I suppose there are a few hardy souls out there who enjoy making bound buttonholes. They may even find it relaxing. Well, there is no accounting for taste, but I find that most women would rather avoid the whole buttonhole situation if at all possible.
On non-tailored garments, a machine-made buttonhole will do nicely, but some women find even these pesky and time-consuming. Is there an alternative? Sometimes snaps or hooks and eyes can be used instead. Or Velcro, which comes in little dots as well as strips. Depending on the garment, metal grippers or snap fasteners can be a godsend, especially for kids' shirts and pajamas. Decorative grippers with fancy metal or "pearl" tops can be used on more fashion-oriented apparel. Grippers can be installed in minutes with the handy tool provided in the package. One little tap from a hammer and you never have to worry about sewing on replacement buttons.
But are there any other alternatives if you really hate making buttonholes? Depending on the style, of course, one suggestion is to substitute a back zipper for front buttons. One of the best such ideas I've seen involves the bow-front blouses so popular to soften the tailored look of all those blazers. Most patterns call for facings, interfacings, buttons and buttonholes down the front.
But you can save hours of sewing time by simply stitching up the center front and installing a 7-inch zipper at the neck. When you tie the ascot or bow, the zipper is completely hidden and nobody will ever know the difference. Another trick is to make a facing, and on the reverse side sew loops of piping or round elastic so that they can be used to loop over the buttons instead of buttonholes.
By the way, a helpful button-sewing tip is to cross two pins on top of the button and sew right over them as you stitch it in place. When you pull the pin out, the long loose threads below the button will form a neck or shank. Wrap your thread several times around this, and the button will be firmly in place for the life of the garment.
Q. I'm working on a needlepoint that includes metallic thread. I softened the canvas, kept the thread short and yet the thread is cut by the canvas. How can I solve this problem? Also, are there special canvases that include petit point on a needlepoint canvas?
A. You seem to have done all the right things in working with metallic thread. However, I doubt that it is the canvas that is cutting your thread. Frequently the trouble lies in using a needle with too small an eye. This acts as a cutting edge and will snip your thread every time. Use a needle with as large an eye as will go through the mesh.
Most needlework stores carry a European canvas called Penelope which has double threads of canvas forming the mesh. To do larger-scale needlepoint (gros point or literally "large stitch") you go over both threads. To do petit point or tiny stitch, you work over each thread individually, thus getting four small stitches in place of one larger needlepoint stitch.
Q. I once thought that doing gold work on linen was the ultimate challenge. Now that I've conquered that, I'd like to try gold on velvet. But how do I get my design onto the velvet?
A. You're chosen the most difficult but one of the most satisfying fabrics to work with. When you transfer to velvet, the pile often shifts and the design is placed inaccurately. Because the pile plattens out irregularly when you stitch, you're limited to couching, padded satin and laid and other stitches that lie smoothly on the pile. There is, however, a foolproof way to transfer. Overlay the velvet with fine net, tulle or organdy with the design already traced on it. Embroider through both layers, then cut away the net closely all around. Although this method comes from the 14th century, there's a great 20th-century substitute for net called Stitch Witchery or Wonderunder. These are trade names for the pellon that tears away easily around the design -- no cutting at all.