buttonholes in shearling; a tutorial

P1130091When making my shearing jacket I came up to the important matter of buttonholes… what to have?  I’d googled and pinned a few shearling jackets when planning the details and features that I wanted to have in my new jacket, but it’s not always easy to make out the finer construction details of the nitty gritty like buttonholes in far-away, full-length pictures on the net.  As usual, it came down to knuckling down and working out how to do it myself.

I trialled several different types of buttonholes but am only sharing here the details of my two “finalists”, the two types I eventually decided upon using for my jacket.

Sewing details: I’m using a faux shearling, but this technique would be fine for real shearling too, as well as for thick leather or other thick and bulky, non-frayable fabrics.  For real leathers which can be very thick and tough, use a leather needle and sturdy threads like upholstery or topstitching thread.

The first buttonhole, pictured above; is designed to look well-finished and to look identical from both sides of the fabric, meaning, both the suede outside and the woolly inside of the shearling fabric.  I used this technique for down the front opening edges of my jacket and on the buttoned wrist bands.  It is like the shearling version of a bound buttonhole, if you like.


Mark the buttonholes on the suede right side to be the same length as the buttons; in this case 2.5cm (1″), and cut two rectangular, self-fabric “bindings” per buttonhole, each the same width as the buttonhole – 2.5cm (1″) wide, and 2cm (6/8″) long.  Trim away the shearling from the wrong side of the bindings as closely as possible, and cut the buttonhole slit in the fabric between the marking pins.  I used a rotary cutter for the middle bit, for straightness and for a clean cut, then clipped into the ends with small sharp scissors.


Trim away the wool from around the buttonhole slit on the wrong side out to a width of 1cm (3/8″) each side

Wrap the bindings around the buttonhole edges and align edges top and underneath as neatly and as evenly as possible; pin.  Stitch carefully along the long edge just inside the cut edges.  Also, stitch-in-the-ditch along the short edges of the buttonhole also, to strengthen the slit and help prevent it from ripping out.  Truth be told, I wouldn’t think ripping is all that likely in a tough fabric like shearling, but not impossible of course, so I reckoned it was better to be safe rather than sorry!


It’s more important for the stitching to be perfectly neat and even on the right side of the jacket than the wrong side, obviously.  If the inside shows uneven edges, they can be trimmed off with small, sharp scissors.


And that’s it! pretty simple really.  Apart from the fact that it looks almost smart and sorta polished as much as a raw-edged rustic technique can look, the beauty of this buttonhole is also that it looks identical from both right and wrong side of the fabric.. also I think the suede wrapped edges looks quite attractive against the woolly insides too!


The second type of buttonhole I devised is an easier, more workmanlike, “invisible” buttonhole, which is situated on the lapels and collars of my jacket.  I wanted this one to be less obtrusive; to still look acceptably nice if seen from the outside of the coat, but more importantly to be as invisible as possible on the wrong, woolly side of the fabric.  Reason; I wanted to have the option to wear the coat sometimes with the lapels and collar fully buttoned up, and also sometimes unbuttoned; and when unbuttoned I didn’t want them to show at all.


This one is like a letterbox-on-a-door, with an outside facing to reinforce and strengthen it on the right side.  Cut a rectangle of shearling, 4cm (1 1/2″) wide and 1.5cm(5/8″) long, for each buttonhole, and trim away most of the wool from the wrong side.  You can trim away the wool as completely as possible if desired, or if you want a frame of wool to fluff out around the edges,  leave a slim border untrimmed around the edge.  I decided a lightly woolly frame looks pretty cute, and couldn’t resist having it for my buttonholes.

fluffy edges are cute!!!

Pin the trimmed rectangle to the right side of the fabric where the buttonhole will be, and stitch just inside each edge.  Remember to use white or ivory thread in the bobbin!  Cut the buttonhole through both layers, using a rotary cutter for the middle bit, and snipping out to the edges with small sharp embroidery scissors.


I think it looks nice from the outside, but the best bit is that it is almost completely invisible on the wrong side!

For the button inside the collar, I needed something matching the woolly interior; and found the perfect, ivory tweed, covered button, originally from my grandmother’s stash and, knowing my grandmother, I expect it was salvaged from off of an old coat or skirt or something.  Waste not want not! and I’m glad she did because it has finally found the perfect home  🙂


I hope my tutorial proves useful to someone… as always if it is helpful then please do leave a comment saying so.  Thank you!

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9 Thoughts on “buttonholes in shearling; a tutorial

  1. Great tutorial. I’ll remember this when I make my leather jacket later this year. Gotta love Grandma’s button stash. My m-i-l gave me a jar full of buttons a while ago, there’s all sorts of treasures in there.

  2. Rennai on 06/02/2016 at 7:49 pm said:

    Very clever wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’ve been worried about making bound button holes in a double-faced wool coat I’m planning. Attempts at regular button holes have failed. The thickness of the fabric makes bound seem a poor choice. This may just work! I even have some extra wool from another project to practice with. Thank you!

  4. I’m not at that “make a shearing coat” stage in my sewing development BUT I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how YOU would sew buttonholes on shearing 🙂 Brilliant and really applicable to a number of different fabrics – I was thinking about a heavy velvet for example where your same methodology would work really well too.
    I always love your posts Carolyn! I always learn something 🙂

  5. Thank you this is very informative and will come in use some day as I can see this type of jacket on my sewing list.

    Have you seen this Olfa point cutter, it has a cured blade on the knife, works brilliantly for that tricky fine cutting http://www.punchwithjudy.com.au/shop/olfa-rotary_point-cutter.html

  6. Rianna on 07/02/2016 at 5:25 pm said:

    As always, thank you for sharing your tips and tricks Carolyn.

  7. Thanks for sharing this tutorial. Very informative and helpful.

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial, Carolyn! I think this will work very well for felt, too, which I work with more often. 🙂

  9. Kathy on 10/02/2016 at 12:02 pm said:

    I agree with everyone. Very helpful. Thank you.

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