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Jul 17, 2012

Buttons, Buttonholers, and Beyond!



Hello, Gorgeous!  

Friends, in your opinion, what kind of buttons look best on a blue linen blazer?

I can't believe I'm at the button stage but I am, or at least, I almost am.  I still have to insert my sleeve linings and finish my cuffs, but the main lining is in.  Admittedly, the areas around those double vents have a bit of the Frankenstein's monster about them; my hand sewing skills aren't what they might be.  But it does hang correctly.







So let's talk buttons -- and buttonholes.  You might think that for a jacket like this, I'd splurge and have my buttonholes done professionally at a place like Jonathan Embroidery.  Well I thought about it and decided to do it myself.  I tested buttonholes using my regular vintage Singer buttonholer and an even older Singer buttonholer that doesn't use templates (see below).   The older one allows me to control not only the width of the stitch, but also stitch density and the space that makes up the buttonhole itself. 



You can make the space just narrow enough to cut without cutting into the stitches, leaving a buttonhole that looks very clean.  I found I got the best results using Mettler thread up top and silk in my bobbin.  Standard Coats & Clark looked a little coarse in comparison.  You wouldn't believe how smoothly this buttonholer runs!  (Maybe I'll make a video.)







(I just discovered someone on Etsy is selling three buttonholer attachments -- including this one -- for just $18!)

As far as buttons go, well, I experimented with plastic and it looks kind of cheap -- and boring.  I'm not a brass button person, but I do like a dull silver or nickle button, so maybe I'll opt for something like that.





What do you think of a white/tan button?  Too limiting, too dandy?



Most of what you see is an innocuous matching button.  Maybe that's best.



In closing, setting aside brass buttons, what other sort of button would you put on a navy blue blazer?  Remember, it's linen, relatively casual, and for summer only.

Another hot day here but I may hustle my butt up to the button store regardless.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Have a great day, everybody!

58 comments:

  1. I might go for a plain brushed nickle finish, then. No fancy patterns, just plain 'cause this is a causal thing.

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  2. Wow, I can't believe I'm the first to post. Definately the brushed nickel or maybe a pewter colored button. If you wanted to go off the grid, maybe something in that color range but with an odd design on it, rather than the typical crest that you usually see. Great job, attempting a mens blazer is really out of my spectrum and I have been sewing for about as long as you have been alive.

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  3. I'd go with the dull silver/nickel. Looks classy.

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  4. I see your dilemma. How about a natural wood button? Keeps with the natural feel of linen...something like this: http://www.bennosbuttons.com/WD-4115-Natural-Wood-Button-p/wd-4115-natural%20wood%20button.htm

    Otherwise, I'd go with the silver idea. The blue matchy matchy one is really boring looking to me. Let us know what you chose!

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  5. I like the white/tan one. I think it adds more to the casual, summery feel. But that's just me.

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  6. Smooth pewter, brushed silver/nickel. Without a doubt.

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  7. Go for the burnished silver - it'll add a touch of class.

    BTW - Any idea why the models only button the top button? The look a bit uncomfortable.

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    1. I was told that, for men, jackets should always be worn with the bottom button unbuttoned. Something about stress & bending/sitting, but likely it's just a copy of upper classes looking comfortable in their impeccably tailored suits. I'm curious if anyone has another (better) reason.

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  8. Fronzel DeMarvinJuly 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    i love big metal butons..They add a touch of personality. but I hate doing buttonholes.. bound button holes look the best to me but i can never seem to bring myself to attempt them on anything I make.. I'm a bit afraid.. (I'm scaredy cat);though I've made countless samples. but your linen blazer looks amazing so far!!!!

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  9. luv the Herman Munster photo

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  10. I adore abalone or mother of pearl on linen.

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  11. Go for wooden buttons plus love the guy in the first picture. Is he coming to MPB day... Just kidding

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    1. Normally I would go with the majority and say silver/nickel, but the idea of the wooden button is so unique, plus it's natural like the linen. Let's go wood!!!!

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  12. Peter,

    May I gently suggest that light colored bone buttons work for both the season, and the dressiness of the garment (it's not a slouchy 80's linen jacket, after all).

