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Understanding Chicken Snipping: Bound Buttonhole Facings

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I have heard that Clotilde used to say to her sewing classes

Don’t Be A Chicken Snipper!

to encourage sewists to cut right up to the stitching when there was a job to do. I think it is a great phrase, very memorable and I do remember it every time I have to cut into a corner when working a bound buttonhole.

Front bound buttonholes are finished and pins have been struck though the ends of the holes to make markings for the front facing. The facing has been flipped over and the end lines and center line marked on the inside of the front facing piece. Once the under collar is stitched on the facing will be folded over the buttonholes and needs to be finished off to frame the buttonhole.


I love good tools and used an accurate measuring ruler from Fashion Sewing Supply to mark 1/8″ above and below the center line. A very sharp pencil comes in handy so I keep a cheapo electric sharpener just for these moments.

Marking the stitching Lines

I cut 2.5″ wide lining strips and pinned them to the right side of the facing, covering the area that will become the buttonhole facing.

The strips are cut on the bias and the stretch is ironed out. I found this tip in an old tailoring manual and I really like it, much easier to cleanly turn than it is when cut on the grain and all the little ends want to poke through in the corners. The bias helps in the turning through as well.


From the under side of the front facing, the marked side, I could stitch the box for the buttonhole facing. Here’s a big picture so you can see that

    1. I started and stopped the stitching in the middle of the long stitching line
    2. I did not count my 1mm stitches so I ended up with one extra stitch in a corner!


I hoped that the extra stitch will not be a huge problem and it didn’t turn out to be an error I would find worth of ripping out those tiny stitches


However, here is what a chicken snip might look like.

The water droplets are brought to us courtesy of a new DG5030 Rowenta Pressure Iron and Steamer. It is a replacement for the first one that was worse and the retailer I bought it from can only switch it out for another of the same model. I only have so much patience and money and certainly don’t use it when dry ironing is important! When I called the Rowenta company (my retailer had not even done this yet) they said Oh, we know about that and have come out with a newer model that fixes the problem (steam condensing in the hose)

but back to the Chicken Snips: There is only one corner where the snip goes directly into the corner. The two top ones stop short of the corners and the lower right cut is slightly off and doesn’t go into the corner.

Needs Extra Snip

Upon turning the lining material to the back side

Turning to the back

you can see how not getting right into each corner and clipping that is slightly angled can result in a poor result


Extra tiny snips into the corners using a (Carson MagniLamp Hands Free Magnifier that I found at Hancocks years ago) magnifying glass helps to correct these tiny errors

Carson Desk Magnifier

and the result is much better


and this buttonhole facing is fixed!


And to keep my blog out of trouble, let me say that I have no association with any of the suppliers that I have mentioned here nor have I reviewed anything that I have received for free. Just sharing the story…

happy sewing!


About Mary Beth

I am fascinated by changing patterns and colored threads. I sew garments and am teaching myself to machine knit. Since selling the building that housed my workrooms, The Stitchery, I'm searching for a place to set up the knitting machines again. There must be room here somewhere!

17 responses »

  1. Thanks Mary Beth for showing this. Very helpful (I’m using reading glasses more often already, and a magnifier might be a very good idea sometimes)

  2. Exactly! I wish a student I was working with right now on bound buttonholes would be a little less fearless and not be a chicken snipper!

  3. I have a nifty pair of button hole scissors that I use when makign my buttonholes. They have very sharp tips that allow you to go right into the corners … but I like the magnifying glass trick and the use of a contrast coloured strip for the backing. That way you HAVE to get into the corners!!

  4. I use the same technique for making faced bound buttonholes only I use silk organza.

  5. Beautiful bound buttonhole 🙂
    I like that saying and I’m guilty of being a chicken snipper, but I do go back and re-snip so I get that perfect shape.

    I have the same iron…grrr!
    I had been looking for reviews, to see if anyone else has this problem. I did look on there site and found on there FAQ section, that if your water is soft it may cause spitting! Well I know for a fact that our well water “is” very soft, so I changed the water and put in bottled water,and I have to say it improved, not 100%, but a noticeable improvement. I now do want a different one, so will be looking into which one.

  6. Oh, I love that chicken snipping title. We are all guilty of it, now and then. Thank you for the tip of makign the buttohole lips on the bias. I will make a sample of that.

  7. A woman after my own heart you are! I’m just now learning not to be a Chicken Snipper. Thanks so much for the magnifying tip.

  8. Thank you! I just posted on my blog the issues I had with my first (mostly) successful welt pockets and asked for suggestions what was wrong with the wonky corners. Several people pointed me here – that’s what I get for not catching up on my blog reading or I wouldn’t have needed to ask. Off tomorrow to buy sharper scissors. Now all I need is the nerve not to be a chicken snipper!

  9. Ijust made a link to that post in a french blog where are collected good sewing echniques posts, of course, your blog is mentionned



  12. Thank you so much for posting this. Now I know why my little windows looked so bad. I’m going back to fix them!


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