Thank you for looking at my techniques page.

Since I started sewing again in August 2010 I have bought two sewing books - Vogue Sewing and The Sewing Book by Alison Smith.   To be honest I haven't used them much yet.   To try and make use of them a bit more I thought I would try out techniques from them from that I haven't done before and document my findings here.  It will be interesting to see if sewing books are enough to learn new techniques, whether I need to tap into the wealth of information available on-line or a bit of both.

So come and look over my shoulder and see how I've got on.

9 July 2011

Before today I hadn't sewn a buttonhole since I was 13 when  I made a pencil skirt in needlework class.  That was done by hand so I'd never machine sewed one before today.    Naturally I was worried they would be difficult.   I have read that machined buttonholes are not very good and that it it easier to use equipment such as a buttonholer.   I don't really know what a buttonholer is as I write this.  I have been reluctant to attempt buttonholes but today I took the plunge.

This is what I started with: my two sewing books and my 1980s Husqvarna Optima 190 sewing machine manual:

First up I read my sewing machine manual and this explained really clearly how to do them.  On my machine there are three stitches for buttonholes and you use all three to sew one.  I then changed the tension dial to the buttonhole symbol and put on the buttonhole foot.   The manual said that the foot has graduated markings on it to help you make the buttonholes the same length.  I didn't actually use the markings but next time I will see if they help.  I don't think the buttonhole foot has any particular function other than this, but I will  always use the buttonhole foot.

Next up was a scrap of fabric to test out the buttonholes.  What you do is put the dial to the first buttonhole stitch and this does the left hand side of the buttonhole.  You then put the dial to the next buttonhole stitch and this does the stitching on each end of the buttonhole.  You then put the dial to the last buttonhole stitch and this does the right hand side of the button hole.  You then put the dial back to the second buttonhole stitch and sew the other end of the buttonhole.  It is all one sewing step so only the first and last threads to tie up when you're finished, just like in a normal seam.  My manual told you to put the first buttonhole stitch back on and stitch a few stitches over the first column of stitches to lock them.  I don't know if I will do this next time as it didn't turn out very well.

Here are my first attempts.

Not very couture!  I was having a few problems.  If you learn nothing else from this post it is the importance of testing buttonholes on a scrap of fabric first.

 Over at Green Apples' blog she gave some great tips on buttonholes which I will use.  She said to use an embroidery thread as they come out better.  I therefore used some topstitching thread in my test.  However the machine kept eating the fabric and so I had to cut it away and start again several times with no success as you can see above.  I then decided to put normal thread in the bobbin and just have the topstitching thread on top.  It also took me a while to get used to the fact that the first column of stitches go along in reverse so it is the opposite of what you normally do when sewing a seam.   I held onto the tail end of the threads in front of my sewing (instead of leaving them hanging out behind like they would normally be when sewing a seam.  I also sewed really slowly, one stitch at a time.

Success!  I got something that looked more like a buttonhole.

I'm not saying these are perfect, they're clearly not.  However the close up photography makes them look worse than they actually are.

At this point I read my sewing books.  Alison Smith's book didn't have very much to say.  She gave a useful tip of tacking over the chalked placement lines.  There was no guidance on the length of the buttonhole.  The Vogue book was better at giving tips.  These included:

1.  Buttonhole size - the diameter of the button plus the depth of the button plus 3 mm.
2.  Mark button placement lines on the right side of the fabric and follow the grainlines.
3.  Mark the position and length of the buttonhole with pins and chalk and then thread trace for precise markings.
4.  Begin the buttonholes 3 mm either side of the button placement lines.  (I'm not entirely clear what this means.  I think it means the needle position should be 3 mm either side of the buttonhole placement line)
5.   Start sewing on the side nearest the edge.
6.  The reference point in placement is the garment centre line.  Centre lines should match when the closing is fastened.
7.  The top button is placed at least half the width of the button plus 6 mm from the neckline.
8.  The last butonhole is 3 to 4 inches from the bottom.
9.  They are placed at least 1.5 cm from the edge.

I then put together a mock end of a waistband, with interfacing and sewed a button hole on it.  I then sewed my buttonhole and then slit threw the centre using a combination of a kitchen knife and my snipping scissors!

Again not perfect, but passable for a first proper attempt.  I want to buy a 1/2 inch wood chisel as recommended by Green Apples  for clean buttonhole slits.

I then sewed a button onto another test piece.

I then put the two together:

It fits!  Now I'm ready to do the Beignet skirt from Collette Patterns!  

My conclusions:

1.  I can do them now.
2.  They need a bit of work.
3.  The sewing books and sewing machine manual were OK as a starting point.  When I come to do them on a garment I will supplement what I have learned with going over some on-line tutorials to see if there is any way to make them better.

More Buttonhole Tips
2 April 2012

 See my post here for more buttonhole tips.

Sewing on Buttons with Sewing Machine
27 July 2012

See my post here about sewing on buttons by machine.

Attaching Lining to a Shift Dress
14 August 2011

See my post here on how I attached lining to a shift dress.

Peter Pan Collar attached to a Lined Dress
23 August 2011

See my post here on how I did my test Peter Pan collar attached to a lined dress with a zipper.

Welt Pockets
1 October 2011

See my post here on how I did these welt pockets.

Attaching Zippers To Facings
1 October 2011

See my post here on how I did this zipper method.

More Zipper Tips
2 April 2012

See my posts here and here for more tips on invisible zippers.

5 November 2011

See my post here on how I attached cuffs to my hoody top.

Attaching a lined hood using bias binding
5 November 2011

Hoody top wrong side showing bias binding

See my post here on how I attached a lined hood using bias binding.

4 December 2011

See my post here on how I made and added piping to this skirt.

Adding a Pleat
18 December 2011

See my post here on how I added a pleat to this skirt pattern.

Lining a dress with sleeves
5 February 2012

Lining a dress with sleeves

See my post here on how I added this lining to a dress with sleeves.

A Guide to Everything!
25 February2012

OK so not a technique.  I muse here about everything from storage, tracing and cutting to muslins, construction and more.

Adding a Lined Vent to a Pencil Skirt
2 April 2012

See my post here on how to draft a vent for a pencil skirt and to add lining to a pencil skirt and the vent.

Expandable Patch Pockets with Flap
17 August 2012

Read more here about how I did these.  I have since improved the lining method so please refer to the link below the next picture for the updated version.

Fully Lined Bellows Pocket with a Flap
29 September 2013

Read more here about how I did these pockets.  A step by step tutorial can also be downloaded.

Storm Flaps
5 October 2013

Please read here about how I added these storm flaps to a Minoru jacket.  A step by step tutorial can also be downloaded.

Finishing the hem and plackets on the Minoru Jacket
7 October 2013

Please read here about how I finished the hem and plackets on this jacket.  A step by step tutorial can also be downloaded.

Inserting Heavy Duty Snaps
9 October 2013

Please read  here about how I inserted the heavy duty snaps.  A step by step tutorial can also be downloaded.

Hemming a Lined Skirt with a Placket
7 April 2013

Read more here about how to finish off these corners.  Includes a step by step tutorial.

Lapped Zipper with Lining Tutorial
30 December 2019

Read more here about how to do a lapped zipper with a lining.