts and overalls to aprons and pyjamas. On a recent visit, and during several follow-up phone calls, I had the pleasure of learning some of her time-tested techniques.

To help remember the sequence in making a buttonhole I came up with a mnemonic: “The 3 B’s of Buttonholes: Baste, Bar, and ‘Broider. I will present what I’ve learned from my sister within this framework.

Baste–Before Cutting

She interfaced the area of the buttonhole and preferred the iron-on type. Especially when using sewn-in interfacing, baste to within 1/4 inch of the mark to keep the layers from shifting. She did not overcast the edges as she didn’t find it necessary.

Bar–To Strand Or Not To Strand

My sister did not buttonhole stitch over a strand of thread as she preferred the look of the stitches alone.

‘Broider–Needle, Thread, Stitch

In my last entry, “Finding the Path to the Hand Embroidered Buttonhole”, I felt quite confident I had unearthed all documented instances of stitches used for making buttonholes. Not so. My sister used a stitch that looks very much like a closely worked Antwerp Edging Stitch. On a shirt that buttons left over right, as a man’s shirt, with the buttonholes on the left front and the buttons on the right front , she started at the lowest buttonhole on the edge nearest center front. (May 1, 2015– I need to explain this better: this would be on a vertical shirt buttonhole. The bottom hem of the shirt will be at the top or on the worker’s left, depending how it’s held in the hand and the work will proceed from top to bottom or from left to right, again depending on how it’s held . The work commences as the needle enters on the front side and exits through the slit where the knot is made and set into place. In a future post I will post a diagram to clarify this.)  She used buttonhole thread she ordered from Gohn Brothers which is a z-twist cotton covered polyester hand sewing thread.

My sister is a teacher who comes up with exciting bits that pique my interest to learn. When she visits next we plan to draft a pattern together.

In my next post I will explore some of the issues related to s-twist and z-twist thread and how it may affect both the appearance of the buttonhole stitch and the ease in forming the stitch.

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