Sew Together For summer

Announcing the Giftees of #sewtogetherforsummer 2017 plus our meet up in Bristol!

Sew Together For summer

You’re all winners!

I could end this post there. But I won’t! It is quite a lengthy one, so stick the kettle on or, y’know, pour yourself a glass of wine!

At any rate, any of the 400+ completed shirtdresses are totally deserving of a prize, or a gift. As you’re probably aware, the recipients of the sponsored #sewtogetherforsummer gifts were entirely chosen at random in order to ensure that everyone who entered had a fair chance of receiving something irrespective of sewing skill – this Challenge was always about inclusivity and participation; about upping your own sewing game, meeting new sewists, sharing knowledge and encouraging others. To put it simply, it was about being part of our wonderful online sewing community. And you all stepped up and proved without a doubt the power of that community – what a vibrant, talented and supportive group of people you all are – thank you all so much!


On Saturday 24th June, I (@sewsarahsmith on Insta) met up with my co-hosts Suzy (@sewing_in_spain) and Monika (@rocco.sienna) in Bristol to spend the day and to select the giftees. We’d talked online via Instagram for over a year and almost daily since January when the idea for #sewtogetherforsummer was born. I admit it, I was a bit nervous. The relationship we’d developed online felt incredibly special but meeting face to face was fantastic! They were both exactly as delightful as I thought they would be! From the very first second they burst out of the car to greet me outside Bristol train station, it was like a meeting between old friends. A reunion rather than a first meet. Sewing people really are the best and I feel incredibly fortunate – what a team!


First things first, we hit FabricLand – that place is great for a bargain – followed by a fabulous guided tour of Bristol before stopping off for lunch at the River Station, a great restaurant, err, stationed down by the river! Prosecco was poured (or Appletizer in Monika’s case!) and three fabulous courses eaten. The conversation and the laughter never faulted – I think we were probably more exuberant than a Hen Party taking place on a table behind us!


Then down to the business of selecting the winners!!

Sew Together For summer

Once we’d established internet connection, we began to pick the winners! Using an online number generator, we checked off each of the randomly generated numbers against our list of entrants. Then after  checking their Instagram feed to ensure compliance, we wrote down each picked name on pink card, folded them and put them in a hat with pictures of the gifts and selected the final combinations. Amid much laughter … it felt such a joyous thing to do.  I think the waiters in the restaurant were rather bemused!

I talk a little about #sewtogetherforsummer 2018 and the potential for a #sewtogetherforwinter challenge together with a personal message from each of us at the end of this post but now, without any further ado, here is the list of the 17 amazing sewists and the gifts they will receive:-

 *   T H E  G I F T E E S   *


* Hattie @hattie_van_der_krohn receives the £100 fabric bundle from Minerva Crafts


* Nic @shecouldsewshedid receives her pattern of choice from Megan Nielsen

Marianne @mariannes_makes receives two patterns (PDF if outside the UK) from Sew House Seven

* Isa @isaribeiro1 also receives two patterns (PDF if outside the UK) from Sew House Seven

* Dawn @dawn_doniquedesigns receives a pack of French Fancies Pattern Weights from Oh Sew Quaint


* Meg @meg_huckstep receives a £30 gift voucher from Beyond Measure

* Nina @nina_loves_sewing receives two sewing patterns of choice from Sew Me Something

* Anna @ompeleomaonnesi receives one pattern from Sew Over It

* Judith @judithcreations receives the Makers Workbook from Creative-Industry


* Jessie @jessiehuenmade receives a £30 voucher to spend online at Sewisfaction

* Elaine @laineemakes receives a copy of The Tunic Bible

* Jennifer @jenniferhbabey receives a £30 voucher to spend at Cotton Reel Studio

* Jess @jessamyb receives a copy of the Blackwood Cardigan from Helen’s Closet


* Hayley @stringsews recieves a £30 voucher to spend at from Adam Ross Fabrics

* Sue @acolourfulcanvas receives the Tapton Skirt and Fulwood Dress patterns from Wendy Ward

* Jenny @craftysewandsewindorset receives a medium sized subscription box from Sew Hayley Jane

* Marta @cosmia receives from a dress length of fabric from Suzy’s local shop tejidosarcoiris

CONGRATULATIONS to all of you!!!! We’ve also announced the winners across our Instagram feeds – can you please direct message myself, Suzy or Monika over on Instagram with your contact details (postal address and email) if you haven’t already done so so we can arrange to get your gifts sent to you! 