    Forgive me for mentioning them in the same breath, but have you consulted Cathy and Laura Mae? Now that would be a 3-way call worthy of YouTube.

    Sign me,
    Never one to stir the pot

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  13. Please, please handsewn eyelet buttonholes and non-metal buttons in a matching color!

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  14. I like the metal button, but a wood one also sounds intriguing. Why not do hand sewn buttonholes like Matthias suggested? I think they would look nicer than the machine ones.

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  15. Could you try a button with blue in it, but a dull metal detail or inset. So you get a little glint but it's very subtle

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  16. What about wooden buttons, Peter? If not, brushed nickle would be my pick.

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  17. How about blue corozo nut buttons? They have a wonderful cool feel, and a beautiful slightly varigated coloration.

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  18. My preferences would be bone, horn or wood.

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  19. This buttonhole, please.
    http://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.com/2012/04/asola-lucida-some-instructions.html

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    Replies
    1. Only if I can do it blindfolded -- and with my feet. ;)

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  20. I'm on a blue blazer quest too, and I'm obsessed with horn buttons. Wooden buttons would also look fantastic.

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  21. I like horn buttons as well. Simple, nothing too fancy.
    Hand sewing. It takes practice. I remember Tany saying that she'd started hand sewing when she was a child. Her hand sewing is impeccable, but you can do it in lots less than 30 years. You also need the right needles and thread and some bees wax to keep the thread from knotting. I really like the needles that Susan Khalje sells on her website. But be sure and get a good needle threader because they are impossible to thread, at least for my eyes! I have a Clover that sits on the table top. It works quite well. The buttonholes look really nice except that most men's buttonholes in jackets are keyhole.

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    1. This is true and, alas, that's the compromise. My Singer buttonholer that uses templates has keyhole options, but the templates are either too small or way too large. Plus, can you ever really clean out that round keyhole area in homemade buttonholes?

      Claire Schaeffer's Couture Basics DVD is excellent for hand stitching, but it still takes time. I'm much better than I used to be! LOL

      And yes, sadly, I have utterly lost the ability to thread a needle without a threader...

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    2. Peter,

      How you read Jeffrey Diduch's piece on handsewing buttonholes? The result looks gorgeous: http://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.ie/2010/02/hand-made-buttonholes-video.html

      In order to get the clean round hole of the keyhole type buttonhole he uses a round punch and a hammer (as shown).

      Let me know if you'd like a piece of the buttonhole twist to try out.

      Best,

      Micheál

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  22. Cuban linen shirts and blazers usually use small matte wooden buttons and they usually look pretty natural overall

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  23. Oh, how fun! I always go to the store with the garment and experiment. They have so many choices. Even if I'm there all by myself, I talk to myself because buttons get me so excited. The fabric store people probably think I'm nuts, we know each other so well, it doesn't matter. I love buttons. You should play. I would love to go with you to look! This inspires me to sew something just so I have to go out and get buttons for it!!

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  24. Take weight into consideration too. If your linen is very light, the weight of the buttons will throw off the drape when it's unbuttoned.

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  25. I really like the white buttons on the blue blazers.

    I dread picking buttons for a garments.

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  26. Ever since I started using my singer buttonholer, the world of buttonholes has opened up. I owe it to you as I never would have got the nerve to use the thing if I hadn't been so indoctrinated here :-) And I like silver buttons - not heavy or large ones, just the right weight and shape to complement the garment.

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  27. I wondered if you were going to do bound button holes. I guess not; I haven't tried them yet even though my mom gave me the elusive vintage Dritz button hole guide in March. I like the nickel crest button and I laughed out loud and thought "Golden Girls" when I got to the last picture of the gold tone/pearl button.

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  28. There seem to be several Mettler threads available. Which did you use for your buttonholes? And what silk for the bottoms of the buttonholes? Were they suggested in one of your books?

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    1. This was sheer improvisation combined with cheapness. I had both the black mettler (poly sheen) and the silk (crimson) lying around, and I knew I wanted to use a finer thread than my Coats, but one that was still very strong, so I combined the two. It creates a nice tight buttonhole.

