When you are choosing a paper pattern do you, consciously or unconsciously, avoid styles with buttonholes? It is true that if badly made they will be glaring proof of a beginner’s work or of lack of attention to detail.


However, there is a simple way to ensure that buttonholes will not let you down in future, and that's to practice beforehand with scraps of material from the garment you are making up. The latest patterns will help you, too, for some have a drawing of the button and buttonhole actually printed on the paper pattern piece.

There are a number of different methods of making a buttonhole, some of which are described here. Choose the type which appeals to you most and which seems most suitable for your garment. Your choice will depend to a certain extent, too, on your sewing machine and its capabilities, and in the case of hand— worked buttonholes, on your skill with a needle.

All areas containing buttonholes will, without a doubt, be faced but they should also be inter faced before working, and even if you are making a lightweight summer dress, say, from a pattern which doesn't call for interfacing, you should slip in a square either of bonded inter lining or of self-fabric, i.e. pieces of fabric left over after cutting out the garment.

You should stitch the interfacing into position and then tack it down firmly so that it doesn't slip or slide during making up.

Bound buttonholes are made through the garment and interfacing, before the facing is stitched down.

Worked buttonholes are made after the garment is finished, through all three thick nesses of fabric—the main fabric, the interfacing and the facing.

Whichever type of buttonhole you choose to make, there are certain basic rules to follow:

1. The spacing of the buttonholes and , as already mentioned, on good patterns their size as well, will be indicated clearly on your paper pattern, and it's imperative that you transfer these markings on to your fabric immediately after cutting Out, preferably using tailor’s tacks in a tacking thread of a different colour from other markings.

2. If you want to adjust the size of the button holes to suit the size of the buttons, allow the diameter of the button plus in., and make adjustments to the buttonhole width on the side away from the garment edge. It is best to test the size of the opening first on a scrap of spare fabric if the button is at all bulky or irregularly shaped.

3. If you have lengthened or shortened the pattern section in which buttonholes occur, you must re-space the buttonholes so that they are equidistant. On a bodice there should be one buttonhole in line with the bustline, and those occurring above and below it should be lined up carefully. If you need one buttonhole less or more, precise measurements should be taken to ensure that the top and bottom buttonholes are correctly placed, and that all buttonholes are equidistant.

4. Ensure that the markings for all the button holes are perfectly aligned. Using a ruler to ensure precision, chalk two parallel lines, one to follow the tailor’s tacks marking the position of the buttonholes, the other running parallel with it to mark the exact width of the button holes.

Next tack along these lines, either by hand or, if the fabric is fairly substantial and will not show needle marks, with your sewing machine. You can either use the special basting stitch available with some modern machines, or use a very large machine stitch, checking tension to ensure that you don't draw up the fabric. Do not remove these guide lines until the garment is completed.

5. Now tack across each actual buttonhole line, again checking that all lines are square with each other and with the grain of the fabric.

6. Proceed, following appropriate directions for bound or worked buttonhole.

Bound buttonhole

146. Turn to the wrong side of the fabric, and , using a ruler, draw pencil lines on the interfacing in. above and below each button hole line as stitching lines.


147. Cut a rectangular ‘patch’ of matching fabric for each buttonhole, measuring i in. more than the buttonhole opening in width and 2 in. deep. Experts differ on the question of whether it's best to cut the patch on the straight of the fabric or on the cross: the answer is that it depends on personal preference. Try both ways on sample pieces of fabric before you tackle the buttonholes on your garment.


148. Fold the ‘patch’ in half as shown, and lay the fold along the line you have marked for the buttonhole. Open out the patch, so that the right side of the patch now faces the right side of the garment. Pin it carefully in position.

149. Turn the garment inside out, tack along the pencil lines you have already drawn (see 146 above), stitching firmly through the fabric, the interfacing and the patch. Next, machine- stitch along the same lines, using a small stitch and working in this order: Start in the centre of one long side, pivot at the corner, and as you stitch across the first short end, count the number of machine stitches carefully. Pivot again, sew along the second long side, and when you pivot and sew again, repeat exactly the same number of stitches on the other short end of the buttonhole. Finally pivot and stitch until you overlap the beginning of the stitching.