Thanks again to all our generous sponsors for supporting this event!!!

And also to Diane of Dream Cut Sew for her contribution to the buttonhole post and to Helen of Helen’s Closet for her Indie Shirtdress roundup.

So what happens next?! There have been lots of enquiries on our Instagram feeds as to whether #sewtogetherforsummer will be back next year. Yes it will! We’ve got a pretty good idea of the garment of choice but we’re keeping schtum for now! We’ve also been asked whether there will be a #sewtogetherforwinter challenge too – all I can say for at the moment is … watch this space!

And on that note, I’ll leave you with a personal message about what the Challenge has meant personally from each of us:-


SarahSewing has always been, for me, a way of connecting both with myself and, thanks to the power of social media, others. It is so (sew?!) much more than stitching together pieces of fabric – it’s self-care, it’s about learning to accept failure and allowing yourself to accept compliments. I’m still learning. #sewtogetherforsummer was my way of trying to put back in to our community, and to each individual sewist, at least some of all that I have gained. As a woman, a working class northern lass, I grew up with the sense of women competing against each other – but not here. Amongst our sewing community I feel I have found my tribe. I’ve made friends for life. Sewing is not about being the best, of trying to better others, but only ever about besting yourself. These were the sentiments upon which the #sewtogether Challenge(s) are built and, given your response, I know this resonated with so many of you! The uniqueness and originality you all showed in your Makes really showcased and highlighted the importance of diversity in any community. It has proved any experience, sewing included, really is ‘Better Together’. 

Sew together for summer

Suzy “Personally, #sewtogetherforsummer has been an amazing experience. I live quite far from most of the sewing action, and Instagram has allowed me to feel a part of the sewing community, so I saw that this challenge was a way of giving something back and having fun along the way. However, I think I´ve probably got more out of the challenge than I put in! Working with Monika and Sarah has been a joy, and I think we made a great team. Seeing all the gorgeous shirtdresses was hugely enjoyable, and I particularly loved the diversity and how sewists stamp their personality on their makes…so inspiring. I´ve also found talented people to follow and made more sewing friends. It´s impossible to describe the satisfaction at seeing less experienced sewists blossom, challenge themselves and then feel so happy with what they achieved. But, above all, the most important aspect for me has been the sheer energy given off by all these amazing people sewing together, supporting and encouraging each other. In a time of uncertainty, what could be better?”


Monika  “I’m so glad we decided to run #sewtogetherforsummer. I was genuinely overjoyed to see people from different parts of the world not just making their own shirtdresses but also encouraging and advising others. I often feel that we are defined by our jobs, marital status and nationality so I’m always encouraging everyone to have a hobby they feel passionate about (get sewing people!!!). To see beginners and experienced sewists challenging themselves felt pretty epic!
I loved working with Sarah and Suzy; having 3 different outlooks made for a friendlier challenge and we had such a good laugh along the way!
The internet and social media often gets a bad reputation but our friendly sewing community has proved that you can find genuine friendship and encouragement along the way, here’s to #sewtogetherforsummer2018!”

Until next time, sewing friends x

Sew Sarah smith

Liked this post? You can Follow me on Instagram HERE – All links to follow this blog found under the Comments section below! Xxx





McCalls 6696 Shirtdress: Ding Ding Round 2 – it’s a knockout!

