Sewing a buttonhole with the buttonhole foot

Sewing machine buttonholes, perfect first time, every time.

Did you see my earlier article and video on how to sew on a button with your machine?  It wasn’t difficult at all, just a little bit of fiddling to make sure the needle lined up exactly with the button holes.  But, I admitted, I’m scared silly of actually sewing the buttonhole.

Why?  Well the buttonhole is usually sewn right at the end of the project when eveything else is done. What if it messes up, gets all tangled, is skewed or just plain untidy?  It must be very hard to unpick a tiny buttonhole and resew without damaging the fabric.  And what if there are several, say 6 buttonholes to sew.  That means 6 chances to make a mess.  To do it nicely, each and every one has to be sewn correctly.  Getting it right on the first try, every time.  I’m perspiring just thinking about it.

So for me, until today, NO buttonholes.  Then a project came along that called for a buttonhole. Should I bail?  Come up with an excuse?  Or just give it a try and get over my fears?  I thought how difficult can it be – I had so much encouragement when I posted about sewing the button and my sewing fears – I HAD to try.

So in the true So Sew Easy style, I thought I should take a video and share with you of my first ever attempt at sewing a buttonhole.  Was it utterly laughable, a complete disaster, a mess of tangles?  Let’s take a look.

 

Ok, there you have it.  Nothing to be afraid of at all.  Now I am almost confident that if I had to sew a buttonhole, I would get it right first time and not mess up all my hours of work.

Sewing machine buttonholes, perfect first time, every time.

Your machine may have come with an automatic button hole foot, or it may be an optional extra.  Check out your manual. If you need one, and maybe some other special feet for your machine to really get the best out of it, there are some great kits here:

What about if you don’t have a buttonhole foot?  Then take a look at this tutorial on how to sew a buttonhole without a buttonhole foot.
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30 Responses to Sewing a buttonhole with the buttonhole foot

  1. Jenn says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!!! I have been teaching myself to see the past 2 years and have honestly shied away from anything that needed buttonholes!!! I was determined and picked out a pattern to make my granddaughters each a dress…with button straps! I have been anxio the whole project knowing the last step would be a buttonhole! I found your video first this morning as the dresses were waiting for their buttons….practiced twice…after I found my foot…and I was able to finish my dresses in just minutes!!! Thank you!!

  2. Joe Williams says:

    My singer slant needle automatic buttonhole foot won’t catch the bobbin thread when I try to make a button hole. It sews perfectly when I am doing other basic stitches and stitch patterns. The problem only occurs with the buttonhole foot and settings. Has anyone else ever had this problem? The machine is freshly restored. This is my first time to try buttonholes on it.

  3. Claire Martin says:

    Hello Deby ! I have a Singer 4423 heavy duty, and it seems like whatever I do, something goes wrong with the buttonhole foot. It starts well, it goes up, but when we reach the point where it should sew side and downwards, it just gets blocked, jams, and I have those terrible mass of knots that are impossible to rip. Do you have any tips or advice for me please? Claire

    • Yikes, Claire. Sorry to hear that. Sounds like something is wrong there, but its impossible for me to know what it might be. Does it only do this on button holes? Sounds like it might be time to ask a repair main to take a look. Sorry.

      • Claire Martin says:

        Hello Deby, thank you for your quick answer. It only does it with the buttonhole foot, if I do a buttonhole without the foot it works fine, I will try to get another foot and see how it goes, hopefully it’s just mine that is a bit blocked or something like that. The machine otherwise works a treat and doesn’t do any kind of funny noise or anything odd, it’s just that buttonhole foot that I can’t get to work, that’s why I hope it’s not the machine itself, fingers crossed.Thank you very much for your help , have a great day 🙂

    • Maria says:

      I don’t know if this will help or not, but I had the same issue with my machine that you are describing. It turns out that for mine, once it gets to that point, I have to press the lever that you pull down to sew the button hole the other direction. On my machine, that’s what signals it to go back the other way. It doesn’t say that anywhere in the instructions.

  4. Juanita Normann says:

    Nice job on the button hole. I always keep enough fabric scraps to do a practice run, enough times to feel confident taking my project to the sewing machine. I agree with the posts about stabilizing your buttonhole and using fray check and any number of ways to open the hole up without going past the ends. One thing I didn’t see mentioned was using a bit of topstitching thread on top and stitch over the thread to give the buttonhole definition. Some buttonhole feet have a little catch at the back to center the thread as you sew down each side.

  5. sewsirius says:

    Love your video…I ALWAYS always do a “sample” buttonhole on a scrap of the same fabric I’m using, then I can adjust for tension or add extra water soluble stabiliser on the back if it scrunches up. The stabiliser then just washes away. I have a Brother machine too, different model, and the sample also helps me to gauge whether the markings I’m using will work for the garment I’m making. Learnt that the hard way!

