Bound Buttonholes: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Bound buttonholes are one of these beautiful features that will instantly make your handmade garment stand out. This type of closure is mostly found on traditionally tailored jackets and coats, along hand pad-stitching, back-stays and beautiful hand-stitching. It might seem like a difficult technique at first, but it’s mostly a precise one.

So grab your jacket, some interfacing and a pin, and let’s learn how to sew a bound buttonhole!

bound buttonhole on pink jacket

All images via pauline alice.

Using the patch technique

The patch technique is basically a patch of fabric folded to form the little “lips” of the bound buttonhole. While not complicated, it’s a precise technique, so I would recommend some practice on a piece of fabric before. When you’re happy about the look of your bound buttonholes (the lips should be centered and symmetrical, as well as the rectangle), then you can start with your real fabric.

draw the box for the bound buttonhole

baste the buttonhole box
Step 1:

Depending on the pattern, you will notice that you just have a line or a box to mark the buttonhole place. The box dimension is going to depend on your button length. Here is how to measure the box you will need to draw:

Take your button length and add 3/8″ (1 cm) to it to obtain the box length. The box width is 3/8″ as well (1 cm) which you divide by a centered line. For example, you have a 1 5/8″ button, your box is going to be 2″ x 3/8″ (5 x 1 cm) with a centered horizontal line at 3/16″ (0.5 cm).

Report the box on the interfacing and baste around it.

cut the patch for the bound buttonhole
pin the patch over the bound buttonhole box

Step 2:

Cut a patch of fabric about 4″ x 4″ (10 x 10 cm) on the fabric bias. We will trim the edges at the end so don’t worry too much about the size.

With right sides together, pin the patch over the basted box.

select a small stitch on your sewing machine
stitch around the bound buttonhole box

Step 3:

Select a short stitch length on your machine.

From the wrong side of the fabric, stitch around the box starting from a long side. You might want to count the stitches you make on the short sides to be sure they are the same length on both ends.

cut open the bound buttonhole box, diagonally into the corners

Step 4:

Now you have to be very careful with this step! Cut through both layers (the front and the patch) from the center and cut in V into the angles of the box. You have to cut the closest possible to the stitches without cutting them (if you have small embroidery scissors, it’s a perfect time to use them).

pass the patch throught the bound buttonhole box opening
press open the patch of the bound buttonhole

Step 5:

Pass the patch through the open box. Lay it flat and press lightly. If the corners don’t lay flat, it’s because you haven’t cut close enough to the stitches during the previous step (fold it back carefully and cut a little bit closer).

fold the patch to create the first lip of the bound buttonhole
fold the patch to create the first lip of the bound buttonhole

Step 6:

Fold the top of the patch in two so that it forms the first “lip” of the buttonhole. The fold should reach the center of the box. Pin in place.

fold the patch to create the second lip of the bound buttonhole
fold the patch to create the second lip of the bound buttonhole
Step 7:

Fold the bottom of the patch in two to form the second “lip”. Both lips meet in the middle. Pin in place. You can press lightly so it keeps its shape, but be careful that the edges don’t show.

bound buttonhole from the right side of fabric

Step 8:

Here is how it looks from the right side!

stitch the triangle of the bound buttonhole
stitch the triangle of the bound buttonhole
the lips of the bound buttonhole are stitched in place

Step 9:

You might notice that there are small triangles at the ends of the box. Like on the second picture, stitch the small triangle to the patch, securing the folds. Use a short stitch length and stitch the closest possible to the fold of the triangle.

final bound buttonhole

Step 10:

Remove the basting threads and make the other buttonholes! On the facing, you’ll repeat steps 3 and 4 without the patch to create an opening the size of your buttonhole, and you’ll hand-stitch the facing opening to the buttonhole.

As you can see, bound buttonholes are more time-consuming than a complex technique. But it’s a tailoring detail that will give your jacket a couture finishing and a great strength, so you’ll be able to wear it for years!

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What’s your favorite buttonhole technique? Machine-made or handmade?

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