Lovely button holes the ‘cheats’ way

OK this is a quick post really to show a couple of people on Twitter how I do my ‘cheats’ button holes. I was having a chat with @almondrock_sews and @housofpinheiro about how I do my button holes without wasting time so here we go!

We all love hand sewn button holes, they are beautiful and crafted with skill and love. The problem is they take time….For a professional Seamstress or Tailor they still take time…for us home sewists they take too much time! 

To do a proper hand sewn button hole you need silk buttonhole twist thread, and gimp. These are not that readily available and I have only found them in a limited range of colours (please do let me know where I can get them in the UK!) So here is my way. OK purist will hate me but I am a mere home sewist who likes a good look. 

For this tutorial I shall make the buttonhole in a contrasting colour

So 2 pieces of cotton sewn together and buttonhole marked

Take your buttonhole foot and place some embroidery thread (the same colour as you are stitching your buttonhole!) in the channel below.

Stitch the buttonhole using the machine as the instructions tell you!


Now cut the embroidery thread away at each end as close to the normal thread as possible.

Carefully cut the buttonhole opening. Cut close to each end.

Now thread a needle, double the thread and knot. Start at one end of the buttonhole and sew through and over one end, keeping the stitched close. Like a bar tack.

Now take the needle through the buttonhole and pass upwards (use the machine made stitching as a guide) but don’t pull the needle all the way through!

Wrap the thread under and around the needle in the same way as you are moving. So if you are stitching from left to right pass the thread from left to right and vice versa.

Pull the needle through and up. This forms the little knot (or purl stitch) then keeping the stitches close keep going. When you get to the other end do another bar tack over the end and continue down the other side of the button hole. (You can see the difference in the lower left)

This is a finished version (on a real garment) done this way. Each buttonhole takes about 10 mins more but it is well worth it!

Until next time…. Happy sewing

10 thoughts on “Lovely button holes the ‘cheats’ way”

  1. Excellent, this is what I have been looking for, a nice a nice alternative to a completely hand stitched buttonhole. Using the machine to make the basic buttonhole and then add the finish touch with hand stitching gives it a real professional look. Thank-you Jamie!

  2. Hello,

    You asked where to source buttonhole twist/gimp in the UK. You can get it from Kenton’s Trimmings (, that’s where I have got mine from in the past. They stock a wide range of colours (you’ll have to go to the Gutermann website for a colour chart, although you can often find standard thread of the same “colour number” in your local shop).

    Hand-sewn buttonholes are easily my favourite part of sewing. You’re right, they take a while (I reckon one buttonhole per frame of snooker on the telly is a good rate!) but worth it. And I feel more in control than doing machine buttonholes, which scare me somewhat.

    Doing a practice one is definitely a necessity, and I would say the other knack I have found from doing a few is getting a handle on the appropriate waxing level for the buttonhole twist (running it through beeswax before sewing, not too little and not too much that the excess all rubs off and clumps next to the first few stitches), as pressing the wax-impregnated stitching when finished is what gives it the crispness.

    Hope that’s helpful.

  3. Hi there,
    I get my agreman gimp and silk buttonhole thread – Gutermann R753 from Kenton Trimmings. I have also purchased 100/3 spun silk thread from Pipers Silk( based in Sufolk) as it is equal to the Gutermann and you will be supporting a U.K. company. They have a fab range of colours and a very personal customer service; Susan is lovely. All Susan’s silks are wound to order! I have to admit to having rather a soft spot for silk threads from Italy, when I can get them…………………Bozzolo Reale and Seta Bozzolo.

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