The Button Loop Closure.
My dear friends! Today I want to address a question which seems to preoccupy many of you: how to make a button loop closure on a garment sewn with thin high-stretch fabric (mesh, lace, etc.). Such closures are typically found at the back of wedding or evening dresses, and they are in high demand.
I have been recently getting more and more E-mails where you not only ask how to make a button loop closure on a see-through back of a wedding dress, but also include a detailed description of the materials you are working with. For example, you write that you are using a particular type of lace fabric or a particular type of mesh fabric and then you describe the defects of your button loop closure blaming it on the fabric. Naturally enough, you ask me to explain why your button loop closure does not happen to look like the one in the picture of the dress you are sewing.
These E-mails motivated me to prepare a small course dedicated to the button loop closure to teach you the basic technique and show you that it can be employed on about any fabric as long as you are skilled enough.
Let us begin!
The picture below shows only a small part of materials that can be used for this kind of work.
There is a great range of mesh fabric alone, very many types suitable for sewing such garments. You can easily buy it in every country and even in every separate region.
Take, for example, this super-see-through and super-elastic illusion mesh fabric. You can hardly notice it on the skin, which is where its name comes from, and its raw edges do not fray or curl.
There are lots of types of mesh fabric with other properties: some stretch less, other feel more synthetic to the touch, and still other have larger openings, etc.
There are thicker and coarser types of mesh fabric that can be used for evening dresses, for example.
Lace fabric is also available in a very wide range.
As you can see, there are very many kinds of materials you can use for sewing wedding dresses with button loop closures!
Apart from the main fabric used for the dress itself, you will need additional materials for making the loops. The choice is wide here, too: you can use ready-made loop trims of various sizes and designs, or you can use hand-made cords, different kinds of thin ribbons, etc.
Do not forget about additional materials for finishing the closure edges. They also come in a great multitude: organza ribbons, lace ribbons or trimmings, satin ribbons, wide or narrow ribbons, etc.
All these materials are suitable for making the button loop closure!
And now imagine how many courses I would have to produce if every type of fabric implied its own separate technique!
As I told you in the very beginning of this tutorial, there is a common technique for making the button loop closure regardless of fabric type, dress style, or final décor.
If you take a look at ready garments with loop closures, you may get the impression that their loop closures are not made the same way because those garments will naturally all look different. In reality though, the technique is always based on one and the same principle. I will explain it now.
I will make a button loop closure on a small piece of randomly chosen mesh fabric. Its properties do not matter at all.
Such work implies following certain fixed rules, and you simply need to memorize them!
Firstly, there is a strict fixed order for cutting such garments. Contrary to all theories and laws, I recommend you make the button loop closure on the chosen fabric before cutting the garment.
How to determine the required length of the closure?
You can easily do this when taking measurements off the client. Just use the measuring tape to measure the exact distance from the supposed beginning to the supposed end of the closure right along her spine. You normally start taking measurements after discussing the style of the dress, i.e. at this point you already have a preliminary sketch which depicts a see-through inset with a loop closure.
It should not be difficult then to measure the distance between the supposed beginning and the supposed end of the closure. It will be the length of your button loop closure.
I would also like to say a couple of words about materials used for the loops themselves.
First of all, there are different kinds of ready-made loop trims.
Needless to say that it is very handy and popular because all loops are the same in size and positioned at equal intervals.
It is easy to use a loop trim like this, but only if you are happy with all its parameters.
Sometimes the loops or the intervals between them are simply too large or too small.
When that is the case, you can use different types of cords.
Standard cords, however, are seldom suitable for making loops on thin mesh fabric.
And this is why I prefer to make my own cords using a slightly different method which I am happy to share with you.
Version 1: making a cord from a ribbon.
I take a satin ribbon with a width of about 3-4mm.
I select the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine. I select 1mm zigzag stitch length and 5-6mm zigzag stitch width (maximum possible). I start stitching trying to make the needle move along the very edges of the ribbon without actually piercing it.
The resulting cord is perfect for making pretty and rather elastic loops.
Version 2, which I also like very much: making a cord from thread.
I take a string of cotton thread by Iris and fold it in half.
And I do the same thing on the sewing machine as I did with the ribbon.
This cord is softer, more elastic, and more delicate. It is great for making small loops for small buttons.
I use both of these methods very often. They allow me to make great cords within quite short time.
And now let me show you how to mark loops so as to make them all the same size. I will not calculate the size of the loop based on button diameter for now. I will simply explain the key principle.
You won’t have any problems calculating the size of your loops after you get the point.
I take a piece of squared paper and put pins in it at equal intervals.
Then I turn the paper around and start putting pins right in-between the existing ones. Please note that these pins should be facing the opposite direction, i.e. heads outwards and tips inwards.
Be very accurate when putting these pins in the paper: the intervals between the pierced holes must strictly comply with the desired loop size.
I take a thin cord and start arranging it between the pins in a zigzag fashion. Try your best to keep the zigzag very even, i.e. do not let any of the pins catch the cord.
As I said before, the first and the last loops may not be so perfect so you should always make your loop closure a little longer just in case.
There are lots of possible ways you can finish these loops. You can use a ready organza or satin ribbon, a satin trimming, or any kind of a lace ribbon. Moreover, you can use a pyrography tool to cut a strip of any desired width from any synthetic fabric – organza, chiffon, or voile. A ribbon made like this will have heat-sealed edges. You will know how to determine the width of the ribbon after reading through further instructions.
