Monday, January 5, 2015

Bound Buttonholes, Welt Pockets, and Other Perilous Details

I had a weird experience the other day.

I was at my grandmother's house and she had a department store catalog on her sofa, so I was flipping through it absentmindedly when a perturbing trend stood out to me.

Wrap Coat

                                Open Wrap Coat

...this looks like a glorified robe!


Oooooh look, it's a button!!!

Are we seriously at the point where even ridiculously-priced department stores are so cheap that they don't even want to put proper closures on outerwear?!?!

Hence, the very simple reason I have spent the last week sacrificing my time, my eyesight, and my fingertips to my latest sewing project: If I don't make myself a coat with respectable buttonholes and pockets, there's no way I'm ever going to find one in a store!

I'm currently working on Vogue 1419, a Ralph Rucci coat pattern that features nearly every painstaking and exquisite detail available to a coat--particularly, mitered corners, bound buttonholes, welt pockets. All of which are a little tricky and nerveracking. In general, I think anything that requires a seamstress to cut into an already-assembled garment without being able to preview the final look is guaranteed to be tricky, not to mention nerveracking! (P.S. Take a look at the finished coat!)

Now I've never done any of these techniques before, so I'm teaching myself as I go along and my coat isn't quite done yet. But I thought I'd post on the techniques I've been learning so you can see what I've been up to lately!

Mitered Corners
First, I learned how to make mitered corners! This coat features a thin belt in the back (purely decorative, I assure you--I won't be slacking off on my buttons here!) As the fabric I'm using isn't super-thin, I knew that topstitching these corners would be difficult and messy unless I took out some of the fullness by mitering them.

Mitering is when you create a 45 degree angled seam between the perpendicular edges of a corner as an alternative to just folding one hem over the other. The effect is overall neater and less bulky.

Here's the mitered corners tutorial I used. Thanks Coletterie patterns!

Bound Buttonholes
They take so long...but they look so pretty!

Bound buttonholes are where you have a rectangular-shaped opening in your fabric, then close it up with two "lips". The button fits through the central gap and is sort of held in place by the two lips. They're stronger than normal buttonholes, almost decorative in themselves, and no thread in sight!

When marking the positioning of my buttonholes, I used the "ladder" method.

The base stitching on the edge of the coat is in the shape of a's hard to see in this picture. 

I did one row of baste stitching closer to the edge of the fabric where I wanted the inner edge of the buttonhole to be. I then sewed a parallel line of baste stitching the desired buttonhole length away. I then baste-stitched horizontal lines to mark the buttonholes themselves. The result is a series of "boxes" marking the buttonhole placement on the garment.

I then pinned a scrap of fabric (about 2 x 2.5 inches), good side to good side, over each box I marked out on the coat. I then flipped the coat over to the bad side and, using a small, sturdy stitch, retraced the boxes, sewing the scrap to the garment.

Good side of the coat
This is the scary part. You need to cut a slit horizontally down the center of your stitched box, ending about 1/4 inch from the short ends of the box. Then, you snip diagonally to each corner, creating two v-shaped flaps at either end.

Pull the scrap of fabric through the slit hole to the wrong side of the coat. The result is a beautiful, neat square opening!

Wrong side
Right side
From here, there are two different methods you can use to create the buttonhole lips!

The first is that you can take the scrap of fabric that is already sewn to your garment and fold the top down and the bottom up to create the lips. This excellent tutorial from Colette patterns sewalongs does an amazing job of explaining this method, and it works great (I tried it out on a scrap). Personally, I think this method is neater, faster, and more straightforward, especially if you have a thin and easily-ironed contrast fabric for the lips.

However, I used the same wool blend I used for my entire coat for the lips, and the fabric was too bulky to want to fold and iron with facility. So instead, I used the second method. I used the tutorial from Lolita patterns.

First, you need to cut two extra scraps of fabric, about the same size as the first scrap, per buttonhole. Then you baste the two scraps together down the middle and iron the seam flat.

These two pieces will become your two "lips"! You need to center the seam vertically down the middle of your buttonhole and sew it into place by stitching the basted scraps to the flaps of fabric that were in the center of your "box" that you clipped.

This is actually the most frustrating part of making these buttonholes. Trying to position the basted seam and then sew it in place without it moving was difficult. Ultimately, it got done though. Here's what the inside looked like at that point.

Now you can pull out the baste stitching, trim those bulky buttonholes, and admire your work!

But wait...there's more. If you're facing or lining your jacket, you need to create matching holes so you can actually get your button through the side of the jacket! This part isn't as involved as the first phase. I learned this neat trick from the Lolita patterns tutorial!

You mark where you want your buttonholes to be on your facing, making sure they match up the holes on your exterior fabric. This time, cut a scrap of fusible interfacing to use as your scrap and pin it, non-fusible side to good side of facing. Sew and clip your boxes the same way as before.

Now, all you have to do is pull the square of interfacing to the wrong side of the facing and iron it in place to create a neat window in your facing!

At this point, line up the window in your facing with the window in your exterior fabric and slipstitch them in place. 

Don't forget to sew in your buttons..and enjoy your beautiful and functional buttonholes!

Welt Pockets
Finally, the last set of scissor-entailing detailing that I've added to my coat is welt pockets. This type of pocket does not need to be sewn into a seam. It can be placed anywhere on a garment and is typically horizontal. The opening to the pocket is covered by a "welt"--essentially a pretty flap.

The actual pocket opening is created in the same way as a bound buttonhole opening: by sewing a tidy box over the proper location.

Except this time, instead of sewing a scrap of fabric to the right side of the coat, you sew the pocket bag. On the lower side of the box, you position the welt.

Then you pull the pocket lining to the inside, creating a nice square-shaped opening. Then you sew on the second half of the pocket bag.


Back on the outside of the coat, you iron the welt upward to cover the opening and slipstitch the ends in place. 

Here's to prove there's actually a pocket under there! ;) 
The inside of the pocket
That's it!
(Finally...believe me, I'm quite glad to finally be done with all the details!) 

I'll post again once I've put the finishing touches on the coat, which shouldn't be too long! 


  1. Looks great! If you're using a double-faced wool, you can always separate the two layers to reduce bulk. I do that for facings, bound buttonholes etc.

  2. That's such a great idea! I've never worked with double-faced wool before, but it would make for a great contrasting coat. I will definitely keep your tip in mind!

  3. Yours is the most useful explanation of a welt pocket that I've come across. Thank you!!!!

  4. When I was in high school I made all my clothes and one cute two piece sleeveless jacket and skirt had bound button holes. I was so proud of it and wished now I had saved it. I also sewed a suit for my husband with all the tailoring involved. Gosh I made some near things! No longer make garments but have fond memories of ones I made.

  5. When I was in high school I made all my clothes and one cute two piece sleeveless jacket and skirt had bound button holes. I was so proud of it and wished now I had saved it. I also sewed a suit for my husband with all the tailoring involved. Gosh I made some neat things! No longer make garments but have fond memories of ones I made.