Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sewing: Did the Buttonholes!

I hate buttonholes.

Those of you that don't read or talk about crafts online may not be familiar with the term UFO, or UnFinished Object. Every sewer or knitter or needlepointer or quilter other crafter that I've ever known has lots of UFOs hanging around their house, projects that were started with enthusiasm but never finished. There are infinite reasons for never-finishing, from not knowing how to do a step, to just rushing ahead to the next project. Or disliking a step, like, say, the buttonholes.

I have a shirt made from the HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt pattern hanging in the closet, a UFO from perhaps five years ago. It's been waiting all that time for the shirt hem, the sleeve hems, and the buttonholes and buttons. I don't remember why it got stalled. The collar is wrong, but I didn't know that back then, and it is at least symmetrical and without wrinkles, so "wrong" is a matter of degree. It's not the fabric, which is a beautiful blue linen that I admire every time I see it. Odds are that something shiny crossed my vision and I ran away.

Yesterday I got another HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess shirt (in lime green Brussels Washer, a linen/cotton blend) done to the same point, around 10pm. I stopped for a sandwich and, I thought, for the night. But the shirt, probably hearing fearful stories from the blue linen one, kept nagging at me.

First I stitched down the front facings, something I've been considering but thought would look funny. After pressing, it looked just fine. More nagging from the shirt, and I hemmed the bodice. I learned in the process that Brussels Washer is rather substantial, so that the front corners of the shirt (where you have two layers of fabric due to the facing, plus two more when you turn the hem down, plus two more when you turn it down again) were too fat. But I gave it a deeper hem to give the fat bit some space to relax, and topstitched and pressed it into submission, and it's wearable, if not perfect. (Edited to add: Oh. Yes. Now I see what I did wrong; you just don't hem a facing that way. Next time, I know which Outside Instructions to drag out.)

Having learned from that, I finished the edges of the sleeves with silk organza bias strips (a Hong Kong finish?), so that when I turned down that finished edge I ended up with only two layers of the main fabric, instead of four. (The thickness of silk organza doesn't really count.) That produced a much more fluid hem, and I'll remember the next time I make a version of this shirt in a substantial fabric. Of course, the white organza strip is also visible inside the sleeve when I gesture. I suppose I could buy a rainbow of single-yard pieces of China silk so that I can match colors when I do a Hong Kong finish in the future. Or I could choose to admire the crisp white line as a sign of a clean-finished interior. That's my vote today.

So nothing was left but the buttonholes. I hate buttonholes. I hung the no-doubt-still-nervous shirt up and went to bed.

And got up today, and took a bubble bath, and went out to lunch (Charcuterie plate! Fried chicken! Fruit bowl! Gluttony!) and went to the grocery and came home and played on the web and cleaned the kitchen and did laundry and folded laundry and played on the web and tidied the back room and all the while the shirt was begging, "What about meeeeeeeee?" Then I had a sandwich and played on the web.

At 7:30 I think the shirt resorted to hypnotism. I found the sewing machine manual, the fancy sensor buttonhole foot, and the card of small clear buttons left over from... huh. Probably from the blue UFO, now that I think about it. I put together a sample swatch of Brussels Washer and organza to match the shirt's facings, for testing buttonholes. I did five sample buttonholes and figured out juuuuust the right pressure to make the wad of thread from the first half of the buttonhole go under the presser foot without jamming when making the second half, but not so much that I distort the length of the buttonhole. I dug out the pattern to remember where the center front line was supposed to be. I basted a line of stitches at the exact position for the line of buttonholes. I put on the shirt. I marked the bust point and the lapel point. I measured the rest of the buttonholes. I inserted pins. I sewed the buttonholes (gasp) and cut them (bigger gasp; there's always the risk of cutting past the buttonhole and inflicting a mortal wound on the shirt) and removed the basted guide line and sewed on the buttons. (Everybody fall down now.)

See why I hate doing buttonholes?

The shirt is done. I started out to create a shirt with buttons. I created a shirt with buttons instead of a UFO. I'm not absolutely positive that I've achieved this since high school Home Ec. I'm only fairly sure it's legal.

Above is the shirt. The throw pillow that wore the notched collar in the photo of the last post was feeling left out, so they're posing together.



  1. BEAUTIFUL and good for you for pushing your way through button holes.

    All my UFOs are knitted sweater projects - I HATE sewing up seams on sweaters.

  2. Frida! Thank you. :) I remain rather stunned at myself. And I wore it yesterday!

    Oh, yes, sewing up sweaters seems like it would be both tiresome _and_ stressful. Ruining fabric would be far far more upsetting if you created it yourself.

  3. Oh, I love the way you write!
    These UFOs can be frustrating, so true *seeing a couple of unfinished coats in the closet* :))

  4. Hey, Snezhana! Thanks! And welcome! (And I apologize in general for my recent comment slacking.)

    Ooh, coats. Fascinating but bulky as UFOs.