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  29. Looks very nice, Peter. You seemed to turn this out very quickly! I think I will wait till my next break before starting a project like this.

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  30. Peter, please splurge on keyhole buttonholes. They would be a beautiful detail on your jacket.

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  31. My vote is for the silver metal button. Can't wait to see the finished blazer!

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  32. Being a bit of a button obsessive (I sell them so I win the "who buys the most buttons competition" I just made up in my head!) I'd opt for a plain natural wooden sew through, maybe 4 holes. Wood looks great on blues and is casual, masculine acceptable but a little quirky for a blazer. :)

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  33. I think the silver/nickel button looks the best and it would be the most versatile.

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  34. I rather like tortoiseshell buttons on blazers...good ones.

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  35. Mother of pearl. Some of it comes with blue tones too, like abalone.

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  36. Silver is quite versatile. Plain blue as shown is too plain. Mother of pearl, if in the right shade and weight should also be gorgeous. Good luck, it look great so far.

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  37. The only thing to do in a situation like this is to take a scrap of the linen with you and go on a button search to see what catches your eye. Don't forget the possibility of recyclling buttons from a thrifted jacket.

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  38. Horn, bone or a grey/blue shell button would be my choice, but I also agree with Valerie. Go and stand in front of a button display and you might find something off-the-wall that speaks to you.

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  39. Silver! Silver on dark blue always looks great, imagine how weird the night sky would look with stars in any other colour. go with shiny silver buttons.

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  40. I like the idea of wood - should you choose one of the metals, be sure to use some super strong thread as the metals wear away the threads rather quickly and easily.

    And I LOVE using my antique Singer buttonholers - I have four or five, all for different machines. Some in old cardboard boxes and another in a space age aqua plastic case. Very funky!

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  41. I agree with an earlier poster - buttons matching the button hole thread. Maybe blue or grey-blue or an interesting matching type of button. I think the silver, even burnished, could be bright. You normally wear fantastic shirts and other accessories that would complement the blazer.

    Plus, if it's too boring you could always mix it up later. Well, my last thought is that if you go for the crumpled look the subtle button would be appropriate.

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  42. I do really like the brass buttons - but matching ones would probably be most versatile.

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  43. Well I have a button phobia so for me I wouldn't choose any for myself, however, I agree with the person who said to take a scrap of linen with you. I also agree with the comment about the buttons being too weighty too.

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  44. Please please do a video of the older style buttonholer. I am on a vintage machine collecting kick to enhance the new machine collection I have and am obsessed with them currently. I always used vintage needles that I inherited way back and had to turn to modern needles to handsew and was horrified that they were so difficult to use like sticking a nail through the fabrics. I went to ebay and bought more vintage needlepacks than I could ever need for several lifetimes so I won't ever face the issue again hopefully. One pack had the little rust ring where they were in the paper and I am using those first just stick them in a soap steel wool cleaning pad on the first use that lives in a sandwich bag in the sewing basket. Love your blazer and enjoyed seeing it in the steps of construction, whatever button is your choice. In a blazer I like ones that don't compete or limit with other metals on a bag, jewelry which wouldn's be an issue probably with you or blouse buttons I choose to wear with it. mssewcrazy-

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  45. I'd say dull silver buttons. Some have a dark blue-gray tint (steel?). Regular silver can be nice, too, but will definitely pop more and be part of the look.

    I'd avoid gold/brass and plastic for the same reasons as you, and I think totally matching buttons would look more conservative.

    Horn and wood are nice options, too, but I've only seen brown-ish horn and wood buttons, and don't know whether it would play well with navy (I'm firmly in the "no brown with navy" camp so ymmv :) )

    As for buttonholes, I'm an heretic and prefer machine BH to bound BH.

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  46. That vintage buttonholer is a neat little item.
    It appears smaller & more compact than my later model buttonholer. Smart & nicely designed. I think simper is better.

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  47. I bought the three buttonholers on Etsy. I can't wait to try the old Singer.

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    Replies
    1. Aha, so you snagged 'em. Have fun with them!

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  48. Please make a "How 2" video showing the singer buttonholer that doesn't use templates.
    Great Blog!
    G

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