Sew Sarah Smith

Ah McCalls 6696, what a bout we’ve had! You may recall that I documented Round One with this dress? It ended with me, well, losing … resulting, as it did, with a garment that was more tent than dress. However, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet – I really wanted to go the distance with this pattern; to put into practice all I felt I’d learned and so … here we are, Ding Ding: Round 2!

Firstly, to give myself a bit of distance from the pattern I sewed up a couple of other things, so that when I came back to it I didn’t feel jaded. It wasn’t just the fit of the dress that had me on the ropes, I decided, but the styling of it too. I felt a bit wishywashy in my original, I wanted something that packed a bit more of a punch. And that’s where the fabric comes in. I love this poplin! I feel it’s bold yet understated; I love that it’s polka dots but it’s also flowers and that it’s stable but also soft. Perfect! (It comes in three colourways, you can find it HERE).

Sew Together For Summer

Once I’d found the perfect fabric, it was easier to think about the style changes I wanted to make; I decided to replace the full collar with a mandarin one (by simply using only the collar stand pieces) and to add short sleeves. I feel this ‘toughens up’ the dress, preventing it from being overly girly, especially since I decided I wanted to keep the full skirt. I made View B, with belt loops.

McCall m6696 review

I decided to muslin the bodice again, going down a size and using the C cup pattern piece this time to get rid of the excess ease. (For comparison purposes, bear in mind I’m 5.3″, fairly petite but with a longer waistline). This told me that I still needed to:

  • do a small narrow shoulder adjustment (taking 0.25″ from each shoulder piece)
  • raise the armhole (and the underarm of the sleeve) by 0.5″ because the forward rotation of my arms felt a bit restricted
  • lower the side bust dart by 0.5″
  • take 2″ out of centre back. This took out all the gathers at the top of the bodice and left just a smidge of ease at the lower
  • do a 0.5″ sway back adjustment – meaning I took out 0.5″ out horizontally at bodice CB, tapering to nothing at the side seams. This also helped remove any residual pouffiness from the back bodice. I don’t think the gathers are solely to blame for the excessive pouff; I’m sure the length of the back bodice contributes.
  • as before, I did not shorten the skirt.
Fit adjustments
For illustration purposes only! Taken from ‘Fit for Real People’ by Palmer / Alto

And because I was pulling no punches, I decided to put all that into yet another toile. Together they added up to more fit/pattern alterations than I’d ever before attempted in one garment and I was a bit unsure of myself. But the next toile came out perfect and I proceeded to dance a circuit of my imaginary boxing ring, fist pumping! In reality I was dancing around the dining table like a loon but…well, let’s not dwell on that image!

So I cut into my fabric and got sewing! It was a joy. As you can imagine, I was so familiar with it by this stage, that I could just plough through the instructions. Though the only thing I did differently to them, I think, was to sew the sleeves in the flat and hem them that way – it’s just easier isn’t it. I also added an extra couple of belt loops, as before. As for the collar, I incorporated everything relevant from the Sewing Collars : 10 Tips ‘n’ Tricks! post, namely trimming the inner stand a smidge, interfacing the outer stand only within the seam lines and to sew the two pieces onto the neckline of the dress one at a time; rather than construct the collar and then attach it. I cannot tell you how happy I was with the way it turned out!

McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I like how I can wear it buttoned up to the neck, all ‘prim and proper like’ or have it open and more relaxed. The same with the skirt, button it the whole way down or to mid thigh for a flash of leg, hehe!

Fabric buttons

I again self-covered my buttons so that I have more freedom in terms of what colour accessories I can wear with the dress, i.e a tan belt like here, or a white one or a navy one. Gotta have options, right?!

