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How To Make Buttonholes: Awesome Button Basics

September 21, 2016Eve Tokens

Sewing for Beginners - How to Sew Buttons and Button Holes - The Creative Curator

This week, I’m covering button sewing basics, including how to make buttonholes! Buttons and their button hole counterpart are as much used as zippers, so they deserve their very own post, don’t ya think?

If you missed my sewing zippers post, you can catch up on it here – the link will open in a new window ready for you, so you won’t miss out on this buttons post! 🙂

It had been my original plan to split this subject into two separate posts. One for button sewing basics and one on how to make buttonholes. But being that my posts here are typically between 1500 and 2500 word pieces, I realised I could never say that much on just buttons and buttonholes. I mean, really? 😮

So here we have it, my combined post on buttons and how to make buttonholes!

Button and Button Holes

Sometimes you might have one without the other.

  • A button can be used for decoration rather than function.
  • A buttonhole can be used with cuff links instead of buttons.

Generally speaking though, button and buttonholes DO go together.


I LOVE buttons. I have a couple of jars and tins full of my Ma’s old buttons and a fair few of my late gran’s too! I have solid memories of being little, and sorting the buttons with my Ma. We would match them up and connect the same buttons with a piece of yarn. There are a fair few in my pots looking just like that still!

What I’m not so keen on though is the sewing on of buttons. I find it slow and in all honesty, a bit of a faff. Who here agrees? I bet you secretly have at least one or two pieces on your ‘to mend’ pile AKA ‘tucked away in a cupboard cos you cannot be bothered with sewing on a button’ !

Well, I say it’s time we got down and dirty with buttons, and their counterparts!

Types of Buttons

Buttons as we know them, have been around since the 13th century. Starting out in Germany, they quickly spread across Europe dues to the close fitting fashions of that period.

There are different types of buttons in different sizes, shapes, colour and materials. You can buy buttons in small numbers from herbadashery departments and dedicated button stores, or siphon them from your Ma’s gazillion button jars. (OK, you caught me!)

If you want many of the same button, you can put in a minimum order for a couple of thousand from a local manufacturer. And if you happen to be a huge retailer using the same size and shape button you could order by the tens of thousands from China.

Me? Well, I think we are smaller than that, but with bigger and better ideas. So, for individuality’s sake, I’m gonna keep nicking them from my Ma’s button jars. Except they’re now mine, cos she gave ’em to me when I kept complaining at how she never uses them! 😉

So, what types of buttons are there?

If you recall, I did give an overview of buttons in my Clothing Fastenings post back in August. A recap here though:

  • Flat buttons with two holes or four holes.
  • Shanked buttons
  • Toggle buttons
  • Frogging buttons

There are buttons made of plastic, buttons made of fabric, buttons made of ceramic and even buttons made of metal.

Plastic four hole button

They also come in an immense variety of colors. Every colour in the rainbow, and beyond the universe too I suspect! This gold shanked button was part of my graduate collection show at Graduate Fashion Week. I loved the contrast of the gold with the pink.

Shanked Button - Gold

Then there is the button size to consider. From teeny tiny minuscule buttons on a baby’s christening dress to a HUGE statement button on a designer jacket, buttons have so many shapes and sizes.

Sometimes a button can inspire a garment’s design, and sometimes the design is so WOW that a quieter button is needed. This shirt is very snazzy and so required smaller, less noticeable buttons in order to not distract from the overall design.

Buttons - four hole flat

It’s even possible to use buttons solely for decoration rather than function. I’ve seen jackets covered in buttons before. And then there are the non-functioning buttons on jacket sleeve like this lovely one below.

Buttons - non functional

Buttons That Have Inspired

In my search for extravagantly covered pieces to show you, I came across a blog named Fiber Fantasies. The blogger, Nancy, mentions a film that inspired her love of button covered jackets. With a bizarre title – ‘Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe’, I headed on to Google, YouTube and Netflix on a mission to find this film. Alas, I had no luck, but I did succeed in finding a photo showing the actress Jacqueline Bisset in a button covered jacket! Well, when I say button covered, It had a smattering across the collar!

Here is that photo:

Jacqueline Bisset Button Jacket


And here is Nancy’s version from FiberFantasies:

Nancy - Fibre Fantasies - Button Jacket


Shanked Buttons

Shanked Button

Shanked Buttons are buttons that stand up proud from the fabric they are attached to.

Usually manufactured with a hole on the underside of the button, as in the image above, it is also possible to create a shank on a two or four holed flat button.

Reasons for shanking

  • To provide a stronger button, especially on tailored or heavier weight fabrics such as coats.
  • To allow space in between the button top and the garment so that the fabric drapes nicely

Flat Buttons

Flat buttons have been around for some time, often considered an important artefact when discovered in archaeological sites!

They are easy to attach and are found on the majority of clothing. This is partly because it is easy enough to shank a flat button with thread.

Attaching a Flat Button

There are four attaching styles that you can adapt when sewing on a four holed flat button by hand:

  • Parrallel
  • Cross
  • Square
  • Eagle Claw (this example is courtesy of RealMenRealStyle!)

If its a two-holed button, you’re pretty much stuck with just the one line. Exciting!

This of course could explain why so many of my research pics contained four holed buttons or buttons. Two is just a tad dull?

A Button Needs A Hole

For every button, a hole should be made, at least if you intend for it to work!

What types of buttonholes are there then?

  • A bound buttonhole
  • A keyhole buttonhole
  • A machine buttonhole
  • A hand sewn button hole
  • A decorative buttonhole
  • A frogging buttonhole

How many is that?

RECOMMENDED READ: How to make machine buttonholes! You could also check this post on different types of fastenings! Or this one if you prefer zippers instead of buttons! 🙂

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