Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Sewing - Buttonholes

Most sewing machines these days have automatic buttonhole makers - with these, gone are the days of measuring buttonhole beginnings and ends, carefully making sure your stitches follow the lines you drew, and screaming and taking out tiny little stitches when it didn't turn out right.  For years I avoided buttonholes due to my "post traumatic stress" from making (or trying to make) buttonholes as a teenager in home ec classes!

I have a Brother 6000i machine, but many machines use the same basic buttonhole foot and procedure.  Read your manual before you begin.

*something that needs buttonholes!  I'm putting them in a smock top I made for little c - McCall's pattern number 4756.
*scrap fabric to practice on
*seam ripper
*disappearing fabric marker

1.  Make sure you have a full bobbin.  It's a pain to run out of bobbin thread in the middle of making a buttonhole.

2.  Attach your buttonhole foot.  With the Brother, this means taking off the regular foot and snapping on the buttonhole foot.  Pull the buttonhole lever down as far as you can and put it behind the bracket on the buttonhole foot.

3.  Put a button the size of the hole you want in the guide at the top of the buttonhole foot.  I'm using flower shaped buttons - I've found if you have funky shaped buttons, the hole doesn't always turn out the right size.  So when I have buttons like these, I find a nice flat button in the same size and use that in the guide.

4.  Grab a doubled over piece of scrap fabric to make a test buttonhole on.  The Brother I use has 7 different buttonholes - how do you decide which one to use?  I tend to use only three of them - 29 (a rounded one) for regular weight fabric, 32 for knits, and 34 for thicker fabric (I like using keyhole shapes for thicker fabrics and like the rounded end of this one).  For the top I made, I used 29 and made the buttonholes horizontal.

To practice, put the scrap fabric under the needle, making sure you have a good inch or two behind the needle.  Buttonholes are made away from you.  You don't do anything while the buttonhole is being made other than sit and watch.  When the machine is done it will make a couple of tacking stitches and then slow way down.

5.  Cut the buttonhole open with a seam ripper and test it to make sure your button with fit through - not too tightly, but not too loosely either.  If you don't like the size of buttonhole you get when you use the garment's button in the buttonhole guide, use a different button in the guide.

6.  If you like the size of your buttonhole and feel confident you can make one on the "real" garment, you're ready to go!

Mark with a dot or small line where your buttonhole will begin.  When using a pattern, I lay the buttonhole guide or the pattern piece (whichever has the buttonholes marked on it) along the garment, lift the pattern up slightly, and make a mark with a disappearing fabric marker.

7.  Make your buttonholes, trim the threads, and slit them open.

8.  To mark where the button goes, I pin the garment as if it were buttoned (overlapped correctly) and make a mark through the buttonhole.

9.  I decided this top needed something a little more, so I put a crocheted edging around the neck and down the front.  I explain more in depth how to do that in this post on adding an edging to pillowcases.  Since then I read a cool hint on using a chain stitch as a base for the crochet instead of a blanket stitch.  I like the way it turns out much better!  The edging pattern I used is row 1 sc all the way around, row 2 *(sc, hdc, ch, hdc, sc) in first stitch, sc in next stitch, repeat from * all around and fasten off.

Little c is now a year old!  How time flies.

Happy Creating!  Deborah


  1. What a great button tutorial! I love the tip abut using the same size round button for a shaped one. Thanks so much for this, I'll be linking.

  2. Greetings from an expat american in britian! (My best friend lives in Phoenix!) :D

    I LOVE this tut! I've just gotten brave enough to try my buttonhole foot, (I had that same PTSD from home ec!) and now I feel like I might actually be able to manage it!


  3. Thanks for the tut on buttonholes. I have a brother sewing machine, and I might just have to brave trying a buttonhole.