My Favourite Sewing Techniques - Bound Buttonholes

I love a good bound buttonhole and have used them on several garments over the last few years.  Each time I've done them I've used a different method, usually involving thin strips of fabric to create the buttonholes "lips" and some also using patches of fabric to create a kind of facing that secures the lips in place. 

This method is the simplest I've come across, and does away with the separate strips of fabric for lips and just uses the patch to face the buttonhole and create the lips at the same time.  So much easier!  I learnt this method from Alison Smith when I attended her Tailored Jacket class earlier this year. 

So, without further ado, here is my preferred method of creating bound buttonholes.

You will need:

  • The piece of your garment that requires the buttonholes - you need to make them before the garment is constructed.
  • Interfacing for the rear of the buttonhole area.  You may find that if you're making a coat or jacket the pattern has already recommended interfacing the whole section containing the buttonholes.  If not you can do this, or you can use a separate patch of interfacing for each buttonhole.
  • A patch of your fashion fabric for each buttonhole - at least 3 times as wide as the finished buttonhole and 4 - 5 times the height.
  • Your facing piece for the garment and patches of the facing fabric or lining fabric for each buttonhole.
Yellow = outer fabric, Dark teal = buttonhole patch, White = interfacing, Grey = facing, Light teal = facing patch.

1. Firstly interface the rear of your fashion fabric - either the whole piece or separate patches for each buttonhole as mentioned above.

2. Using your paper pattern as a guide, mark the position of the buttonholes with lines of basting stitches.  You will need 2 vertical lines of basting - one marking each end of the buttonholes - and then a horizontal line running between these marking the actual position of each buttonhole. Extend the lines of stitching so that they cross each other by at least an inch in each direction.

3. Cut a "patch" of fabric for each buttonhole, size as described above.  This will normally be your fashion fabric, but could be a contrast if you prefer. 

4. Draw the finished dimensions of your buttonhole onto your fashion fabric, using your basted lines as a guide.  (I haven't used any basting here, as I was only making one buttonhole!). Pin the patch right sides together with your fashion fabric, centring the patch over the marked buttonhole.

Buttonhole marked in position on reverse of fashion fabric.

Buttonhole patch laid over markings, right sides together.

5. Stitch around the marked lines for each buttonhole.  To get a perfectly even buttonhole you can count the stitches to make sure each long side and each short side are identical.

Stitch around buttonhole.

The "patch" side with look like this.

6. Carefully, with very sharp scissors, make a horizontal cut in the centre of each rectangle of stitching and then a diagonal cut into each corner.  Stitch up to, but not through, your line of stitching.

Cut the buttonhole open with sharp scissors.

7. Push the patch through to the wrong side of the fashion fabric and press.  You should have a small letterbox type opening.



8. On the reverse side of the fabric, press the bottom flap up to expose the seam, then back down halfway so that half the buttonhole is covered by the patch.  This forms the bottom "lip".  Repeat for the top flap and pin in place.
Lips folded up and pinned in place.

9. Fold the fabric on one side of the buttonhole back to expose the edge of the patch.  Stitch down over the small triangle of fabric at the end of the buttonhole.  This holds the folded lips in place.  Repeat for the other end, stitching as close to the edge of the buttonhole as you can without actually stitching through it. 

Stitch over the little white triangle. 

Once you have stitched both ends the buttonhole will look like this.

Finished buttonhole from front

Finished buttonhole from rear

We now need to make a similar opening in the facing or lining to cover the reverse of the buttonhole.

10. Repeat steps 2 - 7 above on your facing or lining, making sure that the slots you make in the facing line up with the buttonholes you've made in the outer fabric!

Right side of facing

Wrong side of facing

11. Join your facing piece to your fashion fabric as and when directed in the pattern instructions.

Join fashion fabric and facing / lining together as instructed.

12. Carefully handstitch the edges of the slot in the facing to the reverse of the buttonhole lips.

Handstitch facing to rear of buttonhole to finish.

 Congratulations, you should now have a lovely bound buttonhole!

I hope you found this tutorial useful.  As I mentioned above, this is the easiest method of creating bound buttonholes that I have tried. 


  1. it's also worth noting that once you have created the buttonhole you should baste it closed while you work on the rest of the garment to avoid it pulling out of shape. i always use separate pieces of fabric for the lips as i have always had better results. i love Karen's bound buttonhole book method where you stitch the lips flat before pressing as it seems to lead to a much neater finish, especially with springy coating!

    1. Good point about basting the buttonholes closed Jo, although funnily enough Alison didn't suggest this.

  2. Thank you for the clear photos. I think I am ready to try a bound buttonhole.

  3. Great tutorial - very clear and well explained. Still don't feel brave enough to give it a go.


Thank you so much for your comment, every one is read and appreciated. It means a lot to me that you take the time to read and comment on my posts.