I often hear from sewing friends that they are afraid of buttonholes and have to hold their breath every time they make one because they never know if it will turn out right. Some of our readers have never even tried it or don't have the right machine foot. That's okay, I understand. But we're all done with that! There are SO many adorable outfits we can make using buttonholes. No more fears - we're going to learn this skill and get on with our lives.
Today we are sharing some tips with you on how to get your buttonholes to turn out great every time, no matter what machine you have. First we'll go through some helpful tips and then we'll even show you how to do it with our handy dandy video clips! No buttonhole foot for your machine? No problem! I will show you how to make a buttonhole using a standard zigzag foot and stitch. Let's get started! Not all tips will apply to your machine, but you're bound to learn what you need to!
- Read the section that applies in your machine's manual. I didn't say you have to read the whole manual (who does that?) but you do need to read the applicable section. All machines are different and this section is generally less than a page long. Read it to learn the right settings!
- Check your settings every time. And when I say every time, I mean before each and every buttonhole. A quick glance at the dials can save a lot of trouble. Many machines have you "reset" the feature after each buttonhole. I do it right after finishing a buttonhole and right before starting the next one - just to be sure.
- Make sure the fabric has stability. Anytime we make a buttonhole we need to go through at least two layers. If there is not already a second layer behind what we're sewing, we can add a scrap of interfacing or stabilizer. This is especially important when sewing buttonholes on knit fabric. Most quality patterns will already have this included in the instructions but some may assume that you already know.
- Clearly mark your buttonhole before sewing. Always! If you're in a hurry you may be tempted to close your eyes and hope for the best. Good luck with that.
- Do a practice run for the size of buttonhole you're making. This may not be necessary for some machine models, but on my machine I always sew a practice buttonhole to make sure it is the length I want it to be. It is rarely off, but after working so hard on an outfit, "rarely" is too often for me! A practice run also helps make sure that our tension is set right for the fabric we're using. (I test on a folded over scrap of my current fabric.)
- Before sewing, lower the needle by hand to make sure you're starting where you want to. It doesn't take long and if we don't start in the right place we certainly won't end in the right place.
- Once everything is lined up and ready to go, go for it! Trust your machine, hold your breath, do whatever you need to do, but there's a good chance that if you did everything above, your buttonhole is going to turn out great. If not, just take it out and start over! You can do this!
Oh and one more thing. When your buttonholes are all perfectly sewn and ready to cut, we can just whip out our seam ripper and let it fly, right?
Not unless you want to tear through your outfit when you least expect it. My last little tip for today is how to cut a buttonhole safely. All we do is put a straight pin at the top of the hole to protect the stitches and our precious outfit:
Even if our cutting hand slips a little bit,the pin will stop the seam ripper from going farther than it's supposed to. Hooray for pins!
Now it's time for the quick videos! In the first video we will watch how I sew a buttonhole on my machine. It may or may not be similar to yours, but if you haven't done it before it will at least help you see that your machine will not explode if you try it out.
In this second video, we will watch how to make a buttonhole on a machine even if we do not have a buttonhole foot or function on our machine. All we need is a standard zigzag foot. Neat! Here it is:
In case that wasn't all clear, let's review:
To make a buttonhole using a zigzag foot, set the stitch length as low as it will go and the stitch to a wide zigzag. Sew a few stitches to create the wide end of the buttonhole. Then change to a narrower zigzag and sew a line the length of the buttonhole, stopping when we get to the other end. Switch back to the wide zigzag and sew a few stitches like we did on the first end. Now to sew the last line of our buttonhole, we will carefully slide the fabric over by hand and switch back to the narrower zigzag. Now we will sew in reverse, creating the parallel line that takes us back to where we started.
Not too bad, right? Keep in mind that professionals often lower their "feed dogs" while doing the ends of the buttonholes so the stitch isn't moving forward at all, but my machine likes to jam when I do that and I've found that a really low stitch length works just as well.
One more video for today! How to cut open the buttonhole once it is beautifully sewn:
Wasn't that fun? That's all for our tutorial today! Did you learn anything new? Are you excited to go out and try it? A few of my favorite patterns that use buttonholes are Kadence's Knot Top, Mia's Reverse Knot Twirly Dress, and Jeffrey's Summer Jumper. Surely those are cute enough to motivate us all to get going with our buttonholes. If you have any questions that we didn't cover here, please ask in the comments below and we'd be happy to help.
Let's Create! ~ Kristen