And let me tell you, I’m so happy that I didn’t concede defeat with this pattern. I’m a bit pleased with it! And by ‘a bit’, I really mean a lot! It is the thing I’m most proud of sewing ever. Try as I might to find fault with it, I find myself only loving it. I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a ‘proper’ dress since I wore my wedding dress (which I most certainly did not make!) My confidence with tackling fit, whilst still not sky high, is definitely on the up. That was my #MMMay17 pledge to myself and ultimately the basis of the #sewtogetherforsummer Challenge. I know it seems like a lot of effort for one dress. But it’s not all for one dress; the things I’ve learned and put into practice here, and the confidence I’ve gained, are all transferable. That said, I do want another 6696 at some point! It’s a win-win!

Next up, fitting skinny pants!!! Wish me luck!

Until next time, thanks for reading



Collar tutorial

Sewing Collars : 10 Tips ‘n’ Tricks!

Collar tutorial

Following on from our Sewing Buttonholes : Tips n Tricks! post, today we bring you the second instalment of our #sewtogetherforsummer posts to help you create your best ever Shirtdress – our Top 10 tips ‘n’ tricks to sewing the perfect collar – I can’t wait to have another go at my McCalls 6696 Shirtdress so that I can incorporate some of these fantastic tips myself!

Sew together for summer

This post is guest-written by our lovely #sewtogetherforsummer Co-Host* Suzy. If you haven’t already met Suzy, let me tell you that she is a passionate, prolific and talented sewist, a keen Instagrammer and all-round lovely human being. Having learned the basics of dressmaking as a youngster, over the last four years she has rediscovered the delights of creating a handmade wardrobe. She lives in the province of Córdoba, southern Spain with her understanding husband and a menagerie of rescue dogs and a cat (that also thinks he’s a dog!)

Over to you Suzy!! 

IMG_7030First of all, thank you Sarah for letting me loose on your blog!

Let’s jump straight in!

A quick online search will bring up many styles of collar, but here let’s look at the classic shirt collar; it’s made of two parts, the collar and the collar stand. This image is from Gillian Holman´s ‘Pattern Cutting Made Easy‘.

1️⃣ On your marks


The most important part of successful collar making comes before we start sewing. Cut very precisely and double-check that your collar pieces match the pattern. Then transfer all the pattern markings on your pattern pieces. There are many ways of marking, but for collars I prefer old-fashioned tailor tacks and thread tracing as they don’t rub or iron off. Here I have thread traced the centre front and centre back with silk thread.

2️⃣ Biased approach

Still on cutting out – cut the undercollar on the bias, this helps the collar to roll gently under. You can draw a bias line on your pattern piece: just draw a square using the original grainline as one side and draw a diagonal line between two opposite corners.

3️⃣ What’s right for you?

Collar sewing tutorial

Think about your collar size and shape preference before you start; different collar shapes suit different face shapes. I often find collars of the big four pattern companies a bit large for my round face and short neck – I have finished a shirt, just to find I don’t like the shape or size of the collar. So before you start cutting, get hold of the pattern piece of a collar which you know you like – here I have a Grainline Studios Alder collar – and put it on top of your collar piece, here McCall’s 6696…you can see how much bigger the lower one is.

I would suggest tracing your collar and placing the other on top, then you can trim or reshape the pattern piece. Don’t touch the bottom seam which fits into the collar stand.

Alternatively, you can compare it to a RTW collar you like, but remember to add seam allowances. You could trim off the corners to give a rounded shape if you prefer; in this case, plenty of notches before turning out will give you a nice curve.

4️⃣ A quick trim

How's to collar sew along

Once you have cut out your collars, take the under collar and trim off a sliver of fabric, 2mm (just under 1/8th inch), from the sides and the top, but tapering to nothing at collar points. Trim the same amount from the curved edges of the inner collar stand. This also helps the collar to roll the right way.

My fabric frayed easily so my trimmings are a bit untidy, but if you are using a cotton it’ll be much easier.

5️⃣ Let’s interface it!

Interfacing is vital and will influence the look of your collar, so it’s worth considering what type you need before you start sewing.