I draw a line between the pins in order to figure out the required ribbon width. There will be a row of stitches going along this line, which is basically a guideline for attaching the loops.
The cord left of this line shows the required loop length.
I will use a see-through organza ribbon to show you how to finish the edges of the closure.
I put the ribbon on the paper so as to overlay the loops and then fold it up for a clean finish. After I secure the ribbon along the marked line, I will fold it along the seam and it will reinforce the closure edge.
I could have made a row of stitches along the guideline without putting the ribbon there, just to secure the loops. But I don’t like doing it this way because the cord and the pins will make it too thick and cause the presser foot to shift and distort the loops.
For this reason, I put the ribbon in place before stitching along the guideline. This prevents the presser foot from deforming the loops. I select a rather short stitch length to secure all loops properly.
I have made a straight row of stitches along the marked guideline. The squares on the paper make it very easy to control the width of the fold.
I can remove the pins now. They have done their job and I don’t need them any longer. Of course, it is a good thing to keep the back ends of the loops shorter than the width of the folded ribbon (especially, if you don’t plan to decorate the loop closure in any other way). In my particular case, the back ends of the loops go just beyond the edge of the ribbon, but it is fine because I will decorate my loop closure additionally.
I remove the paper backing. The stitches are very small, and there are no traces of paper left at all after I remove it.
Next, you take a large piece of fabric that you will use for your loop closure (see-through mesh fabric in my case), as well as for the back of your dress. I find and mark the middle of the piece.
I position the semi-finished closure piece on the mesh fabric. During the further cutting process, the loop edge is supposed to stay on the inside of that half of the back to which it needs to be sewn, and the other closure edge is supposed to be sewn symmetrically to the edge of the other half of the back.
This means that I will simultaneously finish the edges of two to-be parts of the back: the edge of the piece with the loops and the edge of the other piece which will have buttons along it.
This method allows you to achieve perfect symmetry and maintain the same length of the closure along both parts of the back!
The next thing I will do is sew the loop closure edge to the mesh fabric with two rows of stitches:
- The first row will go along the seam attaching the loops to the ribbon;
- The second parallel row will go along the opposite edge of the ribbon, at the same distance from it as the first row from the other edge.
I have made two parallel rows of stitches.
The organza ribbon can be replaced with a lace ribbon, a satin ribbon, or a handmade ribbon cut from any suitable fabric with a pyrography tool.
The only requirement to the ribbon is that it must be non-stretch because you don’t want your loop closure to stretch out in wear! Thus if you want to make your own ribbon, make sure to cut it on the lengthwise grain. Your lace fabric is not supposed to stretch much either.
The width of the ribbon is determined based on the desired width of fold and the actual length of the loops which you want to achieve.
I believe you will agree with me when I say that it is a lot easier to sew a ribbon onto any kind of mesh fabric before cutting the garment!
Judging from the pictures of loop closure defects from your E-mails, I can tell that many of you start working on the closure after sewing the mesh fabric insets in the dress, and even after doing several fittings. It is very hard to make a neat and beautiful loop closure at this stage. Moreover, sometimes it is simply impossible because the mesh fabric stretches out and gets deformed after you press the garment. Its initial size simply changes. You will keep ending up with different defects and nothing will work out!
Let us get back to work though.
Now that I have sewn the loop closure on the mesh fabric, I can safely cut it up and divide it into the right half and the left half of the back. The edges of both halves will have the same finish. Do try your best not to cut the back ends of the loops to prevent the cord from popping out under tension.
Please note how the button edge of the back already has a neat finish, too.
And it is up to you what side of the piece to use as the face side. It depends on the style, the décor, or any other requirements to the garment.
Of course, I need to press the edge and then secure it by stitching.
And I will do the same with the other half of the back, i.e. press the loop edge and secure it with a row of stitches.
I have purposely chosen a see-through organza ribbon so you can see the back ends of the loops underneath it. The whole technique is there before your eyes.
I have folded and pressed the edge of the piece. Now the face and the inside look like this:
Next, I need to make a row of stitches along the edge of the ribbon.
But you cannot always be happy with such a see-through closure which leaves the back ends of all loops exposed. You will most likely feel like hiding them.
And here, again, you can choose from a wide range of options: you can put a thin lace trimming along the reinforced closure edge, or you can use a satin ribbon which is also great for this purpose.
I will use a lace trimming because it looks more delicate.
First I secure the ribbon along the edge of the piece and then I overlay it with the lace trimming.
The loop closure is ready!
It looks really beautiful and delicate! Please note that the mesh fabric itself has also stayed perfectly smooth: there are no creases or tucks anywhere!
Which is very important, the loop closure remains thin and elastic despite the organza ribbon and the lace trimming!
In conclusion, let me tell you what you are supposed to do next. You should double-check the length of the loop closure, i.e. compare it with the initial measurement. Then you should finish cutting the back pieces after thinking over how you are going to sew them in the finished dress and how you are going to finish the top and bottom ends of the closure.
Please let me emphasize that our closure, made before cutting the garment, does not affect the further technique of working on the given garment in any way.
I wish you to be always happy with your beautiful loop closures!