Tutorials

Making Buttonholes

I’m writing this tutorial mainly for Helen, having left home to go to uni she has now decided she wants to learn to sew, she’s borrowed my spare sewing machine to make some pyjamas but I didn’t have a spare automatic buttonhole foot. She sent me a photo on facebook of her first handmade buttonhole…and her last, she said!! I was pretty impressed with it but pointed out that you could do buttonholes on the machine without a special foot, just like we used to do!! As she won’t be home again for a few weeks I decided the easiest way to explain was to write a tutorial on here. It’s my first so any suggestions gratefully received!

  1. Mark your buttonholes; this can either be with a disappearing pen or with tacking threads. The bars across the top and bottom are important markers, so don’t be tempted to just do a straight line. The buttonhole needs to be a millimetre or two bigger than the button. Also consider the depth of a button, a fat, chunky button will need a longer buttonhole than a slim, delicate button.Making buttonholes
  2. On a scrap of fabric test out your zigzag stitch settings, this is a plain zigzag stitch.
    1. The stitch length dictates how close the zigzags are, mine is set at 0.3. It will vary with fabrics but you need a nice close stitch. This setting doesn’t change during the button hole.
    2. The stitch width dictates how wide the buttonholes stitches are. Two widths are needed, a narrow one for the long edges and a wide one (double the width) for the ends. I set mine at 2mm and 4mm.
  3. Leg 1; Narrow zigzag setting. Starting at the far end, check needle enters fabric for left zigzag stitch right next to the central marking, like 1 thread away.Following central marking stitch zigzag to end of buttonhole. Finish with needle down in centre of buttonhole.Making buttonholes
  4. Bar 1; Without lifting needle, lift foot and turn fabric 180′. Lower foot and raise needle. Change stitch width to wider setting. Check where the stitch centres, you may need to move the fabric a fraction to ensure the wide stitch covers both sides of the buttonhole. Stitch approximately 6 stitches.Making buttonholes
  5. Leg 2; Change width setting back to narrow width. Check central needle position, it wants to be just a thread width or two away from the first leg. Stitch narrow zigzag alongside 1st leg to end. Finish with needle down in centre of buttonhole.Making buttonholes
  6. Bar 2; Without lifting needle, lift foot and turn fabric 180′. Lower foot and raise needle. Change stitch width to wider setting. Check where the stitch centres again, you may need to move the fabric a fraction to ensure the wide stitch covers both sides of the buttonhole. Stitch approximately 6 stitches. Making buttonholes
  7. Your button hole is complete!

Tips for cutting buttonholes; I’ve learnt the hard way with stitch rippers going straight through the end of my beautiful buttonhole! I always place a pin across the end of the buttonhole, then if it slips, it will stop before it’s a disaster! Nowadays I also tend to cut it in two movements, I stab in at one end, cut to the centre, then stab in at the opposite end, the end of the stitch ripper can be pointed out through the slit before slitting the last section.

Making buttonholes

Good luck!