I want to start this section by saying, with all things in life, it gets better with practice. I feel the need to preface what follows, because what I create in this video is, without a doubt, the Ugliest Buttonhole Ever. I am very glad that I was practicing on scrap fabric. On the plus side, once you see the results, there can be no question that this truly was the first buttonhole I’ve ever made entirely by hand. So let’s start.
After you have marked out your buttonholes, the first thing you do is baste all the way around your intended buttonhole. The basting stitches act as a stabilizer throughout the width and length of the buttonhole, ensuring that all layers stay in place while stitching.
Now, in the Woman’s Institute Library of Dressmaking, her basting stitches are in a neat diagonal, presumably to better disappear in the actual buttonhole stitching. This being my first attempt, mine are hideously vertical in comparison.
Once you have the basting stitches down, you want to stitch stay stitches between the basting stitches and your cut line. The stay stitches will help prevent actual fraying while you are laying down the actual buttonhole stitches.
As you can see, the stay stitching is neatly laid down, end to end, including a loopy bit near the edge of the piece. That is where the button shank will rest once you are done. The next step is to carefully cut open the buttonhole, being sure NOT to cut through any of the stitches so far sewn. Now, I have heard you can wait to cut until AFTER you have finished the buttonhole, but since I am following the directions as laid out by Mary Brooks Picken, I am cutting before buttonholing.
Once you have cut open the buttonhole, proceed with the buttonhole stitching. I found it was easiest to work from the cut side out.
So from the cut edge, push your needle up through all layers where the basting stitches end, in this example approximately (very roughly) 1/8” in from cut edge of buttonhole.
Now, this is hard to see, and I try to demonstrate it better in the attached video, but you want to loop the thread over the needle, almost like you’re knotting the thread, then pull the thread snug against the cut edge.
Essentially, the “knot” will snug against the cut edge, giving a very firm nest against which to rest the button on the finished product. And at the end of it all, I have the ugliest buttonhole ever.
But, ugly as it is, you can see where the looped threads rest against the cut edge of the buttonhole, giving stability to the finished product. And now, for the video.