Peggy Bendel

  Open & Shut
by Peggy Bendel

Design an original closure for your next garment.

It can be as simple as mixing eclectic buttons instead of matching them, or as challenging as devising a distinctive loop or tie. Use the closure directions from a commercial pattern as your guide, but don't limit yourself. Here are myriad ideas to jumpstart your imagination in a new, creative direction.

Go beyond the basics and buttonholes can become beautiful.
        Sew machine-made buttonholes in a contrasting thread color-- it will resemble fine piping. Or use a different thread color on each buttonhole for a whimsical look.
        Choose rayon machine embroidery thread to match the fabric color. Especially effective on matte-finished fabrics such as wool crepe and linen weaves, the buttonholes will create a subtle textural interplay.
        Add a cluster of decorative machine embroidery motifs around each buttonhole. A sprinkling of stars, flowing vines or perhaps a delicate scroll, makes a counterpoint to the buttonhole straight edges. Use beads, charms or small novelty buttons as buttonhole accents.
        On fleece, melton and other texture-rich fabrics, cut a synthetic suede patch to use on the garment right side as a facing frame for a box-stitched buttonhole.
        Bound buttonholes can be any shape you want them to be -- just face the welt opening in the shape desired, such as a triangle, an oval or a freeform outline.
If you plan to use very large or uniquely shaped buttons or toggles, substitute loops at the garment center front. Insert the loops into the front facing seam so the raw ends are hidden, or apply them to the garment right side, cover the raw ends with an applique, a synthetic suede patch or other creative accent, or simply knot the ends.
        For fine loops, use rattail cord as the filler for bias fabric tubes or select soutache braid. Cluster three to five of these loops at each buttonhole placement marking and use small, half-ball buttons.
        For loops of any size, use self- or contrasting fabric strips cut on the fabric straight grain. To turn the raw edges under evenly, feed them through a metal bias tape pressing aid and press. Cut two segments for each loop, place them wrong sides together, and edgestitch. Fold in half so the short edges align. Apply the loops to the garment using one of the previously mentioned methods.
        Before applying loops to a garment, string large beads, open-center coins or other embellishments onto them. Or, tie an interesting knot in the loop center.
Broaden your closure horizons by making ties and using them in unexpected ways.
        Make an overhand knot in each tie end, adding beads or charms if desired.
        Make belt-width ties and use a decorative slide buckle as an ornamental closure.
        Insert metal grommets or smaller eyelets and lace ties through the openings.
        Make an exceptionally lengthy tie and stitch one end into a side or shoulder seam. Stitch the tie in a meandering design across the garment until it reaches the open edge where the free end becomes a functioning tie.
It can be fun as well as fashionable to play with buttons as a design detail.
        Buttons don't have to match.  Alternate large and small buttons on a center front closing, or use an interesting mix of vintage pearl, jet or metal buttons that have only size and shape in common.

        Stack two or three graduated sizes of buttons.
        Add a bead on top as you stitch a button in place.
        Machine embroider a single motif on fabric circles, then cover your own buttons.
        Double or triple the number of buttons the pattern calls for to
create a dramatic focal point that's also a figure-flattering vertical accent.
        Extend the sleeve vent on a tailored jacket almost to the elbow and march a row of decorative buttons along the vent edge.
        Begin with a spectacular button, then design a garment around it. Everyone will wonder how you managed to find the perfect button.
Faced Edges
When the pattern provides a faced edge for a front (or back) closure, it is a great opportunity for creativity.
        The faced edge doesn't have to follow a straight line. Modify the pattern so the garment and facing edge are angled, curved or follow a freeform shape. Or, cut the shape to mimic the outline of an applied embellishment or a prominent print motif.
        Align the facing and garment section wrong sides together. Edge finish using a decorative machine stitched border of scallops, zigzags or other dense, satin stitch patterns on the seamline. Coat the wrong side of the stitches with seam sealant, let dry, then trim the excess fabric close to the stitches. Or serge the edge with decorative threads.
        Convert a simple faced front edge to a concealed placket for understated elegance. (See "Out of Sight" on page 38.)
        Sew a detachable placket with buttonholes that align with the garment's buttonholes. Embellish the placket in whatever style you desire -- elegant, humorous or seasonal.
Zippers can be as funky or as glamorous as you like.
        The zippers available today can inspire a novel approach. Select a contrasting zipper color and the zipper tape will appear to be a trim. A rhinestone zipper can look as terrific on a denim jacket as a tailored suit or an evening gown.
        Insert the zipper with decorative flatlock serging.
        Add a decorative zipper pull, or thread beads onto soutache braid and tie the braid through the zipper tab.
        Sew a row of beads or tiny buttons along one or both sides of an inserted zipper.
Unexpected findings can make clever closures.
        Gripper snaps come in a wide assortment of sizes and styles. Substitute snaps for standard buttons and buttonholes on virtually any garment.
        Hook-and-eye tape, a corsetier's notion available in black, white and flesh colors, makes a decorative closure at the center front or back.  Dye the white tape to match or contrast with the garment. 
        Oversized, 1-1/2" hooks and eyes make a sporty closure, particularly on denim, corduroy or fleece garments.

Samples shown are from Lois Ericson. See Resources below.
Opening & Closing ($32, postpaid)
Lois Ericson with Anne Charles, is available from Design & Sew, Dept. SN,
Box 5222, Salem, OR 97304.