Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hand Made Buttonholes- UPDATE


I got an email from my Gutermann rep; Germany, it seems, has relented and will now allow me to order my gimp by the spool instead of by the box per colour- a box containing 5 spools of 100m of gimp which would make, I guess, about thirteen thousand buttonholes. That's too much. Now if only they would relent on the silk twist as well.

UPDATE If you are located in North America and are interested in the Agreman gimp, a group buy is being organized on the C&T forum. Or you can contact me directly at jeffery_d at ymail dot com for more info.

In the photo above, on the far left, the large spool is my gimp of choice. I have always used this type of gimp but when Gutermann made it hard to get I tried a few different varieties and none even came close. Made in Spain, the article is called Agreman and is a wrapped core gimp which comes in spools of 100 meters. Richard James Weldon stocks this but shipping gimp from London to North America can be very expensive.

To the right of the gimp is my buttonhole twist of choice, Gutermann's silk R753, which is a size 40/3 long staple thread. More on this in a bit. It comes in 400m spools (like the one with the orange cob) and can be found at Ely Yawitz or Bergen Tailor Supply in the US. The box standing behind it is the same thread but in small cobs of 10m each; this is the retail format which is available from RJW (they told me they didn't have the bigger format) and is not really worth the money; a cone of 400m from Bergen is about $15 US, while the box of 10 cobs of 10m costs around $20 from RJW. Yawitz sells the individual cobs for about $2 or $3 so if you have a weird colour to do and don't want 400m of it, then the individual cobs are good for a two piece suit.

Second from the right is a one ounce spool of size F (Mara 30) long staple thread that I got from Bergen for about the same price a the 400m of R753. To far right is Gutermann's S1003 wihch is the same size but is a spun thread. Again, more on this in a second. This cone came from Dugdale and I haven't seen any of it in North America but is fairly common in Europe and comes in 300m spools; it is also available in size 40/3 (like the R753 but Dugdlae does not have it. Despite its being spun, it is about the same price as the long filament thread.

Not pictured is some continuous filament thread from Amann which Schneidergott sent me- it is the same size (40/3) but a shade more lustrous than the R753. He says it's hard to find over there (it's impossible to find over here). Maybe someone knows of a good source?

So which one to use?

First the difference between the spun thread and the long staple. When the silk cocoons are soaked to separate the fibers, the beginning and ends are shorter in length and are spun together to create the thread. Because they are shorter, the are more fiber ends which makes a fuzzier, duller texture. The long staple threads are made from the longer silk fibers from the middle part of the cocoon- the longer fiber means less ends and thus a shinier, stronger, and more lustrous thread.

The advantage of using a heavier thread, like the size F or the S1003 is that less stitches are required to cover the buttonhole, meaning less time and less thread. It is also easier to do a neat job using heavier thread. The buttonholes look a bit chunky compared to those using finer thread, so I prefer the finer. This is personal preference and one is not better than the other.

Examples of both size can be seen below; in each case I used the Agreman gimp.

This is the Gutermann S1003- the heavy spun silk. The size F thread would look the same, only shinier. This is a small buttonhole for a 24L button on a vest.


This is Gutermann R753 with the contrast punched up a bit so you can see some detail. This is also a small buttonhole for a 24L button on a vest.


And finally, the Amann 40/3 thread.


For details on how to make hand made buttonholes, see this thread


Jordan Marc said...

Gee, Jeffery, just thirteen thousand buttonholes? That's a bit stingy. Kidding aside, the photos of the buttonholes are incredibly beautiful. What detail! Were they done by hand or machine? Gorgeous work, all of 'em!


Simon said...

I walk past the RJW address on Berwick St about once a week, so if you ever need anything ordered and shipped to the US at nominal cost just drop me an e-mail.

Ann Made Studio said...

Your buttonholes are beautiful and absolutely perfect. Your work is impeccable!

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Thank you Ann and Jordan. And Jordan, perhaps you missed the title of the post?

Simon, thank you for your generous offer, which I may take you up on. Anything from RJW ships UPS, which is around $40 but also comes saddled with an additional customs brokerage fee of $25 to $30 so a shipment of buttons or thread can end up costing $70 when it could easily have been sent in the post. Again, thank you.

Jordan Marc said...

It was the photo of all those spools that made me inadvertently overlook the title of the post. Such is the quality of your copy and photography that I tend to jump right into the text and pour over the snaps. Buttonholes and thread have been much on my mind for a couple of projects underway, so imagine my delight with the timing of your latest post.


Anonymous said...

The spun thread is called Schappeseide while the one with the longer fibres is called "Reale Seide".
The first one would have been a bit cheaper. Yet it has almost completely vanished from the market.
The G├╝termann thread is quite expensive and you'll find only the 10m spools.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Hello Fatto a Mano, watching all the beautiful craftsmenship on this blog, I was wondering if I could ask a question as a total novice:
Is it possible to have the machine made buttonholes of a jacket remade by hand?
If yes, is there a place to go to in New York and is the cost prohibitive?
Many thanks!

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Thank you.
Yes, the buttonholes can be remade; some might work them over the machine buttonholes to save the time of removing the machine stitching but I would prefer to remove the stitching first and redo them. It is not uncommon for some big name makers in Naples to make the buttonhole by machine with a very fine thread first and then redo them by hand over top- this makes consistency easier, and a machine-made buttonhole is actually a little more stable than a hand-made one. Still, I feel a bit like that's cheating.

It won't be cheap to do- likely at least $10 per buttonhole, probably more. I don't know of anyone to recommend in NYC, but David Reeves has mentioned that he uses someone whose buttonholes are as good as or better than those to be found on Savile Row. You may want to contact him at

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!! yes, I am not a taylor but as an amateur I do not buy any more garment if buttonholes are not hand made (jacket or shirt!)... Thanks again!
Where are you located?

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

There are many well-made garments whose buttonholes are made by machine; I wouldn't discount them entirely.

I am in Montreal.


Anonymous said...

Well, if I can convert them to handmade buttonholes that makes a difference!
Do you actually make garment at all?

I'm in Montreal 2 to 4 times a month!
Do you have an email to continue our chat a little more privately?

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

I can be reached at jeffery_d at ymail dot com.


Anonymous said...

thanks! I emailed you.

Anonymous said...

I am a student of buttonholing myself and after so many years of pratice I have just gotten to the point of a good quality one. Anyways, how do you cut your holes? I managed to score a vintage buttonhole cutter on eBay for $29 which cuts the keyhole eyelet as well. It's too bad it can't cut a hole shorter than 7/8" because the pad can only be adjusted to a certain point but I can more or less get away with it.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

chwolfenbloode- I use two sizes of chisel and a hole punch to cut my buttonholes.

Marysia said...

Hi there Jeffery,

Sorry to trouble you,new to handmade buttonholes, and I am sure you mentioned somewhere the length of thread needed for one buttonhole, but I can't find it.

Also, is it a special type of hole punch you use.......would love to obtain one.

Kindest regards.

Anonymous said...

hello, i read somewhere that Gutermann stopped producing the Agreman gimp thread... is it true ?

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