It is easy to make 14th century buttonholes. The hard thing is to make them look neat and pretty. The first five hundred is a bitch. 😉
No, not really. But it takes a little practise and patiance to get it right. And since I’m not the most patient medievalist around, I sometimes I feel that buttons and buttonholes are the curse of the 14th century.
Whenever I state this, my friend Johan reminds me that I only say so because I’m vain. (He is right about that.) Then I reply that he only says I’m vain because he is old(er) and not as good looking as I (not true). Then he gets grumpy, and I keep on sewing buttonholes…
It is perfectly fine to make your 14th century clothes without buttons (or lacing), if you make them not so tightly fitted. Here are some pictures on how I work my buttonholes, but mind you, I’m not sure I’ve done my first five hundred yet, so they are far from perfect…
I place my buttonholes close to the edge, about 3 mm is fine. Before I cut a hole in my fabric, I stitch the outline of the buttonhole around the needle marking the placing of the buttonhole (above). I think that makes the lines nice and straight.
I make the hole in two steps. First I cut a short slit only halfway towards the middle of the buttonhole. Then I repeat the procedure from the other end, working towards the middle. Be careful not to cut of thread that outlines the buttonhole.
Sometimes I work my buttonholes from the inside of the garment, sometimes from the outside, but always I use the same strategy throu the hole garment. If the garment is lined with linnen as on these pictures, I can use the pattern of the linnen weaft on the inside to make sure I get an even spacing between the stitches. But sadly, that doesn’t guarantee your work looks pretty on the right side. It is often a bit harder to sew your buttonhole from the right side of the garment without the guidance of the grain of the linnen, but you can see exactly how it turns out as you work.
I really hope my tips have been more helpful and inspiring than discouraging. If you need more guidance on the topic I think that The Medieval Tailor has the best and simplest guide I’ve been able to find on-line on how to make your own hand stitched buttonholes 14th century style.
Good luck with your buttonholes! I’m looking forward to see you all buttoned up at Battle of Wisby, only ten weeks to go now before the event!