It is all—important to pay attention to every detail as you stitch round the rectangle of the buttonhole, for unless this stitching is accurate it will be impossible to achieve a perfect finished result.

150. Slash along the centre of the button hole, taking the cuts to the corners of the stitching as shown. You will need to take your courage in both hands here, for unless you cut right up to the stitching line, you will find it difficult to achieve neat corners; but you must, of course, be careful you don't actually cut the stitching.

151. Pull the fabric patch through the hole to the wrong side of the fabric, tug gently to reveal a neat rectangular opening, and press carefully on both sides of the fabric, using a pressing cloth. Next, fold a tuck (to accommodate the excess fabric) into one side of the fabric patch as shown, and pin, then tack in position.

152. Fold a tuck on the other side of the patch as shown, and pin, then tack the tuck in position. The two folds of fabric should meet exactly. Press gently, using a damp cloth.

To hold the edges in place, oversew them together loosely. These stitches need not be removed until the garment is completely finished. 153. The view of the right side of the button hole should be as shown—neat and symmetrical and with the tacking stitches holding the work evenly together. Press again gently if there are any wrinkles or imperfections.

154. Finally, on the wrong side secure the patch at each end of the buttonhole by machine- stitching as shown, keeping as close to the end of the buttonhole as possible, and taking in the small triangle of fabric which is left at each end.

148, 151, 152

149, 150


This is probably as far as you will go with a practice buttonhole. But when you are making a garment the final stage, after all the button holes are complete, is to deal with the facing or lining material. Press it and tack it in position, and cut neat matching holes to correspond with the buttonholes. Make these holes the same shape as the cut shown in 150. Turn under the raw edges of the facing and sew down neatly by hand round the edge of the buttonhole.

Machine-worked buttonholes

If your sewing machine is equipped to make worked buttonholes, you will find full directions in the instruction book. Detailed instruction would be impossible here, as machines vary so much. There are modern machines that make a buttonhole almost completely automatically—with some you simply turn a dial through five numbers to complete each stage of the buttonhole—and for a straight-stitch machine you can buy a special buttonholer attachment.

Whatever method you use it's essential to mark out the fabric with meticulous care, so that every buttonhole is neat and even.

Making a machine-worked buttonhole is different from making a bound buttonhole in one important respect: you mark out the fabric in exactly the same way as for a bound button hole but you do it after the garment is completed so that the buttonhole can be stitched through the fabric, interfacing and facing.

If the garment you are making has no inter facing (you may, for example, be making a thin cotton dress), it's advisable to slip squares of self fabric or Vilene between the garment and the facing, to strengthen each buttonhole, in the same way as for a bound buttonhole.

After the buttonholes have been made, press the fabric and then carefully cut through each buttonhole centre, using small, very sharp, pointed scissors. Some people like to use the little unpicking tool for this job, but it needs skilful handling to avoid cutting too far.

Hand-worked buttonholes

Like machine-made buttonholes, these are worked on the finished garment. Again, you must not neglect the preliminary marking out with tacking thread previously described, which makes all the difference between a professional finish and an unprofessional one. Buttonholes which are uneven in length, or don't run with the grain, or are unevenly stitched, become the most noticeable feature of a home-made garment.

After marking out the buttonhole positions, press the work using a damp cloth, and then stitch round the buttonhole line with the sewing machine, stitching only in. from the line (i This holds the layers of fabric together and also serves as a guide for the buttonhole stitching.

155, 156, 157

Cut along the buttonhole line, then follow the diagrams (156 and 157) for the method and direction of stitching. Use strong thread or silk twist, depending on the fabric you are making up.

Normally, horizontal buttonholes have fan- shaped stitches (156) at the end which take the strain of the button shank, and a bar tack at the other end (157).

Vertical buttonholes (as a rule only specified for front closings not subjected to strain) usually have both ends finished with a bar tack.

Tailored buttonholes

If you mean to become a specialist in hand- worked buttonholes you could try a tailored buttonhole—a corded buttonhole with an eyelet at one end. For this you will need fine silk cord or waxed thread, a stiletto, and perhaps a little extra patience.

