Basic Sewing Concept: Buttonhole Paraphernalia

As I was writing and photographing content for this post, a YouTube video by Sew Daily Network popped up in my feed with buttonholes as the topic! More about that later in the post.

Unrelated to today’s topic: read to the end of the post and tell me what you think of the newest Christian Siriano dress.

My focus here is on the notions helpful in making evenly placed, neat and clean buttonholes — not including the machine’s buttonhole-making attachment since that deserves a complete post by itself.

The Buttonhole Support Group

From left: Simflex buttonhole gauge, Fray Check seam sealant, buttonhole chisel (or knife, or opener or whatever) Missing in the picture is a piece of wood that goes under the chisel.

So, the supporting cast, or support group for good buttonholes are easily available at any sewing store, or online. There are three and I use them all. If you’re a new sewer, and aspire to be an accomplished buttonhole maker, consider acquiring these three things. If you’re wondering why there are more things in the header image, the picture just looked better with a marking pen, a ruler and my sample. The three above, though are the real characters in this post.

1. The Simflex Gauge

The Simflex buttonhole spacer is shown above in use on a sample placket. Assuming you’ve already noted on paper the size and placement of the buttonhole, the first item needed is the Simflex gauge which has been used in sewing rooms for ages! With it’s help, you can easily and evenly space out and mark the buttonholes. Beginning with it completely closed, spread it out completely; the. Use both hands to bring it in evenly to the distance between each buttonhole. Magically, the steel markers will come together with exactly the same distance between buttonholes.

2. Seam Sealant

After sewing the buttonhole and before cutting open, I use a thin line of the Fray Check brand of seam sealant (a couple of small dabs will do ya) down the center of the buttonhole , between the two sides and the top and bottom. Fray Check is a transparent liquid that dries clear but keeps the fraying at bay. After application, let it dry completely before cutting open the buttonhole.

3. The Buttonhole Chisel and Anvil

Cutting open the buttonhole can be done with a scissor, but that has an inherent risk of cutting it too far. Some sewers use a seam ripper, which I never could wrap my head around. The buttonhole chisel and anvil set to the rescue. The chisel is extremely sharp, and by design has very little chance of error. Place the anvil under the buttonhole. Hold the chisel vertically between the sides of the buttonhole and press it back and forth until it cuts through to the other side. If your chisel doesn’t come with the anvil, find a piece of smooth wood about 3 inches square. The anvil will eventually get marred after prolonged use — alas that is where I’m at and using my pressing tool/clapper as an anvil. Off to the hardware store I go. Or, I could use a self healing cutting mat underneath; in my experience they’re really not that self healing….

So, here’s a recently made neckline with a set of buttonholes . Full reveal shortly.

About the aforesaid video called Stitch Lab by the Sew Daily Network. It is a very helpful video for exploring buttonhole making. BUT, they missed the Simflex gauge and the appropriate surface under the sharp chisel. Otherwise a good lesson.

Okay guys, New York Fashion Week is back! And, as usual, I will fawn over some collections and diss others. Here’s one look from Christian Siriano — rick rack seemingly randomly placed on a white gown. I don’t dislike it at all, but still don’t know what to make of it. What do you think?

Christian Siriano RTW Spring 2022 . Image from

Thank you for reading.


One thought on “Basic Sewing Concept: Buttonhole Paraphernalia

  1. OMG rick rack! My sister sent me some other photo of a men’s blazer trimmed in rick rack. Unclear if same collection (she knows my love of rick rack)
    This needs more rickrack to work for me.

    My buttonholes are in a long term time out. My machine made ones are ghastly these days (machine needs a tune up, automatic buttonholer is on it’s last programmed legs I fear)

    Liked by 1 person

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