  • For a soft collar look, use a cotton batiste instead, or a very light interfacing, or simply interface the under collar.
  • For a medium look interface the upper collar with interfacing of similar weight to the fabric
  • For a very crisp collar interface both the upper and lower collar pieces, or use several layers of organza.

Cut the interfacing to sit just within the seam allowance, so that it does not add bulk to the seams.

6️⃣ Flash point

How to sew collars sewalong

Let’s get sewing! Woohoo! Sew the two collar pieces wrong sides together, start stitching at the centre back mark of your collar, and make your stitches smaller as you get nearer the point. At the point, don’t pivot, but sew one or two small stitches on the corner, strangely enough this gives you a better point than a pivot.

Then turn the collar over and do the same for the other side from the centre back. Sewing from the middle will give you a more even collar.

Now trim and turn as usual. There is a wonderful couture way to turn the perfect points collar out using a thread sewn into the collar temporarily – you can find out more from Off the Cuffs blog post.


7️⃣ Collar under construction

Normally your pattern will tell you to make your collar and then attach the collar to the collar stand. The completed two piece collar is then attached to the neck of your shirt. I don´t know about you, but I have a heck of a job attaching the straightish and stiff constructed collar into a more wobbly and curved edge, and get the collar stand lined up. So this is the method I use nowadays, which gives me much better results.

How to sew collar sew alongcollar #sewtogetherforsummer

First of all, stay-stitch your neckline and cut snips inside the stay-stitching. Attach your interfaced outer collar stand to the neckline, start pinning at the centre back, matching all notches. The collar stand will extend 1.5cm, or whatever your seam allowance is, from the button band on each side. Stitch.

Shirtdress collar

Then attach your prepared collar to the collar stand, matching notches and the centre back markings (again I start pinning from the centre back). See how valuable that centre front thread tracing is now? Baste.

Now you just need to attach the other collar stand, sandwiching the collar in between the two stands, and stitch. Trim and turn out. Hooray! You can slipstitch the collar stand to the inner neckline, but I usually grade the seams, turn it out, press well, tack it in place and topstitch the collar stand, starting at the centre back once again.

Collar sewalong sewtogetherforsummer shirtdress

8️⃣ Keep your Template


I find it really helpful to make a template of the curved end of the collar band minus the seam allowances. I then keep it in with my pattern.

You can draw around it to make sure both sides of your collar band follow the same curve, and you can insert it inside to press the collar band before sewing down.

9️⃣ Add a little extra

How to sew a collar

It’s easy to attach a ribbon to your inner collar stand to make your shirt more special but it also gives the collar stand more stability and is used in men’s shirts to reduce wear.

You’ll need a piece of ribbon 4cm longer than your collar stand. Pin and tack it in place on the inner collar stand.

Then edge stitch both sides of the ribbon. Trim off the excess ribbon.

Then make up your collar as normal and the ribbon will be inside your collar.

Ribbon in collar
🔟 If all else fails…simplify

Collar tutorial

If you don’t like collars, or you or find it too time consuming, then you could just sew the collar stand and leave the collar off, to create a kind of Mandarin collar or granddad collar.

Attach the inner collar stand and then the outer stand as before.

So there you have it…10 tips and tricks to stop you getting hot under the collar!

Now over to you, what collar tips do you have? (Can you kindly leave them in the Comments section below for others to read please)

Suzy x

* The #sewtogetherforsummer Hosts

* Monika (@rocco.sienna )  * Sarah (@sewsarahsmith)  * Suzy (@sewing_in_spain )

Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith

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Sew together for summer shirtdress

McCalls 6696 Shirtdress – Ding Ding: Round One!

Sew together for summer shirtdress

You’d be forgiven for thinking, as a co-host of #sewtogetherforsummer, that I’ve  sewn a dozen shirtdresses before but…no. The Challenge was very much designed around the idea of encouraging us to dig deep into our pattern stashes and surface with a project kept on a back-burner for far too long. I’m certainly no exception – the closest thing I’d even sewn to a shirt, prior to this, was the top of the Carolyn Pajamas !