After the buttonhole is marked and before it's cut, punch a hole in the outer end with the stiletto. Cut along the buttonhole line and overcast the edges of the buttonhole and eyelet. Now work the buttonhole stitches over a length of the cord, looping it neatly round the curve of the eyelet and winding the ends round a pin at the opposite end to keep the cord taut until the buttonhole is worked. Snip the ends of the cord when you have finished the buttonhole stitches. Finally finish the ends with a neat bar tack.


There are good reasons why you should know how to make pockets expertly. Every once in a while they come into fashion, and also, if you are making children’s clothes, it's wise to add a pocket, whether or not the pattern calls for one.

The main types of pocket are the patch pocket, the bound pocket, the welt pocket and the simple skirt pocket set in a side seam.

Patch pocket

Patch pockets may be rectangular or have a rounded shape, as shown in 158, 159 and ,160,

The rounded type is illustrated, as it's the one which needs a little more explaining.

I find it helpful in making up a pocket to have a ‘template’ —a piece of firm cardboard cut to the actual shape of the pocket minus turnings, i.e. to the size the pocket will be when finished.

The pocket and facing are cut out and the facing is stitched on to the top of the pocket as shown (i right sides together. Press the facing, folding it over to the wrong side of the pocket piece along the seam line.

Then run a line of gathering stitches round the outside of the pocket piece, in. from the raw edge, place the cardboard template on the wrong side of the pocket and draw up the gathering thread. Press carefully to secure this shape, then slip out the cardboard template and tack round the ed of the pocket,

158, 159, 160

Turn under the three edges of the facing piece next, pressing carefully, and then hem down neatly by hand (159), making sure that the stitches are not obvious on the right side.

Pin the pocket in position on the garment, then tack and finally stitch (160). Notice in the diagram the way the stitching doubles back on itself at the corners, to ensure a strong pocket which is unlikely to be pulled away from the garment.

Bound pocket

This is made in a very similar way to a bound buttonhole, and is the type of pocket one would find in a classic suit or a child’s tailored coat.

Where it's specified in a paper pattern, the exact sizes of the pieces will be set out for you to follow, but you may perhaps not find it easy to follow the method of making up, which can be a little confusing. Here, step—by—step, is the way you can produce a neat bound pocket.

Using tailor’s chalk and a ruler, mark on the garment piece the precise position of the pocket opening, and mark each end of the pocket opening with a line exactly at right angles to it. Be very meticulous—this is the most important stage of all. Make the marks more permanent with very straight lines of hand-stitching or loose machine-stitching.

161. Cut a patch of fabric 3 in. deep, and 2 in. wider than the pocket opening. This patch may be cut straight with the grain of the fabric or on the cross—experiment on oddments of fabric to find out which way you prefer to work. Place the patch centrally over the pocket opening line on the right side of the fabric, right side downwards, wrong side uppermost, and tack along the pocket opening line.


162. Machine-stitch all round the pocket opening line, keeping in. from the line on each side. Be sure your stitching makes an exact rectangle.

163. Cut along pocket opening line as shown, cutting out v-shapes at each end so that the cuts reach right to (but not through) the stitching. Draw the patch through to the wrong side of the garment and pull gently so that a neat rectangular hole is left. Press lightly to preserve this rectangular shape.

162, 163, 164

164. Make neat folds in the patch fabric (see buttonhole section, 151 and i — the method is the same). Press and secure with a few stitches.

165. Take the smaller of the two inside pocket pieces and place as shown; for the moment the piece is upside down and the right side of the pocket piece is facing the wrong side of the garment. Tack along pocket edge in the position as shown. Now turn to the right side of the garment and stitch evenly through the various thicknesses of fabric, alongside the seam where the pocket binding is joined to the garment (see i68 which shows how the finished pocket will look from the right side).

165, 166

166. Turn the pocket piece downwards

167. Take the other, larger, pocket piece and place over the first, right side against right side, as in the diagram. Tack as before.

168. Turn to the right side of the garment and again stitch evenly close to the seam line between garment and pocket binding. This time complete the full rectangle of stitching, so that the finished effect is as shown in 168.

