Sewing & Pattern making Terms


Buttonholes are essential closures used in sewing garments that allow buttons to pass through, securing the garment in place. They are functional and decorative elements that require precise construction to ensure a secure fit and a polished finished look.

Function and Importance of Buttonholes

Buttonholes serve a vital role in garment construction, providing a means to fasten and unfasten the garment. They allow buttons to pass through, holding the garment closed. Properly constructed buttonholes ensure a secure fit, preventing the buttons from easily slipping out or becoming undone during wear.

Buttonhole Placement

Buttonhole placement is a critical consideration when designing and sewing a garment. Buttonholes are typically positioned on one side of the garment’s opening, opposite the buttons on the other side. Accurate and evenly spaced buttonhole placement is essential for the buttons to align properly and maintain the garment’s intended fit.

Be aware: there is a difference between clothes for women and men. The buttonholes on a women’s garment are placed on the right side, while on men’s they are placed on the left side.

Types of Buttonholes

There are various types of buttonholes that can be used based on the fabric, garment style, and desired aesthetic. Some common types include:

Straight Buttonholes: These are the most basic type of buttonholes, created with a straight stitch. They are suitable for most medium to heavy weight fabrics and can be reinforced with bar tacks at each end for added strength.

Use case: T-Shirts and Shirts.

Keyhole Buttonholes: Keyhole buttonholes feature a round or oval-shaped end, resembling a keyhole. They are often used for thicker fabrics or as decorative elements on tailored garments.

Use case: Blazers and Coats.

Bound Buttonholes: Bound buttonholes are a more advanced technique where the buttonhole edges are finished with fabric strips or bias binding. They provide a clean and polished look, often seen on high-end garments.

Use case: Vests and Jackets.

Machine-Programmed Buttonholes: Many modern sewing machines have built-in buttonhole programs that automate the process. These machines can create consistent and precise buttonholes with a simple press of a button. On the downside, those machines are extremely expensive and complicated to use.

Use case: All types of clothes.

Buttonhole Construction

Creating buttonholes requires careful preparation and execution. The general steps include stabilizing the fabric with interfacing or stabilizer, marking the buttonhole placement, selecting the appropriate buttonhole stitch on the sewing machine (1-2mm | 1/25 – 1/16 inches width), and stitching the buttonhole along the marked line. It’s crucial to maintain even tension and straight stitching throughout the process.

Buttonhole Finishing

After stitching the buttonhole, it needs to be carefully cut open to allow the button to pass through. Using a seam ripper or small scissors, the center of the buttonhole is gently opened while avoiding cutting through the stitches. The buttonhole edges can then be reinforced with a few hand stitches or a small amount of fray check to prevent fraying.

Properly constructed buttonholes enhance the functionality and aesthetic appeal of garments. Skillfully executed buttonholes ensure a secure closure, complement the overall design, and contribute to the garment’s professional finish.

By mastering the art of creating buttonholes, seamstresses and pattern makers can confidently incorporate this essential closure technique, adding functionality and visual interest to their handmade creations.

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Melissa Villegas
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