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Buttonhole Trim

Page history last edited by Shylaah 5 years, 11 months ago


Written exclusively for Confessions of a Jackaholic.  Do not copy and paste elsewhere.



I have heard that the buttonholes were actually some kind of trim that was applied to the coat, but I'm not sure if I believe that is true.  It looks to me like it's embroidery stitching, but exactly what stitches and how it was applied, I do not know.  I studied many reference pictures and what follows is my own interpretation of the buttonhole trim and it is based on the DMC and AWE version of the coat which have buttonholes that look a little more uniform, are more professional and tailored.





If you look at the two rows that make up the buttonhole, you can see that the left side-blue and right side-red of the row are different from each other, but both lefts-blue and both rights-red match each other as though this is a piece of pre-made trim that was applied, coming down, and going back up.  But I can't see what/how/where a transition is made at the rounded tip. So that is why I'm not sure if it is a pre-made trim, or if it is a pattern of embroidery.  If it is embroidery stitching, I don't know why it's different on the left than on the right?? 


It's pretty obvious (to me, anyway) that the white stitching-purple is some kind of chain stitching.  I couldn't pin down exactly which chain stitch, though.  It looks most like it might be the twisted chain stitch, but then, some of them don't look twisted.  The difference between the regular chain stitch (left below) and the twisted chain stitch (middle below) is on the regular chain stitch to make the next stitch the needle is inserted inside the loop of the stitch beside where the needle previously emerged.  For the twisted chain, the next stitch is made by inserting the needle outside the loop and a little to the left and forward of where the needle previously emerged.  There are other kinds of chain stitches, but these two seem the most likely ones to have been used. 







There is an embroidery stitch called the ladder stitch (right above) which is just the chain stitch made wider, also called open chain stitch. To make the next stitch the needle is inserted inside the loop of the stitch but some distance to the right of where the needle previously emerged.  In the beginning I thought this was the buttonhole trim pattern--two rows of ladder stitch side by side worked in the tan color and then the white chain stitch worked over the top of it, and this would work.  But on closer inspection, you can see that the stitches that make the 'rungs'-green of the ladder cross over, at least on the right side, the line of stitching making the right 'side'-red of the ladder.  I can't really tell what is happening on the left 'side'-blue of the ladder. The open chain ladder stitch does not have the effect of crossing over the ladder 'side'. 


I experimented with many combinations of stitches trying to achive the look of the ladder.  What I finally used was the outline stitch (left below) to do the 'sides' of the ladder and then stitched over the sides with just a long stitch that doesn't even have a name, like a couching stitch (right below) used to hold down a thread, cord or ribbon, but stitched over both threads and the space between them to make the ladder 'rungs'.  





I determined the size I made the buttonhole by using the known (or at least accepted) size of the button which is one inch.  I made the width of the buttonhole just shy of 1/2 inch at 7/16 inch--11mm sounds better.  Few would consider that 1/16th of an inch of any importance, but it is--visually it does make a difference.  So you are working in some itty bitty increments here with the four rows of stitching and the spacing between them because the width of the stitch itself is also a consideration. 


The length of the buttonhole is about 3 inches.  I made the buttonholes that have a button on them, the ones on the cuffs and back vent, 3 inches long.  The buttonholes that stand alone on the coat front and the pocket flaps, I made 2 3/4 inches long.  The reason for this is because the button covers up part of the buttonhole making it visually shorter, so the ones that stand alone look too long in comparison to the others if you make them 3 inches.  Just by trial and error, making, experimenting and looking, I chose to make the stand along buttonholes 2 3/4 inches.  That amount seemed to visually balance the two. 


My humble attempt at illustrations that follow are not to scale and are only to give a little bit of visual guidance to the stitching instructions. I was too dumb to take pictures of the stages when I was actually doing a buttonhole--44 times!  After I get all the particulars written and posted, I will do a buttonhole and photograph the stages and post them. 


It would be nice to have a couple of these little metal 6 inch sewing gauges on hand when you begin working on the buttonholes.  Set one for the width and one for the length because you will need to measure constantly!!




First we have to mark the length and position of the buttonhole.  They are wide and long and very different from a regular buttonhole, so almost nothing that applies to regular buttonholes will apply here.  It is best to not even think of it as a buttonhole from this point on, but only as some decorative embroidery stitching--which it is the way we're going to do it.


