Corded Buttonhole Tutorial

I haven’t seen other sewists using corded buttonholes, so I’m here to share a simple technique that will give you better buttonholes on tricky fabrics! I used this technique on my esme cardigan in my last blog post!

Corded buttonholes can be used for practical reasons as it provides extra stabilization when used with interfacing on fabrics like bouclé, sweater knits, and stretch wovens. It also works great on buttonholes that are extra long. Long buttonholes tend to sag open on some fabric creating the “duck lip” look. Duck lips look just as bad on buttonholes as they do in selfies!

Corded buttonholes can also be used for purely aesthetic reasons too. Regular buttonhole stitching can disappear on thick fabrics, but corded buttonholes can create 3D stitching that looks great on denim, corduroy, suiting, and coating fabrics.

It is essential that you use interfacing appropriate for your fabric. If you are working with a knit fabric, you must use a fusible tricot interfacing so the interfacing stretches with the fabric. For woven fabrics, I prefer to use a woven fusible as opposed to non-woven, but this is more of a personal preference. I recommend using perle (also called pearl) cotton for the cord. It is available in many colors so you can match your thread, and it is heavily twisted and will not separate unlike embroidery floss. I used size 5 DMC brand. Size 5 is about the largest you could use for this application. If you are sewing a corded buttonhole in a thinner fabric and do not want a 3D look, you can use buttonhole twist thread for stability without a difference in appearance.

Here is how I make corded buttonholes on my Bernina. Consult your machine’s manual for for tips using your machine.

1. Mark the buttonhole placement, and apply the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric according to the manufacturer’s directions.

2. Set up your machine for a buttonhole stitch. Lower the needle of your machine into the fabric, but don’t lower the presser foot yet.

3. Cut about eight inches of  cord. Loop the cord over the front middle “toe” of the foot and bring the cord ends under the foot and hold them in your left hand behind the presser foot.  The needle will be inbetween the threads. (Some buttonhole feet have a prong in the back for cording. In this case, you would loop the cord over the back prong and hold the ends in front of the presser foot.)

Sewing a corded buttonhole Bernina presser foot
4. Lower the presser foot. Double check that the cord is on either side of the needle. The cord needs to be close to the needle so the cord will be within the zig-zag stitch when the buttonhole is stitched.

Corded buttonhole tutorial Bernina presser foot
5. Stitch the buttonhole, and loosely hold onto the cord. The cord will slide through your fingers as the buttonhole is being stitched. Go slowly, and make sure the cord doesn’t slip out of place.

6. Pull the loose ends of the cord to get rid of the loop. Thread both the cord ends through a hand sewing needle with a large eye, and insert the needle at the base of the buttonhole pulling the extra cord to the wrong side of the fabric. Tie a knot, and trim the ends. You are done!

Sewing corded buttonhole tutorial

Here is a side by side comparison of a corded buttonhole (bottom) and a regular buttonhole (top) on coated cotton canvas fabric.

Sewing corded buttonhole buttonholes tutorial
Here is another comparison with very long buttonholes on a heavy knit fabric. The corded buttonhole is on the left.

Sewing corded buttonholes in knit fabric
Here is another picture after the buttonholes were cut open and the fabric was stretched a bit to simulate wear. See how the corded buttonhole lays flat and doesn’t stretch out?

Sewing corded buttonholes in knit fabric
Have you ever tried corded buttonholes in the past? Are you going to use this technique on a future project? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!


Waxed Canvas Duffel Bag 

img_6576I almost always sew exclusively for myself, but I’ve felt so generous lately, I’ve decided to make my husband something. I have been wanting to sew with waxed canvas for a while, and the Portside Travel Set by Grainline Studios was the perfect project to try this fabric. I looked at fabric that came pre-waxed, but I elected to wax my own fabric because I found some heavyweight canvas duck cloth and matching quilting cotton for the lining on sale at Joanns. Hardware and cotton webbing were purchased on Etsy.

img_6520I used Otter Wax (purchased on Amazon). In case you are wondering, Otter Wax contains beeswax and plant-based ingredients. Not otters! There are several methods you can use to apply the wax. A quick You Tube search on “how to wax fabric” will show you there are other ways to apply the wax successfully without following Otter Wax’s directions.

However, I elected to not follow any of these directions.  I cut out my pattern pieces as usual, and then, I applied the Otter Wax to each piece by rubbing a light coat of wax onto the fabric. Then, I ironed the fabric using a press cloth to protect my iron from getting waxy. Repeat this process until waterproof. 

Towards the end of waxing all of the pieces, the press cloth got saturated with wax and wax ended up getting onto my iron, but it wiped off very easily while the iron was still hot. If you don’t have fabric to use as a press cloth you can apply wax to the right sides of each pattern piece, arrange them wax sides together and then iron.

Be sure to cover your ironing board unless you want all your clothes to be covered in wax henceforward! I used scraps of duck cloth and it worked great.


Waxing all three bags used two 2.25oz bars of Otter Wax. After ironing, your pieces are ready to sew immediately. The newly-waxed fabric does not need 24 hours to cure, unlike other methods. I sewed up the bags using a denim needle, and there is no waxy buildup inside my machine or even on the needle!


img_6579The Portside duffel is huge, and perfect for a weekend-long trip.  Also, the dopp kit (aka toiletry bag) is roomy too (see photo at left). I stuffed 10 pairs of socks in it for the photo!

Both the duffel and the dopp kit are lined with navy and white arrow-print fabric.

Only a few minor modifications were made to the pattern. One, I only used 1.5″ webbing instead of using two sizes, and two, I used a buckle slider instead of two d-rings on the duffel strap.

I am so jealous of my husband’s new luggage set! I need to make one for myself now. In the future, I’ll try lining the dopp kit with oilcloth or vinyl so make-up spills can be wiped up easily. Also, I will make the pouch out of clear vinyl for a TSA-friendly liquids bag!

Maybe I’ll start seeing other Portside Travel Sets at the airport soon! Happy sewing!