This tutorial shows a keyhole in the front neckline of a top, but you can use the same technique for the front or back of a top or dress. You can also use it on bags, pockets, and more!
I’m starting with a top that is almost completed. I’ve sewn the front and back together, and added the sleeves.
As you can see, I’ve cut a hole where I want the keyhole to be. You can add a keyhole to the front or the back, like I said, in this case I’m putting it in front. You can do a pretty large keyhole in the back of a top, but keep in mind how much skin will be showing if you’re putting it in front. A more modest hole for the front is probably best.
As always, start the hole small if you’re not sure. You can always cut it bigger, but you can’t make it smaller.
Here is a close-up of the keyhole opening. I’ve cut a slit where the keyhole meets the collar of the shirt.
Other things to consider when determining the size of the keyhole: how wide will your trim be? How much of a seam allowance are you using?
You will also need a piece of fabric or trim to finish the edge of the keyhole.
They key to keyholes (haha, get it?) is very stretchy trim fabric. The stretchier the fabric, the better your keyhole will turn out. If you’ve tried keyholes before and the trim wouldn’t lay flat, it probably either wasn’t stretchy enough or you didn’t stretch it enough.
For this top, I’m using a piece of rib knit. This stuff is PERFECT for keyholes, because it’s insanely stretchy and elastic- it doesn’t lose it’s shape when stretched a lot. It’s also called ribbing, baby rib, etc. It’s the same stuff they use for the cuffs of sweatshirts.
So back to the keyhole- you will want a piece of trim fabric that is equal in length to the circumference of your keyhole. You can estimate on this a little, but always err on the side of longer for the trim. I like to live life dangerously, so I cut my trim to match the hole, so it’s 14″. Your trim fabric should also be double the width you want it to be when it’s finished. I want 1/2″ of trim, so my piece of fabric is 1″ wide (plus a seam allowance!).
You can use lace or some sort of ruffly stuff around a keyhole, but it’s tricky. You’ll probably want something that is elastic in the middle with ruffles on both sides. In that case, you won’t need to worry about the width.
Fold the trim fabric in half, and pin it to the right side (outside) of the top. This is kind of like making a stretchy fabric waistband, or a crew neck style collar.
You’ll want to be sure to stretch the trim A LOT as you pin it to the keyhole, and again when you sew around the edge that you’ve pinned.
Here it is once we’re finished sewing. Look how nice and flat it sits! Say thank you to the ribbing for being such a good sport with all that stretching and pinning.
I like to topstitch around stuff like this, it helps the fabric lay flat and gives it a nice finished look.
I used a small zig-zag stitch in a contrasting thread, but you can use a straight stitch if you want.
Now it’s time to decide how you’re going to finish the top.
If you want a closed keyhole, baste the two edges of the keyhole trim together (red line in the photo), and then finish the top by adding a collar or hood or what-have-you as you normally would.
If you want an “open” keyhole that you can tie closed, don’t baste the two edges of the keyhole together. Instead, start at one end and sew the collar or hood on until you’ve reached the other end. Then you’ll want to add some strings or cord or ribbon to tie the keyhole closed.
I wanted a hood with a keyhole that could be tied closed. Yay!