Rouleau Loops

In my previous tutorial for a reversible skirt I used rouleau button loops.  I had originally planned on making ordinary button holes but changed my mind.  As that tutorial was quite involved (to say the least) I thought I would leave the bit about how to make rouleau loops until today.

Most of my clothes have rouleau loops instead of button holes.  My sewing machine has a choice of about ten different button holes which it cleverly does automatically, but I just really like the look of the rouleau loop.  You can make them in the same or contrasting fabric to your garment and can match or contrast them to covered buttons. Most shop bought clothes use button holes so the rouleau loop makes your garment look handmade and special. They can be a bit fiddly, and you need a rouleau loop turner but I think it’s worth the effort.

I had worked out my own way of making rouleau loops which I will share with you.  The difficulty I always had was deciding how long to make them.  Luckily last year when I was looking for a book on using luxury fabrics I stumbled across a fabulous new book by a bridal gown designer called Becky Drinan, The Wedding Dress who solved this dilemma.  I very nearly overlooked this book as I wasn’t wanting to make a wedding dress. I’m so glad I didn’t.


This book is really very good.  It has plenty of hand sewing and machine sewing techniques that I’ve not seen anywhere else.  She has found much simpler ways to achieve really professional looking results.  I particularly like her lockstitch which she uses for hemming, so similar to many others but I think she has perfected it.


This book has lots of lovely photographs and patterns for gorgeous fashionable wedding dresses.  But the best thing about this book is the template for the corset which forms the basis of all the dresses.  I’m not sure you can see it very well in the picture, but it is a map that you plot your own measurements on (quite a lot of them) so that you get a completely customized, fitted bodice.  I’ve tried it and it works.  It gives a perfect fit.  I made a white floral top which you can see on my tailor’s dummy in the background of my post about my new sewing room.


So, anyway, back to the rouleau loops.

You need to cut strips of fabric on the bias (diagonally across the grain) so it is stretchy.  If you’ve not done this before, fold a square of fabric into a triangle and cut along the sloped edge.  I cut mine approximately 2 cm from the folded edge giving me a strip of fabric about 4 cm wide.  This makes a nice fat rouleau loop.  I then shortened my sewing machine stitch and sewed a line of stitches 6 mm from the fold with right sides together.  At one end I moved the stitching further away from the folded edge to form a wider trumpet shape.  Then I stitched a second row next to the first for added strength.


To turn it the right way round, I pushed my rouleau loop turner into the narrow end and secured it at the funnel shaped end and just pulled it back out.  That sounds far simpler than it is.  Not that it’s difficult, it’s just fiddly to get it started.  But once it’s going, it turns really easily.

Now to decide how long to make them.  I won’t tell you how I did this before I discovered Becky Drinan’s book.  I’m just grateful I did find her book of common sense.  She says that each rouleau loop needs to be the circumference of your button plus 3 cm (twice your seam allowance).  Common sense, really.  I don’t know why I didn’t work that out myself.  I have amended this slightly to suit my own preferences and it depends on the shape of buttons I’m using.  I like my buttons to fit the rouleau loops very snuggly (so they don’t decide to open at an inopportune moment) and I like to make sure there is no gap in the opening of my skirt or dress, so my formula based on Becky Drinan’s is:

2 x the diameter of my button + 2 x my seam allowance.

For me this makes the perfect rouleau loop.

Next week I will be showing you how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.