The L&S fabric is very thick and heavy compared to anything we would normally do embroidery work on, and it's almost impossible to mark.  I don't know of anything you can mark on it with except tailor's chalk, and that won't even stay visible until you can get the center worked.  So what I did was mark the line for the center of the buttonhole with chalk, then I thread marked it with regular sewing thread.  Use a highly contrasting color so you can easily see to remove it all after you have done all the outline stitching. 




Let's start our practice with a 3 inch vent/cuff buttonhole.  Mark a chalk line on the fabric that is 3 inches long.  Mark a vertical line across it at the beginning, at the 2 3/4 inches mark and at the end. 



Using the regular sewing thread, mark the beginning with a vertical stitch, sew along the chalk line with a running stitch, and make another vertical stitch at the 2 3/4 inches mark and at the end.  Measure the line to make sure it is the correct length.



The stitch we will be using for this is the Outline Stitch, not to be confused with the Stem Stitch which is very similar, but worked on the other side of the line and each stitch is more defined.  The Outline Stitch creates a more fluid line where the stitches roll together and are not distinct.  So avoid all information on the Stem Stitch, and do not believe anyone who says the two stitches are the same.  The are not.  The information on these links will help you learn how to do the Outline Stitch.


Outline Stitch


Outline Stitch Video Tutorial 


The Outline Stitch is always worked left to right, with the thread always carried above the stitching.  The top of this line of stitching is the smoother part and the part we want facing into the center of the buttonhole, so we have to work the bottom part first.  Starting on the left side and working just barely below the marked line, make a row of Outline Stitching down the length of the line to the 2 3/4 inch point. Make a short vertical back stitch.  Now, to still be working from left to right we must TURN THE WORK AROUND.  Do so and make another line of stitching just barely below the marked line back to the beginning. 



The two rows should be just nearly touching, but you should be able to see your marked line between them. 



For the outer rows we want that smooth top part of the Outline Stitch facing outward, so we start the stitching on the top row. 


The distances are very small here, so in order not to have to resort to the use of a micrometer and a jeweler's loop, let's measure from a point that will make the distance actually wide enough to see on the ruler.  To begin the top line of the outer row, measure 1/4 inch from the bottom line of the inner row.  The bottom line of the outer row is measured 1/4 inch from the upper line of the inner row. 


You will have to depend a lot on ye olde 'eyeball' method here.  You can use the tailor's chalk to mark the lines if you do them one at a time.  If you mark both at the same time, the bottom line will more than likely get rubbed off before you get to it for stitching. 



The coat fabric is coarse and really does not lend itself well to this intricate stitching, so you're going to have to jump through a lot of hoops to get these outer rows stitched and even.  This is the hardest part.  It will be pretty smooth sailing after this :) 


Mark the line as best you can with the chalk and start your stitching.  Check the width with the ruler after the first few stitches and again when you get near the end of the line.  When you are even with the end of the inner row at the 2 3/4 inch point, make one stitch that slants toward the center, then make one stitch vertical along the thread that marks the end of buttonhole.  The spacing should be the same amount away from the end of the inner row as the outer line is from the inner line, your eyeball is your only friend here.  Turn the work around, and then make one stitch that slants toward the bottom row which is now on top. Mark the line for the last row with chalk and stitch back to the beginning checking the width with the sewing gauge a couple of times along the way, and also checking the overall width of the buttonhole which should be 7/16 inch.  It does not have to be dead on exactly at 7/16, but it should fall between the 3/8 and 1/2 inch marks, not under 3/8 or over 1/2.  If it is either one--well, you know what to do :)



It will take a lot of practice to learn to get this foundation stitching straight, even and the correct measurements, but once you have climbed Mt Everest, the rest will be like a float across a lazy lagoon!


Remove the marking threads--red in my sample.





The next step is to make the 'rungs' of the ladder by stitching over the outline stitching.  We will be stitching from bottom to top this time.  This stitch really doesn't have a name in the Great Book of Embroidery Stitches, but it is similar to the Couching Stitch, so that is what I am calling it.


The spacing of the crossover stitches is just a wee bit more than 1/8 inch, just about 4mm.  I counted those stitches on many reference pics of Jack's coat and it varied between 16 and 20.  I tried them all.  Even on the 3 inch buttonhole, 20 made for too narrow a space to work when it came time to do the chain stitching.  What I ended up using was 18 on the 3 inch buttonhole, and 16 on the 2 3/4 inch buttonhole.  The last horizontal stitch lines up with the end of the inner rows, so on the 3 inch buttonhole you are making 18 stitches between the start and the 2 3/4 inch point, and 16 stitches on the 2 3/4 inch buttonhole between the start and the 2 1/2 inch point. 


