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The Art of the Buttonhole

An online class to teach you how to make beautiful, historically-accurate buttonholes.

Have you ever gotten to that point on a sewing project where it was time to work on the buttonholes, but just the thought filled you with anxiety or dread? I know that used to happen a lot to me!

Buttonholes are at the same time one of the smallest parts of tailoring, yet one of the most important. A buttonhole must be strong enough to take years of stress from buttoning and unbuttoning. And a good buttonhole makes the outfit, while a poorly-made buttonhole can ruin an entire coat.

Years ago I originally put together this tutorial and have since updated it with higher-quality videos, better instruction, and a way for you to share photos of your own work and get personal help and friendly critiques from me.

Sewing a buttonhole by hand.

I’m offering this masterclass here on my website on how to sew your own buttonholes using traditional tailoring techniques that go back hundreds of years. It's a great opportunity whether you’re learning from scratch, or just want to improve your existing buttonhole skills.

I reproduce 18th century garments I only dabble in the 19th century, however, in saying this, awesome button holes have always been my down fall. When I saw your post about a workshop on button holes I said to myself, “that is exactly what I need”. Even though the button hole shape is slightly different I was positive that there would be enough similarities that I would be able to apply it to the century I specialize in, I was right. Your pictures, instruction, and video were so informative and bang on. You offer fabulous feedback on anything sent to you and tips on how to improve.
- Bernadette

About the Author

James Williams has been historical tailoring professionally for over 16 years, having gotten his start in American Civil War reenacting and wanting to learn to make his own clothing. He began teaching the craft in 2011 and since then has helped hundreds of people to improve their skills in historical tailoring. In 2020, James was honored to write a feature article for Threads Magazine on buttonhole making, much of the material having been taken from this course and condensed for print.

James also enjoys cooking, hiking, gardening, hand tool woodworking, and playing classical music (he may have too many hobbies!).

James Williams, buttonhole article, Threads Magazine.


The following material is covered in this four-part class, both in written form with photographs, and with high-definition video:

  • Buttonhole Layout

  • Cutting the Buttonholes

  • Preventing Fraying

  • Buttonhole Gimp or Four-Cord

  • The Buttonhole Stitch

You'll also be able to post photos of your own work so that I can give you personalized tips on improving your buttonholes. Or just to show off!

The class begins right after you sign up, but you can take things at your own pace, especially if you have to order supplies.

Through many years of sewing, this tutorial was the most clear and comprehensive instruction I have encountered. Beginning with listing the proper materials and tools, these modules walked through precise details to make preparation, layout, and construction result in exquisite keyhole buttonholes. The professional quality videos went even further to demonstrate technique in motion. There were steps to make layout precise, yet faster. More steps showed how to secure edges to prevent fraying, make gimp for distinctive results, and stitch beautifully. Just as playing tennis with someone more skillful improves one's game, sewing with this instruction will improve anyone's level of excellence.
- Kathy Bradford, Preservation Parcels


Here are the necessary supplies you'll need for the class. I've provided links to some of the rarer items, but you can probably find other sources with a Google search.

  • Tape Measure or Quilting Ruler

  • Seam Gauge

  • Beeswax

  • Small embroidery-type scissors

  • Tailor's Chalk

  • 1/8″ Hollow Hole Punch (usually available at hardware stores).

  • 1/2″ Chisel (sewing stores usually sell these).

  • Flat Board (scraps are fine, you could go as small as a couple of inches square, used to punch open the buttonholes).

  • **Buttonhole Punch (As an alternative to the hollow punch and chisel. Only worth it if you are making hundreds of buttonholes on a professional basis).

  • Gutermann Silk Buttonhole Twist (available in 10 yard and 437 yard spools depending on the shop. Estimate 2 to 3 yards per buttonhole).

  • Sewing Thread (Something on the thin/fine side, I like silk thread but cotton will work too).

  • Two equally sized pieces of fabric, approximately 4 – 6″ by 10 – 12″. These will be sewn together to mimic a coat front for practice. Wool, linen, and silk are all good options.

  • Linen (One piece to match the size of your fabric to act as a canvas).


The Art of the Buttonhole
$ 30 /Lifetime Access
  • Written instruction with photographs
  • Video instruction for each step
  • Personal help from James
  • Learn historical tailoring techniques
Register Now

30 Day Money Back Guarantee

When you register for a class at Historical Tailoring Masterclasses you are fully protected by our 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t feel like you’ve received value or you decide you want to cancel any time within the next 30 days, just let us know and you'll be sent a prompt refund.