buttonholes

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!

Esme Cardigan

The Esme Cardigan is a fun, fashion-forward cardigan pattern perfect for medium or heavyweight knit fabrics with minimal stretch. The oversized look and dropped shoulder seams are right on-trend, and this would be a great project for beginners!

Named esme cardigan

The cardigan is made with a black and white metallic boucle knit from Stylish Fabric. Sadly, this fabric is no longer available on their website. I think this cardigan would look best sewn with knits that look more dressy as opposed to casual. Heavily textured fabrics, wool, or wool blend knits would be great options. However, an Esme sewn in a casual cotton sweatshirt jersey or cotton French terry might look more like your grandma’s house coat and less like a chic cardigan. FYI, B&J Fabrics’ website has a huge selection of wool knits and textured novelty knits right now. They are perfect for the Esme. Stylish Fabric still has a few heavier knits in stock too.


My measurements indicated I was a size small by Named’s sizing standards, but I decided to cut out the extra small based on the finished garment measurements. This pattern has a lot of ease!

I made several small changes to this pattern. I shortened the length to hit just above the knee, and also made a slight high-low hem. The back is 2.5 inches longer than the front. Also, I eliminated the seam that originally joined the upper and lower front pieces, and I changed the pocket style from in-seam pockets to welt pockets. This particular Named PDF pattern has seam allowance and stitching lines marked which made pattern hacking easy.  For the welts, placket and cuffs, I used the wrong side of the fabric, and I love how it turned out! I wish all fabric had a beautiful wrong side!


My pockets are two inches narrower than the original in-seam pockets. I was able to use the same pattern piece for the pocket bag, but I trimmed the sides down to match the new pocket width. Sewing welt pockets in knits uses the same process as inserting welt pockets in woven fabric; just make sure you use interfacing made specifically for knits like a fusible tricot! Use a pressing tool, a clapper, to get a crisp, folded edge on the welt.


I hemmed the cardigan by hand using a catch stitch. It stretches nicely with the knit.


I used corded button holes on this knit for and added stability and because they look amazing on thick fabric. Larger buttonholes tend to appear wavy or saggy on knits after they are cut open even with the appropriate interfacing. The cording also gives the buttonhole more of a 3D look as some buttonhole stitching gets lost in chunky knits.

Esme cardigan named patterns
Come back next week for a tutorial on corded buttonholes! Until then, I’ll be enjoying this early Charleston spring weather.