I made a gauge on a piece of masking tape to use to do these cross stitches, so I would have the same number of stitches each time and the same amount of spacing. The length of neither buttonhole is equally divisible by their number of stitches, but there's a little quilter's trick to help us out so we won't have to spend hours hunched over our work trying to measure out 3.88mm or 5/32 of an inch.


For the 3 inch buttonhole we need 18 stitches.  Using 1/8 inch as a measure, 18 of them is only 2 1/8 inches and we need 2 3/4 inches for our 3 inch buttonhole.  So, draw a 2 1/8 inches long vertical line and mark the 1/8 inch increments.  Draw horizontal lines at the top and bottom and at right angles to the vertical line some inches out to the right--2 or 3 inches should do.



On the edge of a sheet of paper mark off  2 3/4 inches.   Lay the beginning of the 2 3/4 inch mark at the bottom of the vertical line where the horizontal line crosses it.  Angle the paper until the end of the 2 3/4 inch mark is even with the top horizontal line.  Draw parallel horizontal lines from each 1/8 inch increment on the vertical line to the angled sheet of paper's edge and mark it.  


Do the same for the 16 stitches for the 2 3/4 inch buttonhole.  Make the horizontal mark at 1 7/8 inches, the angle over at 2 1/2 inches and make the horizontal lines.   Keep these as your patterns.  Transfer these marks to the edge of a piece of masking tape.  The tape only last through 3 or 4 buttonholes until it won't stick any more so you'll have to make several before all the buttonholes are done.



Hold the work so that the rounded end of the buttonhole is up.  Place the masking tape guage along the left edge right up against the stitching with the first mark just barely beyond the beginning of the outline stitching--somewhere like less than 1/16 inch. 



Bring the needle up at A, outside the outline stitching.  Pull the thread across toward B until you can see that it's pretty much horizontal and insert the needle at B between the two inner rows and push it across the back and emerge at C outside the outline stitching at the second mark on your masking tape gauge.. 



Continue along the length of the buttonhole until you reach the 2 3/4 inch mark, That will be the last and 18th horizontal stitch.  You can remove the tape now and save it for the next buttonhole.



Okay we're at the end of the buttonhole again, the place where your eyeball is your only friend.  Bring the needle up at the very end of the inner row and insert it directly vertical outside the outline stitching at the very end (stitch #19).  Bring the needle up again in the same place at the very end of the inner row.  Insert the needle outside the outline stitching half way between stitches #18 and #19 (stitch #20).  Bring the needle up again in the same place at the very end of the inner row and insert it outside the outline stitching and to the right of the vertical stitch matching in reverse the angle of stitch #20 on the left (stitch #21). 


Okay, here comes some of the smooth sailing part!!  You shouldn't need to do any measuring and marking and gauging on this side, but if you feel you need the gauge, then by all means use it.  I just trusted my eyes for this part. 


Turn the work around so you are again working bottom to top.  Bring the needle up at X between the two inner rows and half way between stitches 17 and 18.  Because these cross stitches are off set, you'll only have 17 horizontal stitches on this side. Pull the thread across toward Y until you can see that it's pretty much horizontal and insert the needle at Y outside the outline stitching and push it across the back and emerge at Z between the two inner rows and half way between stitches 16 and 17.  Continue on back to the beginning of the buttonhole.  The last horizontal stitch will be about 1/8 inch from the end.  Do not make a horizontal stitch beyond the beginning horizontal stitch in the left row. 







Okay, we can cruise on down Easy Street now.  The hard parts are over!  The final step is to do the Chain Stitching over the ladder 'rungs' and we will be finished.  The following links will help you learn how to do the Chain Stitch.  The video tutorial on the Twisted Chain Stitch is actually a video of the Rope Stitch that begins life as a Twisted Chain, so the first minute or so (1:15) of the video, the first three stitches she does is how to do the Twisted Chain.


