Bound buttonholes are a great way to give your garment a high-end, tailored finish and are surprisingly easy to sew.
This isn’t necessarily the best or most technically correct way to sew bound buttonholes but it’s the method that I’ve found the easiest and most accurate. There are lots of other ways to sew them and it’s often a good idea to try a few different methods and see which one works best for you. Some methods yield better results in different situations and with different fabrics so I’d really recommend experimenting.
You’ll want to start with 2 rectangles of fabric that are 4 times the width of the finished welt and 1-2 cm longer than the buttonhole opening. The buttonhole should be about 3mm longer than the width of your button, or a little bit longer if you’re using a particularly bulbous button. It’s a good idea to fuse the area the buttonhole will be inserted into with an iron-on fusing/interfacing, especially if the fabric is difficult to handle, lightweight, or prone to fraying. In these instances, a lightweight fusing on the buttonhole welts will also be helpful. Mark the ends of the buttonholes and the centreline with something like tailor’s chalk or the sharp edge of a bar of soap.
Press each of the rectangles in half. If you’re new to sewing, are working with difficult fabric or just really like extra steps you can stay stitch the edge of each welt to secure it in place.
Line up the first welt along the marked centreline of the buttonhole on the right side of the fabric, with the raw edges against the line. Sew from where you’ve marked the start of the buttonhole to the end, back tacking at each end to secure the stitching. It’s important that you sew right down the centre of the welt so that everything lines up in later steps. Do the same with the second welt, butting the raw edges up right next to the raw edges of the first welt.
Snip into the main fabric in an elongated X shape as indicated by the white lines below. Start at the centreline and then clip right into each of the corners to form long V shaped ‘tongues’ at either end.
Push all the raw edges through to the back of the fabric. It can help to give it a little press at this stage to get everything sitting smoothly, especially if you’re working with a difficult fabric. To secure everything in place fold back the main fabric and stitch the tongue to the ends of the welts.
Your buttonhole should now look like this from the right side.
Generally a bound buttonhole will be inserted into a garment with a facing, or a placket or something with 2 layers of fabric in that particular area. There are a few different ways to finish the back of the buttonhole. The quickest way is to use a fusing with high-density glue dots (one that sticks really well). Start by marking the buttonhole on the back of the fabric. You can use a pin to poke through each corner to make sure you mark it accurately.
Next, cut a square of fusing a fair bit bigger than the buttonhole, pin it in place with the sticky side against the right side of the facing. Make sure the fusing doesn’t extend over the fold between the main fabric and the facing. Transfer the markings onto the smooth side of the fusing.
Sew a square through the fusing square and the facing, lifting the foot and pivoting each time you hit one of your marks. Cut another elongated X shape, cutting right into the corners.
Push the fusing through the opening to the wrong side of the facing, flatten it with your fingers and pin it in place so the square is pulled open and the square of fusing sits flat.
Fold the facing over the outer layer and position the buttonhole and the square opening in the facing on top of each other. Press the area using a hot iron and steam (depending on your fabric of course) to activate the glue in the fusing and stick the two layers together. You can also fold back the facing to press the fusing directly. When you’re done, the 2 layers should be firmly attached and the back of your buttonhole should look something like this.
Another way to finish the back of the buttonhole is to follow the same process except use a lightweight fabric like organza or lining instead of the fusing. You can also use the self-fabric if it’s lightweight. To attach the 2 layers together you can hand stitch the raw edges together on the inside.
And then you’re done! Perfect bound buttonholes (hopefully). Let me know how you go with them and feel free to ask any questions if any of this is unclear or you want to know more, I shall do my best to answer.