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March 2009
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How-To’s of Making Buttonholes

Buttonholes for a bodice or shirt can be placed in a horizontal or vertical direction ( typically horizontal buttonholes are used for blouses, and vertical buttonholes for shirts).

For blouses, the first buttonhole is usually strategically placed at the bust level and the other buttons are spaced up and down from this point; the spacing is determined by the style of the bodice.  NOTE:  the reason for placing the first button at the bustline is to prevent gapping in case the blouse is a tad bit tight (check some ready made clothing garments that button in the front, and you’ll see what I’m talking about).

It is necessary to mark all buttonhole placements before you make any of them.  NOTE:  For women’s bodices, the right hand side of the bodice has the buttonhole and the left hand side has the button (the right side covers the left).  For men’s shirts, the opposite applies!

Horizontal buttonholes start 1/8″ away from the center front toward the fold line (A), and mark them back across the center front and toward the body.  Vertical buttonholes ( are sewn up and down along the center front.  NOTE:  it is important that you choose your buttons prior to making the buttonholes, as it is the size of the button that dictates the size of the buttonhole on the garment.  The buttonhole should be marked 1/8″ bigger than the width of the button.  Sew each of the buttonholes carefully – getting in a hurry while doing the buttonholes could cause a big problem and a lot of wasted time!

The easiest way to figure out where the buttons should be placed after your buttonholes are made is to match the center fronts of the bodice (A), beginning at the top.  Pin the bodice closed.  Next place a pin through the buttonhole so that it lands on the center front line of the button side (.  Mark the button position on the button side and attach the buttons (C).

The above information is an excerpt from the book Basic Clothing Construction — the book covers all facets of clothing construction, from selecting fabric to the final stitches of the garment.

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