Handmade buttonholes in three variations



The responses to Jaime’s post last week about buttons and buttonholes was so fascinating! I was particularly interested to learn that some of you really prefer the look of handstitched buttonholes.

I thought I’d share these diagrams with you from one of my many vintage sewing books. They show three variations on the handstitched buttonhole: the plain buttonhole, the buttonhole with bar, and the tailored buttonhole with a corded edge, which is the most intriguing to me.



I can’t say that I’ve ever done a buttonhole by hand, only machine-stitched or bound. I can see now how pretty it would be in silk thread or perle cotton, as some of you mentioned last week. Given that I’m on a real back-buttoning blouse kick lately, I may give one of these a try soon!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. Her roles include communication, strategy, and creative direction. She also edits Seamwork magazine. She often thinks and writes about the way sewing impacts our lives – through body image, identity, and social awareness.

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Comments 28

Sunni Standing

Oh these are facinating! I love that last one too! Thank you!


I made buttonholes by hand quite often, but as silly as it might be, I’ve realized today that I could have basted the fabric layers together, as shown on the first diagram of each explanation. That is so obvious! Wonder whether I missed one step when the teacher was explaining… :-)


I’d love to try making one by hand, but I don’t think my handsewing is quite up to it yet, if my woeful embroidery is anything to go by!

However, I do love making bound buttoholes. After being terrified of them, I sat myself down with a whole afternoon to learn and found out it was actually very easy, as long as you measure everything up right to start! Surprisingly relaxing even!


I’ve made a few buttonholes by hand, but they were never actually intended for buttons (I was modifying some old shoes into slip ons and wanted to pass an elastic strap under the tongue in the middle, so I used that method to bind the edges of the holes I cut). I was just sort of winging it, but mine were like the ones in Figure 19.

That said, I love the automatic buttonhole function on my sewing machine. It’s so easy it’s practically evil.

This Week’s Faves… #41 « TrailerTreasure

[…] Wonderful handstitched buttonhole diagrams […]


Oh, I’ve got a lovely army issue Greatcoat with corded button holes. It makes for a very good, heavy duty button hole.

Considering the amount of abuse this coat has gone through over the last decade in my ownership, these button holes have held up very well.


I tried to make handmade buttonholes for my Sencha, I practiced, and practiced but I could not do it…. I’ll keep practicing!

This Week’s Faves… #41 « entredeux :: between two

[…] Wonderful handstitched buttonhole diagrams […]

L Hutch

Those are beautiful. I wish I could actually make one that evenly.

Notice that the direction of needle entry is the opposite of blanket stich and that’s what makes the firm, long-wearing bead of knots on the raw edge. I hate it when people do a blanket stitch and call it a buttonhole stitch.

How to Make Hand-Sewn Buttonholes « Britex Fabrics

[…] has made wonderfully clear tutorial on how to make hand-sewn buttonholes. Sarai comes through with reproductions of vintage sewing book buttonhole directions; three styles are depicted including plain, with a bar, and with a corded edge. We love how […]

Jill Summerfield

My Father was a Tailor in England and he always made button holes in the Fig20 Tailored Buttonhole with a Cord Edge style.
He worked as a Tailor from 1923 until he retired in 1980 .


Would you perhaps give me the titel of the vintage sewing book?

Kind regards Christina

Carmen Gadson

On vacation and decided to bring a vest with me that I’m working on. I thought that I could finish it up if I knew how to make button holes my hand. I found your site, and I’m going to get started practicing right away. Thank you


We review all and it is very nice. Thanks, but better to let us know how many stitch for a buttonhole

Karen Grant

Dear Sarai and Caitlin,
I have had a vintage coat made abroad, and they made horrid machine button holes. I am looking for somebody to made man made buttonholes on this coat. Do you know if anybody could do this for me. Your help much appreicated.
Karen Grant

Karen Grant

Hi Sarai and Cathlin,
I have had a vintage coat made abroad and they made horrid machine button holes.
Do you somewhere I can have hand made buttonholes made.
Many thanks


thanks heaps Sarai and Cathlin for posting these pics of hand made button holes… the best and simplest and without any need for any words… helped me immensely in making my handmade button holes… so easy really, just takes time unlke the 3 second job on a machine… but a rathermeditative process really :-)

cheers from Oz


This is great — I just have one question since there are no printed instructions with the diagrams. I’m an “auditory” learner and need to “read” instructions to myself in order to understand the diagrams ;) Do you cut the buttonhole slit before or after making the buttonhole? I probably “should” know this, but don’t. I took a tailoring course many years ago. However, I haven’t done a lot of fine sewing since then and have forgotten many of the lessons learned there. I have a hard time making buttonholes on my “automatic buttonholer” on my sewing machine! They are not consistent in length — and I can’t figure out how to make them “right”. (By the way I am visually impaired and do my machine sewing more by touch then using the limited vision I have.) I think that has a lot to do with them being uneven in length. Doing them by hand means I can use my powerful magnifying lamp and get them right. All I need to know is whether to make the slit for the buttonhole first, or try to get a little pair of scissors in between the two lines of stitches and cut them afterwards without clipping any of the stitches ;)


Please respond to my inquiry by email. Thanks


Hi, I would have preferred if it had a video to show the step by step guide for making hand made buttonhole.
Many thanks.


On machine buttonholes, you sew them, then cut the slit. On hand-embroidered buttonholes, you cut the slit first.

teresa wells

Just found the site love it I do custom clothing and historical period 1867-1880 is becoming a big part of my business. Your buttonhole demo is wonderful. Could you answer this question? When did bound buttonholes begin showing up in womens clothing? I’ll be checking further into your site, love what I’ve seen so far. Thanks


To keep your stitches even and neat you can do a machine button hole with fine thread and wide spacing s as a guide. Then stitch over them by hand.

In historic sewing the width of the button hole itself is very small. (As observed in the originals I own and have seen) you can use a disappearing pen to mark your lines.

Hope I helped a little


I’ve done quite a few hand-embroidered buttonholes . . . but I’ve always used *blanket* stitch. These are done with *buttonhole* stitch, for which I’ve never understood the directions very well. Going to try again.


I used the blanket too. I didn’t think to look at directions before I tried it and they look pretty good but next time I’ll try the buttonhole stitch to see if it looks better. I have two sewing machines and I’m not thrilled with the buttonholes on either so the hand sewn have become my new tool in the tool kit.


I don’t want 6 pages ,just wanted the button hole instructions.

How to Determine if Clothing is Well-Made: Tips for Shoppers | Recovering Shopaholic

[…] Well-made buttonholes will be stitched like this. (image: […]

Marilyn B

I would love to use you pictures of the button holes. I wasn’t sure if I could cut and paste them on to my flyer. Please let me know thank you.

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