McCall 6696 mccalls

McCalls 6696 was one of my #2017MakeNine picks – as a pattern, it’s achieved almost iconic status. I know so many of you have it too. I like its classic design, with its full or straight skirt, back yoke and gathers, several sleeve options and, thanks be to the McCall pattern drafting gods, pockets too! However, my predominant reason for choosing this pattern was the fact that there are several front bodice pieces, each drafted for a different cup size. Although I’ve just about got to grips with doing Full Bust Adjustments, it’s great when the work is done for you. Unless that is, as I later discovered, you make a total boob of a mistake, as I did!

I duly took and noted down my measurements as instructed, deducting my High Bust measurement from my Full Bust measurement to determine which bodice piece I needed to trace. I also studiously noted down that I needed pattern bodice piece 2, drafted for a C cup. I then proceeded to cut out bodice piece No. 3 drafted for a ‘D’ cup. Because I’m ‘clever’ like that. I understand why I did so, the boobs have shrunk a bit recently – and whilst I thought I knew this, clearly my subconscious has not yet read the memo.

Sew together for summer shirtdress
I’m breathing IN trying to expand to fill the dress!! Hahaha!

I’d been sewing merrily away (I used this Swiss Dot fabric), blithely unaware and throughly enjoying myself, sewing most of the dress together before trying it on. And then I stood in front of the mirror, mouth no doubt agape, just taking stock of its…vastness! It took me a while to figure out exactly what had happened because the whole dress felt big not just the bodice front – that just felt especially big. Later that evening, after pondering put me at risk of a sleepless night, I got up and compared my traced pattern pieces to the originals, whereupon I finally clocked my mistake.

I tried it on again the next morning. Cutting out the wrong bodice piece alone clearly didn’t account for all the extra fabric I was swathed in. Let me take off the (too narrow) belt to fully show you…

Sew together for summersew Sarah smith

I altered the bust darts retrospectively in an, only moderately successful, attempt to take out some of the excess, but the armhole is at approximately 0.75″ too low (hello bra!) and I can pinch out well over 3” at the side seams. Even taking out a 1.5” wedge from the centre back prior to starting in order to reduce the risk of the gathers pouffing, has still left me with issues there.

Sew together for summer

How to determine size

Now all this might seem a bit doom and gloom but … not really! Y’see I really feel like I’ve learned something about fit with this dress. First of all, I’ve got to start thinking of myself as the size I am now (subconscious: read the memo!), cutting out patterns based on the finished measurements that I want. I confess, I couldn’t find the finished measurement information on the envelope or the instructions, plainly missing the little icon/chart on the pattern pieces themselves!

And/or I’ll measure the flat pattern pieces (e.g. to get the bust measurement I would measure front and back bodice pieces at the bust point, add them together and then deduct all seam allowances to get the finished measurement). Looking at the pattern pieces for this dress I can clearly see now where I was only partially sighted before… that the bust circumference on my traced pattern pieces for this dress resulted in 5.5” of excess. Even after taking away an allowance for ease, that’s still a whopping 3.5” more fabric than I’d wanted!

So I’m not at all sorry that my first 6696 is more akin to a tent than a dress! The mistakes were mine but so are the lessons learned. I’m happy!

As for the pattern itself, I love it! It’s got a slightly 90s retro vibe. I like how the knife pleats are drafted, so that they’re wider at the side seams and centre back so the skirt lays flatter at those points. I love the back yoke and the gather details. The instructions are clear but not handy-holdy. Oh, I did lengthen the carriers (belt loops) piece so as to make 6 loops not 4.

I didn’t attempt the ‘burrito method’ of stitching together the yoke pieces which resulted in a bit of hand sewing; in fact there’s quite a lot of slipstitching involved with this dress, to the point mine had seriously improved by the end!

