Thursday, March 17, 2011

Button Pouch Tutorial


For the Button Pouch I made for Lucy, I chose two vintage grain-bag fabrics a friend had given me, and I went back and forth with the purple plaid, and whether I should applique an elephant on the front. 
"Purple elephant or no purple elephant...purple elephant or no purple elephant?" 
In the end I opted for something a little more subtle.

For the lining I chose to use the reverse side of some hand-me-down L.L.Bean blue jeans. The stiffness of the denim allowed me to forgo interfacing and keep the pouch 100% cotton. Yay!

You may have noticed that this button pouch is the same one I made in a clutch size for some Christmas gifts.

This is a great project for someone who needs a little bravery while sewing, because everything is pretty basic and quick, but the results are superb. You will learn what to do with threads when you aren't backstitching (step 11), and how to make a simple bound buttonhole (steps 12-16).

If you are following along and making a button pouch you will need:

1 denim or canvas piece 7in by 11.5 in
1 Fabric of your choice 7in by 11.5 in OR for stripes cut 5 1.8in by 11.5in (or stripes of your choice totaling 7 inches wide plus 1/4in for each seam allowance)
1 matching fabric ~3in by 2in for the bound buttonhole
1 large unique button

Seam allowances will be 1/4 inch, except in one place where it is clearly stated.

1. Lay out your pieces to make sure they are cut properly, and iron.

2. If you are making a striped bag, pin 2 adjacent stripes right sides facing, and sew at 1/4inch. Add each stripe, and repeat until piece measures 7 inches wide.  Iron seams open. If you wish, embellish by top stitching 1/8 inch from some of the seams with a coordinating thread color. I chose to use blue (see completed photos).
*If you're not making stripes skip step 2 .*

3. On the wrong side of your denim lining piece, mark 2 inches from edge, which will be the line of fold for the flap. Next, mark 1 inch from the edge, and also the center where the point of the flap will be. Using your ruler, make a rounded triangle by measuring from the 1 inch line to the center point from each edge. Cut where you have traced.

Yes, my "ironing board" is an old pink towel. But it's multi-purpose, and that's what counts.

4. Use your lining piece to trace the same flap shape onto your striped piece, then iron both into the pouch shape. (Flap 2 inches from tip to crease, front 4.5 inches, back 4.5 inches.)

5. After you have ironed both pieces into the pouch shape, wrong sides out, open the flap and carefully roll the back edge down 1/4 inch and iron in place.

6. Sew the side seams of each piece, using a 1/2 in seam allowance for the lining piece, and a 1/4 in seam allowance for the outside piece. Backstitch, then trim the seams to half their size, rounding at the corner.

7. Carefully match your two pieces, pocket sides together, and pin only the top flaps.

8. Sew the top flaps together, at 1/4 in seam allowance,

trim corners and clip the curve, and then flip the flap to be right sides out.

9. Flip the striped fabric pocket, and push the lining piece into it. Iron. 

10. Pin the edges carefully, letting the lining roll out on the edge of the flap to make a faux pipping. Leaving starting and ending threads long, sew, starting and ending at the middle of the back edge. Do not backstitch.


I sew everything using a zipper foot, but I think that's okay.

11. Now you should have long threads dangling off like this.

Take a hand sewing needle and thread it with the threads on the outside, and pull them inside at the point where they originate from. Knot each thread with its partner on the inside (using two of those crossover things you use when you begin to tie your shoe). Finally, a pair of knotted threads through your needle, and pull it into the fabric, exiting at a distance. Pull on the threads to draw the knot inside, then clip the threads while you have them tight, so the ends are forever trapped between the layers. Repeat for the other pair of threads. This is how you should treat threads whenever you end your stitches out in the open. (On another project, if you backstitch and trim close you will still have thread ends, so you might want to use this even if you backstitch somewhere visible.)

You are almost done!

12. *Bound button holes are not that hard, BUT perform these button hole instructions on using test fabric first to make sure you get it wide enough for your button, because you can't really go back.*

Roll the edges of your small fabric piece and iron (I think I used 1/4 in). Then make sure it fits and will look good at its final resting place on the inside flap.

13. On the OUTSIDE of your flap, pin the swatch to the flap, right sides together, making sure it is horizontally centered. Trace your buttonhole 1/4 wide, and wide enough to slide your button through (again, your test run will help you decide this. Also trace a >----< shape into the center of your rectangle, and those will be your cut marks.

14. Sew on the rectangle very carefully. Over lapping one or two stitches when you make it all the way around, but not backstitching. Cut on the lines. Don't trim the fabrics.

15. Press your fabric piece through the cut marks,

and readjust on the other side. Iron your button hole with even edges visible on the front side, and a  little bow in place on the back.

16. Top stitch around the edge of your buttonhole,

And hand-sew around the little bow on the back.

Now you're done!
Unless, you have a spot on your fabric showing a little too much vintage...

In that case, trace your little shape on with marking pencil (or just pencil if you're brave like me), and follow the Split Stitch tutorial by Jaros Designs. I just used the same blue thread since my elephant is tiny.

And you're done!

If you follow this tutorial I would love to see what you've created! Go ahead and share your project in the Harmless Color flickr pool. (The pool is newly opened, but I would also love to see pictures of any of the recipes or other projects you have followed from the blog.) 
My design is for personal use only, but if you are interested in making some for selling please contact me and we can work something out.

Isn't that big vintage button great?

What have you been making lately?

Do you use bound buttonholes much? Do you make them a little differently?


  1. this is a very through tutorial! Thanks! I do make my button holes differently, but it was nice to see how you do it!

  2. I can barely sew a button on anything, let alone use a sewing machine! But I love how you use the fabric :-)

    And I absolutely LOVE your banner!!

  3. Great tutorial! Love the cute little elephant :)

  4. This is a very clear tutorial even for me. I plan to try this project and if it doesn't turn out well, purchase one from you.

  5. Cool tutorial! Wish I was more of a machine sewer,, but I have no skills at it at all.

    I wanted to let you know that I gave you the stylish blogger award today! Check it out here: Stitching in Circles

  6. Wow! This is such a cool tutorial. I'm trying to learn how to do button holes right now and this is so impressive and fun looking :)

  7. I love this tutorial. How did you make the adorable little elephant? Did you just hand sew it? I am a beginner, but love the idea of a little trademark design on items I sew :-)

  8. Fantastic tutorial! Might just have to spend my bank holiday making these!


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