169. Now tack and then stitch together the and two pocket pieces, which until now have been separate. The pocket should be left free— be careful you don't inadvertently stitch in part of the garment when you are sewing the two pieces together.

167, 168, 169

This type of pocket is normally put in a garment which is lined, and the raw edges will therefore be concealed. If, however, the garment is unlined, you may wish to bind all inside seam edges using a matching bias binding, to give a neater effect. Again, be sure that none of the stitches come through to the right side of the garment.

Welt pocket (like the pocket in a man’s jacket)

170. Mark out the position of the pocket first with a ruler and tailor’s chalk, then with neat running stitches or large machine stitches.

170, 171, 172

171. Make up the welt: cut a piece of fabric i in. longer than the width of the pocket opening and 3 in. deep. If the fabric is light it's a good idea to use a piece of iron-on interfacing to give the welt body—this is the only part of the pocket which will actually show so it's important to get it right. Fold the welt piece in half right sides together, press, tack and stitch across the ends, leaving in. turnings.

172. Trim the seam allowances close to the stitching line, turn the welt right side out and press. Tack flat, all the way round the welt.

173. Pin the welt piece to the right side of the garment, raw edges of the welt aligned with the pocket opening line. Tack in position.

174. Place the two pocket pieces as shown, right side of pocket pieces against the right side of the garment, top edges just touching. Tack in position.

175. On the wrong side of the garment, stitch along the guide lines on either side of the pocket opening. Do not stitch across the ends.

173, 174, 175

For extra strength at the ends of these two important sewing lines, use the reverse stitch on your sewing machine, or sew twice along the same line. Tie the ends if necessary, trim off loose threads.

176. Cut along the pocket opening line to about in. from the ends, then cut out to the corners as when cutting for a bound buttonhole

177. Draw the two pocket pieces through to the wrong side of the garment, at the same time turning the welt to cover the pocket opening, and ensuring that the ends of the opening are neat and concealed. Press again lightly, pressing all seam edges away from the opening. Snip the top of the pocket piece as shown so that it lies flat. Pin together the two pocket pieces and stitch. As with the bound pocket, be careful you don't catch the main part of the garment in with this stitching.

176, 177, 178

178. Catch the welt into position, concealing the stitches behind the welt.

Skirt pocket

When making a child’s dress it's a good idea to add a pocket to one of the side seams—normally the right side of the dress is the one for the pocket.

179. Cut two pocket shapes as shown, from two rectangles of fabric each measuring approximately 6 in. by 4 in.

Before joining the skirt pieces, pin one pocket piece to the right-hand side of the skirt front just below the waist, and the other to the corresponding skirt back.


Note the way the pocket pieces are laid on the skirt pieces, right side of pocket piece against right side of skirt. Stitch as shown, leaving in. unstitched both top and bottom. This stitching line should be in. from the seam line, as shown, i.e. about in. from the edge of the fabric.

Repeat with the other pocket piece, tacking it in position first (especially important here because it's so easy to put in the other pocket piece upside down or facing the wrong way).

180. Press both pocket pieces away from skirt pieces.

181. Pin the skirt pieces together, right sides facing; and first tack, then stitch along the seam allowance, omitting the pocket opening. If possible, machine-stitch in reverse at the seam ends nearest the pocket opening, to strengthen an area which will probably soon pull apart if it's not properly finished.

182. Press all seam allowances around the pocket away from the skirt sections. Stitch the two pocket pieces together as shown, ensuring a strong seam by using a small machine-stitch. Bind the seam allowances of the pocket if necessary. Turn to the right side and press. The finished seam should be smooth, and the pocket opening almost unnoticeable.

180, 181, 182


The neckline of a garment is usually finished in one of several ways:

(i) It may be faced with matching fabric to give a plain edge, in one of a variety of styles (for example round neckline, v-neckline or square neckline).

(ii) It may be fitted with a plain collar (for example a Peter Pan collar or a pointed collar).

(iii) It may be finished with a revere collar.

(iv) It may be finished with a soft collar.