Chain Stitch 1

Chain Stitch 2

Chain Stitch Video Tutorial

Twisted Chain Stitch

Twisted Chain Stitch Video Tutorial 


Twisted or Not?--True Confessions of a Chain Stitcher

The trouble with following a 'Fly By the Seat of My Pants' plan is that you learn more as you go along, but often after it is too late to implement it!  As I said at the beginning of this turtorial, I think the white stitching on the buttonhole is most likely Twisted Chain, even if some of the stitches, often several in a row, do not look twisted.  I wanted to use the Twisted Chain, but I couldn't get it to 'do right'.  I would go four or five stitches that would look pretty good, then it would get goofy looking, and I couldn't ever figure out why or how to make it not do that.  So, as I often do, I re-invented the wheel to roll MY way!   I did the stitch like Twisted Chain going back in past the loop insted of inside it, but not going over to the side.  So I guess I'll call it 'Shylaah-SemiTwisted' :)


I tried doing the regular Chain Stitch but it looks too heavy on there, too dense.  That, could be partly because the thread I used for the chain stitching was a vintage crochet cotton thread that I inheirted from my mom.  I think it is about a Size 10 maybe, and it could have stood to have been a wee bit thinner.  More about threads at the end of this article. 


You can work the chain stitch which ever direction you want

Top to Bottom

Right to Left

Bottom to Top

Even Left to Right if you're left handed or ambidextrous.

It doesn't matter as long as you always start at the big red dot and end on the big blue dot. So stitch in which ever direction is the most comfortable for you.






Bring the needle up at the big red dot, at the very beginning of the outline stitching and centered between the inner and outer rows.  Work one Chain Stitch over every crossover stitch all the way around ending at the big blue dot.  And, waa-laa, a finished Buttonhole Trim. 




The threads I used for Moony's coat were some things I had on hand that worked for me.  The brown/tan-ish/gold-ish thread I pulled from a multiweave upholstery fabric, and the off white was some vintage crochet cotton I think was about a size 10.  Neither of these fact matters I don't suppose as you are not likely to have or find either one of those. 


So I finally got around to doing some experimenting with some available threads.  What I think will work is a #8 perle cotton. There are several companies that make this thread.  The #8 refers to the size of the thread--the weight, the guage, and as with most things guaged, the higher the number the finer the thread.










The #8 perle cotton is probably most often advertised as a crochet thread.  It does not matter what the thread is labeled to be used for, crochet, knit, embroidery, tatting or some other needlework, what is important is the size.  Unfortunately, it's a fine line between what will work and what will be too thick or too thin, and since the threads I used originally were little bastard threads I had on hand, you may have to do a bit of experimenting on your own.  What the manufacture intended to be its use will determine only the amount of thread.  Usually threads labeled for embroidery comes in smaller amounts than something labeled for crochet or knitting.   Amount: You will need about 50 yards of the off white and 100 yards of the colored brown/tan-ish/gold-ish thread.  The color is up to you.  The reference pictures I have it varies from a gold-ish looking color, to a pinkish tan, to a light-ish brown.  You choose. 


The thread I used that was pulled from the upholstery fabric is mostly a golden color.  When and where I bought the #8 perle cotton they did not have a very good selection of colors.  What I bought was a light gold color because I was mainly interested in how the thread would work up into the pattern rather than its color.  The one available at the craft store near me was the DMC.   But it was so light and bright that it threw off the look of the buttonhole trim.  So I gave a little hank of it a dip in some brown rit and darkened it a bit.  Looked much better.  Also, the golden thread I used was a little thinner than the #8 perle and I did the outline stititching with a single thread, but the couching with a double thread as the single thread of what I used was too thin.  However, I used only a single thread of the #8 perle cotton for all the stitching.  I only bought the one color of the #8 perle, so I still used the #10 crochet cotton that I had on hand to do the chain stitching, but an off white #8 perle should work well there as it is quite near the same size as the crochet cotton. 


Pictured below:

  1. a buttonhole trim worked with the same threads as Moony's coat, but I was out of practice when I started this sample and got this one a little too thin.

  2. a buttonhole trim worked with the #8 perle cotton in the color as bought for the base and #10 crochet cotton as the chain 

  3. a buttonhole trim worked with the #8 perle cotton after a dip in brown rit for the base and #10 crochet cotton as the chain 

  4. a buttonhole trim from Moony's coat









Having fun yet?  Now, do it 23 more times!! Then start work on the short ones!  Enjoy!






If anyone has tried this, or is thinking about trying it, please email me  Shylaah AT who DOT net   Would apprecitate some feedback as to whether it works or not--whether it's understandable or not...




























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