The collar and collar stand are not difficult to construct although I am keen to try other methods and I’ll certainly topstitch at least the collar stand next time. If collars bother you, we do have a specific collar post HERE.

I had a lot of fun self-covering my buttons using my new little Prym gadget and putting all I learned from our Sewing Buttonholes : Tips n Tricks post to get a lovely finish to my buttonholes. This dress needs another button at the top but I’m done with it now!

So, whilst the dress is a fail in itself, it has been a great sewing experience and I am itching to put into practice all that I’ve learned for Round Two! (EDIT: I did it! See here)

Tell me, what is your best fitting tip?

Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith


Automatic buttonhole foot janome

Sewing Buttonholes : Tips n Tricks!

Automatic buttonhole foot janome

Since we launched the #sewtogetherforsummer  sewing challenge over on Instagram, a number of sewers have said that they’re really keen to participate but the thought of sewing buttonholes gives them the heebie-jeebies! So, with that in mind, here’s a post full of tips and tricks to get you confidently sewing those dreaded buttonholes into your shirtdresses! I’ll admit I’m no ‘buttonhole expert’ myself so in putting together this post I’ve drawn on a wealth of knowledge from two other very experienced sewists, Diane and Suzy; happily I’ve now learnt some great tips too!

Dream cut sew

If you haven’t met the lovely Diane yet, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her blog Dream. Cut. Sew. She has been a sewist for over 30 years and really knows her stuff!

To cover as much ground as possible, Diane talks you through creating buttonholes generally whilst specifically advising on how she creates them using the 4 to 6 step buttonhole dial on her Bernina; Suzy (@Sewing_in_Spain) steps in and offers a great tip too regarding buttonhole placement and I talk you through using an automatic buttonhole foot.

Please, if you’ve any great tips to add, in the spirit of #sewtogetherforsummer, could you kindly share them in the comments for others readers to see!

So, over to Diane…

Thank you so much for having me as guest blogger on your blog Sarah!

So let’s talk buttonholes. I think, as with all things sewing, the fear of any new technique is worse than the actual process itself. ‘The only way around is through’ as the saying goes and I believe that good preparation and practice are key.

First of all, make sure that the area you’re doing the buttonholes is properly interfaced for stability. Your practice piece of fabric also needs to have the same interfacing and amount of fabric layers as your actual garment so that you get a good final result.

SnapseedNow, some machines have a 4 to 6 step buttonhole dial and others have a long buttonhole foot attachment that your button fits into for measuring the length. My machine’s a Bernina and fits into the first category…I have 6 stages on my dial shown here…

The long foot attachment does work out the buttonhole length from the button held in it, but isn’t infallible….getting the right length for a domed button for instance…so I’ll address that problem later.

Onto marking out and measuring then: using either a special fabric pen that wears or washes away, chalk, or basting thread, you need to mark the position and length of your buttonholes. Note: the buttonhole markings on a pattern are there for position only and not to indicate the length of your finished buttonhole….they are either vertical or horizontal on the centre line. Horizontal markings always cross the CF line to account for the button shank/thread and the end of the buttonhole.


A good way to measure the length of a button is to get a narrow tape or ribbon and wrapping it around your button, pin the ends together. This is really good for domed buttons which end up needing a much bigger buttonhole than you might think. Fold the ribbon you pinned in half and then add a small amount of ease of about ⅛”, maybe a smidge more … that will be your finished buttonhole length. If you were to use a domed button in a long foot attachment I suggest you measure the button and then find a flat one of the same diameter as the length that you measure and place that in your attachment instead to get an accurate final buttonhole length*.

Regarding machine and stitch settings, it’s really important to get your bobbin tension right. No lower thread should be showing from the front at all so a tighter bobbin tension is essential. On my Bernina there is a small hole on the little arm of my bobbin case that I have to pull my thread through to create a tight tension. If you don’t have this you should be able to use a small screwdriver to adjust the tension on the case itself.

