The Paper Towel Technique or Paper Backed Buttonholes

Invention is the mother of necessity

Thorstein Veblen – US economist & social philosopher

…as my sewing guild (i.e. the ladies I sew with from class) and I found when I was trying to put the buttonholes into my jacket.  Now mind you I waited to put buttonholes in my jacket until I could use my friends Bernina that makes absolutely fabulous keyhole buttonholes and I was determined to get them done that day.  Buttonholes or BUST was my mindset.  So imagine my surprise when the buttonholes were less than perfect.


Now my jacket fabric is a cotton STRETCH sateen  fabric and the interfacing is KNIT interfacing.  Those two elements combined were the perfect combo for some wonky buttonholes.   Had I thought of this beforehand I might have put some preventative measures into place.  However, with a nearly finished jacket time was of the essence and I needed those buttonholes DONE! So I was prepared to persevere no matter what the cost, even if it was wonky buttonholes.  Good thing my sewing guild members were a little more level headed and farther removed from the desperation.  Rochelle suggested I try a method that she had learned from her tailor – use paper to stabilize the fabric and sew through.


S0 for the second buttonhole I used regular copy paper (see buttonhole in foreground).  To my elation it was completely stretch free but the feed dogs slipped and slid making the keyhole opening inconsistent and often not quite keyhole shaped.


The paper ripped away nicely, barely leaving any remnants behind.  With a little tweezer action it would be nonexistant

Inventive juices flowing we then thought to use a coffee filter but alas there were none to be found and these buttons had to get done NOW!!  Janna being the clever sort suggested paper towel.


They are made of paper and have a rougher texture so should grip the fabric a little better too. Both of which were absolutely true!


The paper was not as clean ripping away when done quickly (see above), but when slowly removed produced less remnants that what you see here.  The hole was a little less rigged than the paper method as the paper towel was probably more prone to stretching but not by much.  I have not washed these buttonholes but since there was not that much material left behind I don’t think this would be a problem.

Lastly, we tried some non woven sew in interfacing but that didn’t really work at all as the buttonhole was not any better and lots of hard to remove material was left behind.

IMG_5831_filtered IMG_5832_filtered

Now I am sure there is a technique out there very similar if not exactly like this (if you know it please tell me or send me a link), but that information and material list was not at my disposal at 9pm sewing at someone elses house with the desparation of a woman in need of closure.  However, EVERYONE has paper towels 🙂 so when in desparate need of a wonkless buttonhole try the new (at least to me) paper towel technique!

17 thoughts on “The Paper Towel Technique or Paper Backed Buttonholes

    • Oh good idea. i think that would definitely work for darker fabrics, unfortunately my yellow is a magnet for all things dirty or furry for that matter. Me and the lint brush have been good friends throughout this experience. LOL!

  1. I love the idea of using either the copy paper, the coffee filter or the paper towel. I made a knit cape last fall out of ponte knit (an inexpensive type). I knew right off the bat the buttonholes would be wonky just as even with the cape being interfaced. QUESTION: were the paper objects that you used placed on the top/rightside of the fabric before you made the buttonhole? I ask because when I made my buttonholes I used a product called Jiffy Waistband & Ban-Rol Fusible Waist band cut into squares that I placed between the front of the cape and the interfaced facing. The button holes turned out perfect and there was nothing that I need to remove afterward because the stabilizer was on the inside. Just a suggestion.

    • Hi Faye,

      Thanks for the advice.

      In regards to the paper objects, they were on the bottom side of the fabric. I had thought about interfacing as a solution and in the case of the front lapels I could have sandwiched them in between the front and the facing but for the epaulets on the front they were already closed so it had to be the underside anyway and any interfacing would have shown. We also tried the front side with the paper to reduce the shifting issue. it did solve the shifting but now the problem would have been positioning. I will give some closer views when I post the pictures of the finished jacket.

      Thanks again

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  3. Thanks for the great tutorial….I’ve been avoiding patterns that require button wholes for awhile now….may be I’ll give it a try this time 🙂

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