13 January 2012

Buttoning-Up Three (The Button's Revenge!)

Mea Culpa... during a discussion on the Elizabethan Costuming Facebook group, I realized that I prepared this demo on cutting and sewing buttonholes by hand but never posted it!  Well here it is. Better late than never, I suppose...
- Scott


In the previous posts, called "Buttoning-Up 1 & 2" I discussed making your own buttons out of beads and thread. Rest assured that at the end of the day, the pain pays off, as we sew them onto the doublet and undertake the tedious and often nerve-wracking task of cutting and sewing the button holes...

The buttons in situ.

The first step in the process is figuring out what size they need to be. You can just measure the button with a pair of calipers if you have them, or you can do what I do and grab a strip of paper.

Remember, cloth stretches. Ideally, a button hole will be just the size or even a hair smaller than the button that it's supposed to accommodate.  Make a loop with your strip of paper and wrap it around the button until you're certain that the loop you've made is just the right size for the button to pass through, but only just.

The length of button hole you need is the length of the 1/2 of your loop.

Measure the button.
Flatten the loop and measure
Transfer your measurement to the garment using a fabric pencil.
I've seen a number of people discuss a number of ways to cut buttonholes. I've heard passionate arguments about whether you should cut them before you sew them or after. Likewise, I've heard the same for how to cut your pinks and slashes and whatnot.

So you should know that there are many ways to go about this,and as always this is how I do it.

I cut them first because it's easier to work with if you are sewing them by hand. Your mileage may vary.

The period method of cutting button holes (as well and pinks and slashes for that matter) appears to be the chisel.  I've tried various ways of going about it and keep coming back to using a chisel. It's easier to cut a straight line than when using a razor, it's faster and less finicky than scissors, and it's the period method of doing it anyway.

When I'm pinking or slashing, I use a woodworking tool that I've sharped to razor sharpness. For button holes, especially those which need to accommodate homemade (non-standard size) buttons, I can rarely find just the right size of chisel in my toolchest.  So for button holes, the 'chisel' I use is a chisel-tip Exacto blade.
The blade.
The blade in the holder.
Because it's an Exacto blade it is razor sharp, so no need to get out the mallet. Just lay it along the line you just drew and press down hard.  Note that there's a cutting mat under my fabric as I am doing this.

Then make your button hole stitches all around the hole you made until you're done.

It's a good idea to check your size to make sure you're  still on track.

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