A faced neckline should be interfaced with a suit able type of interfacing such as Vilene or Pellon bonded interlining or iron-on interlining. The interfacing should be cut from the same pattern as the facing unless the pattern gives other instructions, and the interfacing pieces should be tacked in position on the wrong side of the garment pieces before stitching (or ironed on if you are using iron-on interlining) so that the two are made up together.

183, 184


Shoulder seams, if any, should be sewn first, on the main garment and , if necessary, on the facing pieces. Press these seams out flat, then trim the seam allowances to a minimum to avoid bulk.

Next pin and tack the facing into position on the right side of the garment, carefully matching notches, seam turnings and shoulder seams. Machine-stitch round the neck edge, following the seam line and using a fairly small stitch on curves. Be careful that the facing and interfacing lie smoothly and easily in position, and that neither drags on the garment.

Before the facing can be turned to the wrong side of the garment, the seams must be graded and clipped, to prevent pulling and to ensure that the faced neckline is smooth and flat (183).

Next, turn the facing to the wrong side of the garment and tack it into position, rolling the seam towards the inside between finger and thumb, so that no facing fabric is visible from the outside. Press from the inside with a steam iron, or use a damp pressing cloth.

Neaten the outside edge of the facing by overcasting by hand or machine, or by turning under the edge about in. and machine-stitching. Press again if necessary. Very carefully stitch the facing edge in position, using only very tiny stitches and spacing them well apart.

With garments made of light or slippery fabrics it's often a good idea to secure the facing invisibly so that it doesn't at any point start showing above the neck edge. To do this, make up the facing and attach as previously described, but before the facing is finally stitched down, turn to the wrong side of the garment and machine-stitch through the facing and all turnings (184), keeping as close to the original seam line as possible. Finish the facing as before, with a few tiny stitches to secure the edge to the garment.

An experienced sewing instructor gave me this tip, and said that she treats ready—made garments with a neck-facing in the same way, to prevent the facing ‘riding up’.


V-shaped necklines need reinforcement at the point to ensure a sound seam between garment and facing. A pattern will normally give you exact instructions for cutting out the facing and interfacing, but it may not necessarily remind you to reinforce the work. So here’s how to do it.

Take a small length of fabric or ribbon binding about in. wide, fold as indicated (185), and tack it in position over the facing piece at the point of the v.

Stitch facing to garment, stitching through reinforcement piece as well at the point. When the facing is turned through to the wrong side and pressed firmly, the reinforcement will be hidden.


A square neckline also benefits from reinforcement. Cut the facing as recommended in the pattern you are following (alternatively a neat way of facing a square collar with mitered corners is shown in (186). Then cut an extra piece of self fabric for each corner, measuring about i in. square (187). Place one of these small squares of fabric in position at each corner, right sides facing, and secure with a line of tacking stitches. Stitch the reinforcement, facing and main garment piece together, then slash the corner to the point of the seam line. Turn the facing to the wrong side.

186, 187



A paper pattern will normally provide for a collar to be faced with self fabric and inter faced with suitable fabric for the garment. Cut all three pattern pieces carefully, ensuring that the notches are cut accurately, and then pin the collar and its facing together, right sides facing. Pin the interfacing on to the facing (or press in position if using an iron-on interlining).

Tack the three pieces of fabric together along the seam line, snipping off the corners of the interfacing as shown in i88. Press on the interfacing side if the work is at all crumpled.

Next machine—stitch the three layers together. In order to produce a smooth collar without pushing or distorting the layers of fabric, it's a good idea to stitch in two stages: begin at the centre of the collar and work to one end, then remove your work from the machine, turn it, and begin stitching from the centre to the other end.

Now trim away as much as possible of the surplus fabric on seam turnings: trim the points of the collar diagonally, as near as possible to the point of the stitching (see note below) and grade, i.e. trim, the seam allowances as in 188. The interfacing material should be cut as close to the stitching line as possible.

Next, clip the seam allowances at intervals to make the collar lie smoothly when turned (189).

Turn the collar to the right side, rolling the seam line between your finger and thumb until it lies on the underside. Tack carefully with small tacking stitches round the outer edge of the collar (190) and then press.

