How to sew bound buttonholes

How to sew bound buttonholes

How to sew bound buttonholes in an easy and fail-proof way! Bound buttonholes are a gorgeous feature on any garment, but they can feel a bit intimidating to sew, especially since you have to cut through the fabric and there is no easy way to save a messed up bound buttonhole. As with a lot of sewing things it comes down to practice, plus accurate measuring and markings of course. But I would argue that some methods are more fail-proof than others, and in this tutorial, I will show you the method I think gives the most accurate results, especially if you are a beginner. Now, I’m not saying that this is the best method, but sometimes we just want to use a method that doesn’t make us feel like we are sewing klutz!

It is adapted from the now defunct German pattern magazine Neue Mode and has not seen this method in any of the sewing books that I own, hence why I wanted to share it with you. This is how I first learned to make bound buttonholes and also what I’m using for my tailored jacket.

How it works

This method uses narrow, folded strips instead of one single piece of fabric for the welts. The beauty of this method is that strips will make it very easy to sew and cut the buttonholes straight and even.

To sew bound buttonholes you’ll need

  • Fabric
  • Lightweight interfacing
  • A ruler
  • Marking Pen
  • Stick or basting glue (optional)

How to sew bound buttonholes

How to sew bound buttonholes

Cut a narrow strip for the welts. The strip should 4x time the width of the finished welt. So if each finished welt will be 5 mm (1/5 in) wide, the strip should be 2 cm (⅘ in).

How to sew bound buttonholes

Apply fusible interfacing. I prefer using a lightweight interfacing to make the welts less bulky. Just make sure the interfacing doesn’t stretch in the same direction as the welts, especially if you are working with fabrics that have some stretch.

Fold and press the strips. If you can’t get the folded strips to lie flat I recommend laying the folded and pressed strips underneath a wood block for a bit. You can also use stick or basting glue to keep the strips from opening up too much.

Cut the strips. Each strip should be the length of the finished buttonhole plus 2 cm (⅘ in).

Mark the opening of the garment. Make sure the line is straight and on the right side of the fabric. I think it is best to interface the garment fabric as well unless the fabric is very stable.

Place one welt on the fabric. The opening should be facing the line. Make sure it aligns exactly with the line and mark where the seam should begin and end, i.e. 1 cm (⅖ in) in on each side.

Sew the welt. Make sure you follow the markings and that you sew exactly 5 mm from the outer edge. I like to mark extra long lines on the fabric to make sure I start and stop at the exact spot. You can put needles outside the seam area to keep the welt in place.

Stitch the second welt on the fabric. The exact same way you did on the first. The beauty of this method is that you don’t need any additional markings since welt one will guide were welt two will be placed. Make sure the stitch is straight and on the middle of the welt.

Cut the opening. First, a straight line in the middle and then to the diagonal in each corner to create triangles at the ends.

Flip and turn the welts.

Sew over the triangles and the welts. This final step will secure the opening.

How the bound buttonhole should look on the inside.

The finished welt. Yes it involved some steps and I’m sure there are faster methods out there, but when it comes to accuracy and ease I think this is one of the best methods. But feel free to disagree, as I said at the beginning of this post, there are many methods for sewing bound buttonholes to choose from.

So what to do on the inside?

Obviously, we need to have an opening in the facing too. The most common methods when it comes to tailoring involves just cutting an opening in the facing and then fold the fabric inwards and hand-stitch it in place. Every sewing reference book I’ve seen shows instructions for different variations on this method, so I won’t try to do it here.

The inside opening: I used the simplest one of those methods, which involves just slashing a straight line and once it is hand-stitched it forms an oval. If the fabric is thin you could repeat the bound buttonhole on the facing,  I have an RTW jacket with this finish and it looks very neat.

This easy bound buttonholes method gives the most accurate results, especially if you are a beginner when it comes to sewing bound buttonholes


  • Chris Griffin
    April 4, 2018 at 2:58 am

    I love your posts like this, as I can almost hear your voice walking me through the steps. Same with your book!
    I always thought bound button holes seemed too hard, but this makes them just like mini-welts, which aren’t too bad!
    I’m glad you posted this 🙂

    • Johanna
      April 4, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Thank you! And indeed they are just like a mini-welt pocket, but without the pocket! A lot of the methods that might seem intimidating are not that difficult once we try, which is always encouraging!

  • Helen
    April 8, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I’ve never sewn bound buttonholes. Never sewn a coat, either – both about to change since moving to Tasmania so will definitely give this method a try. Thanks for all the really helpful photos.

    • Johanna
      April 9, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      Yöu are welcome! It really is easier than it would appear when seen finished garment so give it a shot for sure!

      • Janet Darlington
        May 15, 2020 at 5:15 am

        Great article but I felt like I missed the last part about facing. Wish you’d added it.

  • Maggie
    April 14, 2018 at 11:03 am

    I’ve always been apprehensive about bound buttonholes -welt pockets too. But this looks really do-able. Thank you for taking the time to explain and photograph.

    • Johanna
      April 15, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      Yes, it is totally doable and looks impressive too, so a win-win 🙂

  • Maria João Caeiro
    June 6, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Fabulous solution! I’m a beginner for i’ve been sewing for about 4 years, and i had never seen this technique. I really hate doing button holes in the sewing machine, let alone by hand! 😥
    But now that i’ve seen this, I might give it a try and finish some projects without bothering my mother 🙄. And i see some possibilities with mixing colors and fabrics! Thank you ever so much!
    Greetings from Lisboa!

