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Sewing Tutorial:
How To Sew A Buttonhole

This is a very quick look at how to do medieval buttonholes. There are a lot of in-depth tutorials online, so I won't be duplicating them. This tutorial is to share how to do the stitch and how to avoid the common pitfalls of buttonholes for medieval gowns and sleeves.

Practice on a scrap piece of fabric first.

Buttonhole stitch
This is a great picture taken from a vintage sewing pamplet showing how to sew a buttonhole or blanket stitch. I've added the dots and text.

Starting off is slightly tricky as the first stitch isn't attached to anything, so do a few before you decide it's not working. Start at the red dot on the underside of the fabric. Pull through to the top so you have your thread at the top. Next put your needle where the green dot is but don't pull it all the way tight. Look at the needle in the picture. You need to allow a tiny bit to loop over the tip. Then pull it tighter. Do a few until you've got the hang of it. Now we're ready to start!


Medieval buttonholes
Buttonholes are always horizontal and usually very closely spaced. On the back of the fabric, there is often a re-inforcing strip. You won't need this if your garment is lined. This one is linen, but silk is good for wool also.

Sew your re-inforcing strip on. Your re-inforcing strip can be cut on the diagonal if you are doing the front of a gown which has curves but I usually use a stright non-bias for sleeves.

Mark out your buttonholes. 2cm apart is ideal for gowns and sleeves, but in some cases on sleeves, the buttons are smaller and can be touching, so your buttonholes may be closer together.
I sometimes like to backstitch a rectangle to stop the fabric fraying. It's not correct, and I don't always do it, but if you have issues with buttonholes which fall apart when you cut them, this will help. It also makes the buttonhole extra sturdy since they are very close to the edge.

Next, cut the buttonhole itself. Use something really sharp to get a clean cut. The better the cut, the less fraying you will have. Embroidery scissors are good because they have a tiny nose to poke through the fabric where you start.

Do your buttonhole stitch all around the buttonhole. Put your stitches fairly close together, especially at the edge of the garment or sleeve where the most pressure will be. That's it! The more you do, the neater they will get!


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