188, 189, 190

In a rounded collar very special attention must be paid to the stitching and the clipping of the seam allowance so as not to spoil the curve of the collar. If you find you can't always stitch accurately, it's worth marking the seam line with a pencil or chalk as a guide when you machine-stitch.

Note: Whatever shape the collar, when trimming the seam turnings the points of the collar need special attention. 191, 192 and 193 show ways of trimming back the corners of a rounded, a square and a very pointed collar.

191, 192, 193

It is essential to position the collar on the garment correctly. Match notches exactly (194) and see that the collar sits centrally and without twisting. This will be perfectly easy if you have done the preliminary work carefully. When you have tacked the collar in place and are sure that the positioning is correct, pin, tack and then machine-stitch the collar, following the stitching line with particular care when you reach the front facings. It is here that it's trimmed most possible to go wrong.

Turn the garment to the right side and press. Now the raw edges must be dealt with. Trim (‘grade’) the seam allowance, then bind the raw edges by pinning one side of a strip of matching fabric (cut on the bias) all round the collar seam, with the right side of the bias taking each v-notch in. into the fabric where strip touching the right side of the collar. Tack carefully (195) and then stitch. See page 84 for cutting bias strips.


After the collar has been made and the facings have been stitched to the fronts of the garment, you are ready to attach the collar. First run a line of machine-stitching along the seam line to prevent distortion. This is called stay-stitching. Then notch the neckline at ½ in. intervals, the seam allowance is the normal 5/8 in. (197)

198. Pin the collar to the neckline, carefully matching the notches and shoulder seams. This is vital, because if you position the collar wrongly at this stage, it will be one-sided when you have finished.

Press the garment, pressing the raw edges and the bias strip away from the collar. Turn the free edge of the bias strip on to the wrong side of the garment, turn a small hem under and stitch in position with neat hand stitches (196).

195, 196

197, 198, 199

199. The front facing, already attached down the front seam, can now be pinned in position over the collar. Again, match the notches care fully.

If the collar is designed to come right to the edge of the front facing, there is a neater way to conceal the turnings; see the directions for attaching a rever collar.

200. Tack by hand through the four thick nesses of fabric from the front edge of the bodice to the shoulder seam of the garment.

Now stitch along the line you have tacked, using a fairly small stitch on your sewing machine. Pay particular attention to the corner of the facing, where the facing joins the main part of the garment at the neck edge (201). Make a ½ in. cut into the top layer of the collar at exactly the point where the facing ends.

Repeat the preceding steps with the other front facing.

Now tack along the collar edge between the two ½ in. cuts (until now it has still been pinned). Machine-stitch along this line with precision, to meet the machine-stitching holding down the facings.

202. Trim the seam allowance as shown, grading the different layers of fabric to ensure a smooth finished effect.

203. Press the collar and bodice flat in readiness for finishing off. Turn the raw seam edges back towards the collar and press.

200, 201

202, 203

204. Turn under the collar seam allowance, press and hand-stitch as shown. Neaten the front facings.


The collar just described is for a tailored garment normally, and I would recommend that the beginner tries several sample collars before she embarks on an actual garment. There is, however, a rather simpler collar—the sort which is put on shirtwaist blouses and light garments. It is usually referred to simply as a soft collar. Here is the way to do it.

205. Join the facing pieces, normally two front facings and a back neck facing, and press open the joining seams. Join the front bodice to the back bodice at the shoulder seams. Press open the seams.

206. Join one piece of the collar to the facing, sewing in a light interfacing too, if wished. Join the other piece of the collar to the main part of the garment. Press open the seams, trim and notch.

207. Pin the facing piece to the main bodice piece, right sides facing, ensuring that the collar pieces meet exactly, and facing pieces are square to the edges of the front bodice. Tack from one front facing to the other, going right round the edge of the front facing and the collar. Stitch and press, and stitch edge of facing too. Notch any seams which will have to curve.

208. Turn the garment right side out, pin the collar to hold it in position while you try the garment on. Press, rolling the edge of the collar underneath the collar where it will not show. If the fit is right, secure the facing in position, and continue with the rest of the garment.

204, 206

205, 207


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