Bound buttonholes: two-piece piped method

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - large gallery image

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To kick off Sew Skillfully, I decided to learn how to sew bound buttonholes.  Exciting!!  : )  The book I’m using (Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing) details several methods for making the buttonhole and finishing the facing on the inside of the garment.  For my first attempt, I chose the following:

  • Buttonhole: Two-piece piped method
  • Facing: Windowpane method

To be honest, I chose these methods because they seemed to be on the intricate end of the spectrum, and I wanted to get the best finish possible.  Call me a sucker for detailed procedures!  I actually really enjoy sewing complicated things sometimes, and pushing myself to learn these more advanced techniques is exactly what Sew Skillfully is all about.  No shortcuts, at least for now!

I made 2 buttonholes using this method.  I’ll show you my second one first, because it came out better.  Not surprising.  🙂  Ok, let’s dive in!

The two-piece piped method involves the following general steps:

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 01 cut pieces

Pieces to cut: 2 scraps for facings (top row), main fabric and garment facing (middle row), and 2 buttonhole lips (bottom row)

1. Transfer the markings for your buttonhole to the wrong side of the main fabric.

2. Create a finished “windowpane” in the main fabric using one of the facing scraps.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 02 make windowpane

View from front of garment. I stitched around the buttonhole from the wrong side using a 1 mm stitch length.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 03 windowpane completed

Finished and pressed windowpane

3. Machine baste the two buttonhole lips together down the center and press open.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 04 baste lips

4. Center the windowpane opening over the lips, and sew to secure.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 05 position windowpane over lips

The book recommends using fine needles instead of pins to minimize bulk.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 06 sew lips to windowpane

Sew down the little triangle on all 4 sides

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 07 trim and grade layers

Trim and grade layers on wrong side of buttonhole

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 08 front completed

Buttonhole lips in place!

5. Make an identical windowpane in the facing, exactly opposite the buttonhole in the main fabric.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 09 make windowpane facing

Main fabric on top of photo; facing on bottom

6. Hand sew the facing to the main fabric, finishing the buttonhole.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 10 sew facing to main fabric

Facing side is up in this photo

And voila, a bound buttonhole!  That only took forever

Things I liked about this method:

  • You have a lot of control throughout the entire process.  No guessing, no worrying.
  • Basting the lips together before inserting them into the buttonhole guarantees they match up perfectly and don’t overlap.
  • The book recommends hand basting at various steps throughout the process, which I found to be really helpful.  It was nice to have the added security, and using fewer pins allows the presser foot to access everything you need to.  It only takes a few minutes to hand baste, and I thought it was worth the effort.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Overall, it was time-consuming.  Each buttonhole took me about 2 hours from start to finish!  Maybe my timing will improve with more practice?
  • The finished buttonhole is pretty thick, since there are so many layers of fabric sandwiched in between.  I can imagine using this method on a wool coating would produce a VERY thick buttonhole…. maybe too thick.
  • You have to be really careful not to let the facings show through to the outside, especially if you’re not using your main fabric for the facings.  See below for my advice on getting a good finish here.
Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 11 finshed buttonhole front

Finished buttonhole, front view (garment side)

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 12 finished buttonhole back

Finished buttonhole, back view (facing)

Lessons learned:

  • When sewing the little triangles of the main fabric to the buttonhole lips (Step 4), you want to sew just inside the original row of stitching (from when you created the windowpane in the main fabric).  Sewing just inside the original stitching ensures that the facing fabric doesn’t show on the outside of the buttonhole.
  • Use scraps of the main fabric for the facings, or a lightweight fabric that is the exact same color as the main fabric.  You really don’t want the facings to be noticeable on the outside, particularly on the front!
  • Since there are so many layers involved, I think this technique would work best on medium and lightweight fabrics.

Below is my first buttonhole, where I used a lighter color fabric for the facing and didn’t do a great job of fully turning it to the inside.  I definitely think the second buttonhole came out better in this respect.

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 13 first attempt front

Front view with facing peeking through, oops!

Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - 14 first attempt showing layers

Side view showing all the layers

See elsewhere:

  • Sherry at Pattern Scissors Cloth shared a wonderfully detailed tutorial (lots of pictures, but limited text) on this exact method.  Check out her post for a true step-by-step approach.
  • Bry at Belle Clara tried out 5 different bound buttonhole methods (this woman is my hero!) in this tutorial.  Her “piped method” is the most similar to the two-piece piped method I used here, but not exactly the same.  The main feature is that the two buttonhole lips are sewn to each other before being inserted into the windowpane in the main fabric.

Final thoughts:

I had so much fun sewing these buttonholes!  It’s really exciting and satisfying to move out of your comfort zone and learn a new technique, even if the results aren’t quite perfect.  I can feel my brain expanding.  🙂

With that said, the two-piece piped method was a little involved, and I wonder how much of a pain it would be to make several of these at once on a real garment.  I’ll be curious to try out other methods and see if I can find a good balance between manageable technique and professional results.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my first Sew Skillfully post!  If you have any suggestions for improvement, please don’t hesitate to chime in.  Have you ever sewn a bound buttonhole using this method?  What tried and true methods would you recommend?

11 thoughts on “Bound buttonholes: two-piece piped method

  1. Bound buttonholes and welt pockets are definitely on the list of things I avoid. I haven’t actually had a go yet and I probably should – it looks fiddly but do-able (like lots of sewing skills) – Tower shirt plackets are also on my list – I want to make a popover archer!



    • Thanks! When you’re ready to try it, I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the book or another tutorial, since I skipped over some little steps here and didn’t include any measurements. But it’s totally do-able! Definitely a little fiddly, but not difficult.


  2. This was a great post! I am dragging my heels on making 2 double welt pockets– parts of the technique look similar to how you did the bound buttonholes. I hope this inspires me to just get those welt pockets done!!


    • Teri, I’m so glad you gave those welt pockets a try! I’ve never done it, but I imagine inserting the welts is similar to the buttonhole lips. I have no idea what’s involved in attaching the pocket bag, but I’m looking forward to your post about it. 🙂


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