    If your readers don’t have access to their manual, all Brother sewing machine manuals can be downloaded from their website. I have all my manuals on my iPad which has saved me many times when I couldn’t find the hard copy manual (unfortunately very easy to loose things in my sewing room!)

  6. Diane Cullum says:

    Great job on your first button hole Deby! See, it wasn’t that scary after all! I start cutting the hole with my seam ripper but as soon as it is big enough, I use scissors to finish so I don’t over-cut. Sometimes I use the seam ripper to cut the whole thing but I make sure to poke the pointy end back up through the fabric at the end. That way I can’t slip and cut through the stitching at the end. I watch your videos sometimes just to hear you talk. Thank you for sharing; love it! 🙂

    • Deby Coles says:

      Ha ha, I laughed out loud at the comment about watching to hear me talk. I hate how I sound on video – don’t we all I suppose. I think I sound a bit dim and I have a rather flat voice. I’d never make it as a game show host!

  7. Glad to see you conquering your fears. You do a lot to encourage new sewists to try new things. My one hint learned while working at a sewing machine shop: use a tear away paper stabilizer under the buttonhole, then if you need to unsew it, your seam ripper slides between the threads and the paper instead of your fabric. I’ve gotten quite picky in my old age and do unsew them from time to time – no big deal!

  8. Carmen says:

    Thank you for the video. I got a new Kenmore special edition a couple of years ago and went to use the zipper foot the other day. I pulled down that thingy at the end and it broke. 🙁 I wasn’t sure how to use it though…I thought it went around the needle, so I think I’ll try again now that I’ve seen your video. It will be a bit different, but it’s worth a re-try…:)

  9. Karen says:

    Love you site!!

  10. Carla says:

    Great job. Button holes really scare people, but once you do one, you see there was never anything to fear. I was also taught to put pin just below the top of the buttonhole and then use the seam ripper to open it up. I’ve always done them that way and have never had a problem. I did order one of those buttonhole cutter sets and sometimes I use it, but more often than not, it’s too big for the buttonholes I typically make. Great job Deby!!!!

  11. Graceeh says:

    I just got a new sewing machine 2 days ago and we are playing around trying to get used to each other. (My very first Brother and I’m 68!). I love it. But just imagine my delight when looking for a video of automatic button hole making (another first) when I found your video of the exact same machine make and model! Thanks so much. I love your website and am always finding something new and interesting! Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Deby Coles says:

      That’s a great co-incidence. Now you can see it all happening rather than just have to read about it and keep your fingers crossed, like I did. Good luck with the new machine.

  12. Vicki says:

    Hello from ‘Down Under’, Deby!

    I really enjoy your blog and although I have been sewing for 50 years now (since I was a teenager), I still have things to learn…and learn I do, often from you!! (See, I am even a poet!!) Thank you for your generosity in sharing your ideas and knowledge – it’s people like you who make it a joy to live in the global village!!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Wow 50 years! I’ll bet you’ve made some stunning items over that time. I’m not sure there is anything you can learn here! Except how to do things on as quickly and easily as possible. I hope one day to have the time to ‘sew slow’ and move away from the quick and easy and really perfect my sewing skills as you must have done.

      • Vicki says:

        If there is one thing that I have discovered in my 66 years on this planet, Deby, it is that we can always learn something new. I have just learnt to crochet! I have picked up many tips and tricks from the internet with regard to sewing and especially with drafting patterns. I love learning new things….keeps the old brain ticking over! Hugs to you.

  13. Linda says:

    Deby,
    When I was taught to make manual buttonholes before the day of the modern buttonholer, I was told to be sure to have it backed with interfacing to keep the buttonhole stabilized and from stretching. I was also taught to have interfacing behind buttons before stitching them on to keep them from pulling through the fabric. I have been sewing for 44 years and absolutely love your blog and videos. There is always something new to learn! Thanks.

    • Deby Coles says:

      I like the idea of adding a light interfacing. Could make it stronger and last longer too, on something with heavier use or where there could be some strain on the buttons. Thanks for the tip.

  14. Alexandra says:

    I was taught to put a pin across the top of the inside of the button hole, pinned in horizontally. Then you use a seam ripper to cut up the buttonhole. The pin will form a barrier to stop it going too far. Has worked for me without fail for 30+ years now!

  15. Mary says:

    Well done Deb great video.

  16. Becky M says:

    Enjoyed your video. I’m glad you’re giving buttonholes a try. It will open up a lot more sewing opportunities. One hint I can add is to use a bit of fray check down the middle of your buttonhole, prob on the back is best, and let it dry. Then when you cut it open you won’t have all the little frayed threads. You can also try cutting from each end to the middle to avoid cutting through one of the ends. That seems to help. I do prefer using the chisel and block myself. Love your blog. Happy sewing!

  17. Misha C says:

    I have a 4 step button hole function on my singer (it’s 10 yrs old and not posh like your machine but it gets the job done). I find it safer to use very sharp nail scissors to cut the button hole because I really botched one up badly with my seam ripper. I find button holes much easier than zips.

What do you think?