Buttonholes – Vintage Embroidery And Sewing Techniques Part 5

Some more samplers of my grandmother which she made between 1950 and 1952 in her dressmaker’s apprenticeship. Today I have two samplers with buttonholes: one with hand bound buttonholes, the other with hand worked buttonholes.

vintage 1940s 1950s hand bound buttonhole

The first sampler has hand bound buttonholes.

vintage 1940s 1950s hand bound buttonhole close up
Close up of hand bound buttonhole

No stitches are visible on the right side.

vintage 1940s 1950s hand bound buttonhole back view
Back view

On the wrong side just some tiny slanting stitches can be seen.

Here are 1921 instructions about how to make bound buttonholes with illustrations.

vintage 1940s 1950s buttonhole stiff lining stiffening reinforce interfacing

I don’t know what the stiff yellowish, papery interfacing is: it feels like thick waxed paper or thin cardboard. It might be Pellon (forum discussion, history of Pellon).

vintage 1940s 1950s buttonhole stiff papery interlining pellon interfacing
Inside view of interfacing, fabric strips, and selvage

The fabric was cut so that the selvage is on the inside and therefore doesn’t need finishing.

hand bound buttonholes sketch
My grandmothers sketch: construction details for bound buttonholes

1940s 1950s buttonhole wool coat

For the second sampler she used thick boiled wool.

vintage 1940s 1950s hand buttonhole stitch buttonhole close up

The buttonholes are again finished with tiny, very closely spaced buttonhole stitches by hand. The buttonhole stitches are stitched so that on the right side just the twisted upper edge of the buttonhole stitches are seen.

how to sew buttonholes by hand
Another drawing of my grandmother (sketched in 1951): how to sew buttonholes by hand

Here‘s a tutorial about how to make hand worked buttonholes with a 1942 diagram. And here are 1921 instructions with illustrations about how to make barred buttonholes (for underwear and shirts), round-end buttonholes (for cuff and belt buttonholes with a resting place for the shank of the button) and tailors’ buttonholes (for heavy cloth garments).

vintage 1940s 1950s buttonhole haircloth horse hair canvas lining stiffening reinforce interfacing

There’s a stiff interfacing between the two wool layers: I think it’s haircloth or horse hair canvas.

vintage 1940s 1950s hand worked buttonhole back view
Back view of hand worked buttonhole

The cut edge of the boiled wool (at the bottom of the picture) isn’t finished at the back because the fabric doesn’t fray.


Here you’ll find part 4 and part 6 of my 1950s embroidery and sewing techniques series.

3 thoughts on “Buttonholes – Vintage Embroidery And Sewing Techniques Part 5

    1. I don’t know that particular sewing machine, but it should be possible to make buttonholes as long as the sewing machine can do zigzag stitches. I always use my treadle sewing machine, which can just do zigzag and straight stitches, to make buttonholes. But the buttonholes by machine won’t look like these handsewn buttonholes.

  1. Thank you sew much for passing on this valuable knowledge from the past. Now I have to work on my bound button holds; something I’m not good at.

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