doing things the victorian way

Tag Archives: hand sewing

Handmade buttonholes are time consuming, I’ll admit, but I always find them much more secure than those made my machine. Before I begin the tutorial I should note that it’s best to stitch buttonholes through at least two layers of fabric or a layer of fabric and interfacing. This ensures that the buttonhole will remain strong and resist stretching. As to the type of thread to use, in this tutorial I use a double layer of 3owt. cotton but almost anything will do, including embroidery floss and even crochet thread. So, let’s get started.

First, determine the length you would like your buttonhole to be by measuring the button you plan on using. Buttonhole size should be determined by adding the diameter plus the thickness of the button. I prefer a tighter buttonhole as they tend to stretch eventually but if you’d like a little wiggle room, add two millimeters to overall measurement. Mark fabric.


Next, using a simple backstitch, stitch along the outline of your marking.


Stitch two rows of backstitches. This will help secure the fabric once it has been cut and as you work the buttonhole stitch.


Next, carefully pierce the fabric through which the button will eventually pass. You can use an awl or simply a small, sharp pair of scissors. Pierce near the corner where you wish to start working the buttonhole stitch.


Enlarge the hole just slightly with a pair of scissors. I prefer to cut as I stitch as opposed to cutting the whole buttonhole all at once. I find this works better as it eliminates fraying and slipping of the backstitches. Bring needle and thread up through the fabric on the outside of the backstitches near a corner to begin buttonhole stitch.


Begin the buttonhole stitch by passing the needle and thread through the buttonhole opening. Do not pull taut. Instead, bring up the needle directly left of where the thread originally emerges. Take that thread and bring behind the needle, wrapping it around the front of the needle and hold taut as you pull the needle through.



Continue stitching around, carefully clipping the fabric as you go.


To finish off, bring needle and thread through the fabric to the back directly next to last stitch made. Run needle and thread through a series of stitches along the back and simple trim.


And now you’ve got a buttonhole!



I just finished embroidering my 18th century pocket and, since I’m waiting for the wool for my next project to arrive, I thought I’d be indulgent & embroider myself a nice handkerchief to use during our humid summers. I had ordered a couple of yards of white voile in December to use for chemises but there wasn’t enough length. After much debate, I decided it would be perfect and cut into it before I could change my mind.

This interim project¬† presented me with a good opportunity to post another hand-stitching tutorial. Rolled hems are great for projects like handkerchiefs because they create a narrow hem with little bulk and a delicate appearance. They do feel a little tricky at first but as you work you’ll quickly get the hang of it, I promise.

To start, fold the edge of your fabric over desired amount (in my case, a little over a millimeter) and pinch between your fingers.


With your needle, pick up one to two strands of thread from the fabric right before the edge that’s been folded over.


Then insert the needle through two to three strands of thread from the fabric on the fold.


And just pull your needle and thread through and repeat!

I hope that makes sense. I’m crap at explaining instructions verbally since I’m a visual learner and so I tried to take photos that were fairly clear. Also, our gas company has been laying new pipe and jack-hammering three feet from my bedroom window for a week, so I’m running on pretty minimal sleep. If I’m not explaining this well, drop me a comment, I’ll take a nap & try to explain it better when cognition has returned.


prepped to add the boning

Well, after much struggle, I’m ready to add the boning to my first corset. Given that I drafted the pattern myself and didn’t make a muslin before hand, it’s turned out damned decent. I did have to rip a bunch of seams and redraft them but all mistakes are an opportunity to learn, I suppose.

Now, to just keep everything from shifting horribly while I sew the channels. Each channel will be hand-sewn as will the binding so who knows when it will be finished. I was hoping by Monday, to have it done in time for the third deadline of Historical Sew Fortnightly, but that’s likely a pipe dream. So long as I eventually finish it, I’ll be happy.

Over the last year and half I have lost 70lbs and I’ve been building a new wardrobe now that I’m within a few pounds of my goal weight. It’s slow going since I don’t have much time to work on it and also because I’m terrified of sewing my first corset. So, I’ve been working on base underthings like chemises and drawers, and trying to incorporate as much hand sewing as my patience will allow for. Today I’ve been sewing on a waistband using a simple whipstitch and I thought I’d share a tutorial, since there are so few hand-stitching tutorials available online.

A note about materials: I really do recommend using linen, cotton, or silk thread for hand-stitching. However, I’m poor and using what I’ve got available, namely cotton thread with a polyester core. It works well enough, doesn’t tangle too badly, and can take a beating. Unless you’re working on an historical reproduction or heirloom piece,¬† it isn’t necessary to be too picky.

On to the tutorial!

So, I’m sewing a waistband onto drawers, which are made of just a natural broadcloth. I’m using a single thread. To insure everything is secure, you want to sew 16 to 18 stitches per inch.


Excuse my dingy fingers. I just got finished washing and hanging a load of laundry.

Insert needle through the first layer – be it a waistband, cuff, collar or just the first layer of material. Broadcloth is wonderful for hand-sewing as you can visibly see how much of the weave on the fabric you’re picking up. I try to pick up as little material as possible to keep the stitch unobtrusive.


Next, insert needle into the second layer of fabric – in this case the drawers themselves. I try to only pick up two or three threads of the second layer to keep the stitch on the opposite side as unobtrusive as possible as well. The stitch is still perfectly strong, so long as you keep to the 16 to 18 stitches per inch criteria. I prefer a slant to my stitch and, thus, when inserting the needle into the second layer, pick up fabric slightly to the right of where the needle is on the first layer. This creates a left-leaning stitch.


Then, simply pull the thread through until taut.


Geez Louise! Your fingers never look worse than when you’re taking close-ups of them.

Ta da! If you’ve not done a lot of sewing by hand, I know it seems tedious at first. Well, it is – at first. But, like with anything, the more you practice, the faster you become. Don’t fuss too much over how straight your stitches are at first, either. That will come with time. And, if all else fails, use the sewing machine. No need to stress yourself out.