For those of you with the long foot attachments always make sure that the lever on the (usually left) side is pushed into the correct position before you start each buttonhole and refer to your instruction manual for getting the right stitch length and width settings. Those of you without that foot, will most likely have a machine foot like mine that has grooves on the bottom to accommodate the ridge of the stitches Snapseedwhen you sew. I always notice a difference if I inadvertently forget to change feet because the process just isn’t as smooth running. Oh, and I nearly forgot to say that if you have a 4-6 stage dial setup like mine…don’t forget to have your needle in the up position before changing your dial, because you might break a needle (don’t ask me how I know!) Now is the time to start practising a couple of buttonholes before you do your final product. Don’t be scared…just practise till you’re satisfied you feel confident and, above all, don’t rush.

Assuming you’re happy with all of your finished lovely new buttonholes, you now have to cut them open. You can either place a pin at one end as a stop and use a seam ripper or use a buttonhole chisel and a wood block.

Tutorial buttonholes sewing

Then comes the button position marking. I always do this after I’ve cut all my buttonholes. Laying my garment over the ironing board, I overlap the fronts aligning the centres and I poke a pencil through the end of each buttonhole to make a little dot on the other front…and then it’s just a matter of sewing on the buttons.


So there you have it. I hope I managed to cover most things for you. Best of luck with all those wonderful shirtdresses!


Suzy´s tips for effective buttonholes

IMG_5872Patterns always mark the buttonholes but, as we are all different shapes, that spacing might not be the best for you. Before you start sewing your buttonholes, try on the garment and mark the widest point of the bust on the button band – here marked with a red pin. If necessary, you can also mark the widest tummy point too. This means you need buttons at those points to prevent gaping. Using the bust mark (and tummy mark, if used) as a starting point, work out the spacing of your other buttonholes, between 3 and 3.5 inches or 7.5 and 9 cm. This way you will have a shirt or shirtdress which never gapes! If you have a Buttonhole Gauge  that makes it even easier to determine!


It’s easy to remember that women’s clothes are ‘right side over left’ because a woman is always right! Sorry chaps!


The Automatic Buttonhole (aka…my two-pence worth!)

A lot of machines these days come with an automatic buttonhole setting as standard   to be used with the automatic buttonhole foot.  As Diane says, check your own machine’s User Manual, but in general this is how they work:

SnapseedFirst, choose your button! Put it into the designated slot in your foot and make sure that the holder is pushed up tight against the button and that the button itself is laying flat. (*Remember Diane’s tip if your button is domed, to insert a flat button that bit bigger than the button you will actually be sewing onto your garment). Then attach the foot to your machine (with the button at the back) and position your needle over your  first mark. Mine stitches the bottom bar first then sews up the left channel, top bar and back down the right hand side to finish at the starting position.

Before you start sewing it is vital that you have pulled down the buttonhole lever/sensor located on the left hand side. This works in tandem with your buttonhole foot to determine the size of the buttonhole your machine will produce. And sew away! I have to click to ‘reset’ my machine after each buttonhole so that it doesn’t get confuddled.  (I could do with a reset button myself too sometimes!)

The last thing to add is, before I tackle any new sewing task, I automatically Google and/or search You Tube. There is always someone out there who will have covered exactly what you’re wishing to learn. The online sewing community is a sharing and open space. Post a query on Instagram; I’ve no doubt you’ll get your answer!!

For example, I posted that I was planning to sew McCalls 6696 as my first Shirtdress for the Challenge (my first Shirtdress ever, in fact) and the lovely Jane of Handmade Jane kindly commented that she had needed to sew an extra buttonhole into the waist of this dress to prevent gaping. This reminded me of another great tip of Jane’s about sewing inward facing buttonholes in any area of remaining gape on the inside of the button band so it’s invisible from the front. Genius! You can find her whole post here.

So, until next time, I hope this was helpful (please do leave your own tips for others in the comments!)

Sew Sarah smith

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