    • Johanna
      June 9, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Thank you for your comment! This method is truly simple, just some careful measuring and the rest is a breeze! I love your idea of mixing fabrics, I will try that too someday 😊

  • Rosemarie
    June 14, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    the look is so gorgeous, awesome 👏

  • pernille rasmussen
    October 23, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for this tutorial! I’m making a wool coat right now, and am looking forward to trying this technique. Also, as I’ve just moved back to Sweden after decades abroad, I’m wondering if you would share any favorite online fabric sources. I find that my choices for brick and mortar stores are a bit lacking.

  • Kathleen
    February 4, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    Fabric too busy to see clearly what you did.

    • Johanna
      February 4, 2019 at 8:17 pm

      Yes that can be the case sometimes when I’m doing tutorials while actually making a garment. Making sewing tutorials is very time-consuming, so the only way I can produce them regularly is by doing some while sewing actual garments. Hence why there can a bit of a trade-off sometimes. But I do think that most steps are reasonably clear on this tutorial, and I’m using contrasting thread too!

  • Carin Van Zyl
    December 9, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for the tutorial-I really appreciate the time that go into this in order to assist others! And all the close-up pictures helped me so much to understand all the steps.
    Greetings from sunny South Africa!

  • Jennifer Le Maitre
    January 11, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you for the tutorial- it makes much more sense to me now! I am re-purposing a small child’s sweater for a dog sweater. Since it is a novelty knit, I thought that using a bound buttonhole for the links on her harness to the leash.

    • Jennifer Le Maitre
      January 16, 2020 at 4:37 am

      I feel much more confident about making the bound buttonholes! Who knows? Perhaps when I make my new coat, I can make bound buttonholes for it, too.

  • Donna R.
    March 21, 2020 at 2:47 am

    There’s such an easier way to do this than cutting and fiddling with the two separate strips!
    1. Cut your patch about an inch bigger all around than the buttonhole will be. 2. Crease it longways down the middle then place the patch on the fabric wrong side up with crease exactly over the line that marks your buttonhole. 3. Baste it to the fabric following that crease and mark your buttonhole stitching lines. 4. Stitch your parallel lines on each side of the basting line. 5. Fold down the long edges of the patch to exactly meet the stitching lines and press to make your folds. 6. Remove the basting and cut the patch right down the middle along the crease. Now you have arrived at the step where you have your two strips sewn over the buttonhole and you can proceed as shown above. But it is MUCH easier to sew the patch on in one piece then press your fold and cut it apart after you’ve sewn it to the fabric rather than try to line up two narrow strips and sew them on perfectly straight.

  • Shirley Forsberg
    September 15, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    I have tried to use your method on a lovely woven tweed without much success. Any tips?

  • Elizabeth
    March 18, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    I haven’t made clothes for myself for many years. Recently, I decided to make a jacket from some wool I purchased long ago. It has only one button and I was considering making a bound buttonhole, though I was uncertain that I remembered how to do it. The method you posted is exactly like the one my mother taught me more than 40 years ago. The buttonhole must look good on both sides, so I will need to make a buttonhole on the facing as well. The wool fabric is lightweight so I think it will work. I will make some practice buttonholes and test it out. Thank you for adding the suggestion for making a buttonhole on the facing—i don’t think It would have occurred to me.

  • […] the fabric is so fluffy I didn’t mess with buttonholes (but I think bound buttonholes in a thinner fabric could work). Instead, I just added large metal snaps and I think they worked […]

  • Kathryn
    March 23, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    This is an amazing technique and I got beautiful results on a lovely soft wool fabric coat. I disagree with the above poster with the patch method…this is so accurate and precise and looks so much better than any other method I have tried. I found the video very easy to follow. Thank you!

  • Brenda
    September 8, 2022 at 1:08 am

    I am making a leather coat, blk leather on the outside and thin facing. It is all sewed down. I just need to put 4 button holes in . I get one chance and it has to look good on the inside as well as the outside. Help.

  • Robbin
    November 6, 2022 at 5:42 pm

    So cool! I have a flannel shirt that needs new button holes and this might be just the fix!! I’ve never seen a welt pocket, but this does look pretty straightforward! Thank you for sharing it.

  • Sharon
    November 6, 2022 at 7:28 pm

    There is a method similar to what Donna mentioned above which uses grosgrain ribbon as interfacing. The advantage is perfectly straight sewing. Kenneth D. King has this method shown on his Craftsy class on pockets. He learned it from tailors in San Francisco and may have it shown elsewhere besides Craftsy. He is very particular about stitch length and counting stitches which I learned is crucial. I think that class is a must for any seamstress, no matter how experienced. He shows the pocket version which is exactly the same as a bound buttonhole. I like the facing finished into a square hole the exact size of the bound hole, invisible stitch to each other and it looks exactly like a double bound buttonhole.

    • Laverne
      November 7, 2022 at 9:23 am

      I’m wanting to do bound buttonholes on a gents waistcoat. I think I can follow in my head the process on the front, but I’m not sure I can imagine how it will look on the back. Any advice please?
      Laverne x

  • Raj
    November 7, 2022 at 2:45 am

    I visited your site. I can read your information to sew bound buttonhole. Very nice write you it topic. I like.

  • Christine
    November 7, 2022 at 6:19 pm

    Nice these are making a come back! They used to be standard on women’s tailored garments back “in the day” when I learnt tailoring. Stitched buttonholes were *only* for men’s tailored garments! Never on women’s. And they look so nice and finished too.

  • Wendy
    December 2, 2022 at 11:18 pm

    Just what I was looking for. I can hear your voice as I read this! 🙂


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