How to Make Better Buttonholes on Your Sewing Machine

Buttonhole (Photo credit: Jane Starz)

When I got my new sewing machine, I was pretty excited because it claimed it could make buttonholes with one push of a button. On my old machine, I had to follow several steps in my manual, and they were difficult to follow. So, I used to avoid making buttonholes because they scared me.

I had experimented with buttonholes before and the fabric always seemed to stretch or bunch up — I swear they never turned out right. I was also worried that if I made a mistake and had to unpick a buttonhole, I might accidentally snag the fabric and ruin my entire sewing project. I got to the point where if there was no way around the buttonholes, I’d have my mom make them for me. That’s why I’m writing this article — I want to show you there is no reason to be afraid of making buttonholes. You just need practice and to learn a few helpful hints.

Steps for Making Beautiful Buttonholes

  1. Check to make sure there is enough thread in the bobbin and on the spool before starting because you don’t want to run out in the middle of a buttonhole.
  2. Put in a new needle so it is sharp and won’t snag the fabric.
  3. Attach your button hole foot and insert a button in the back to set the size.
  4. Make a sample buttonhole on a scrap of fabric, following the instructions in your manual, so you can adjust the stitch length and tension appropriately.
  5. Mark the position of all your buttonholes with a fabric marker so you can make all the buttonholes at once.
  6. Position your fabric on your sewing machine where you want to make a buttonhole. Remember, your sewing machine starts sewing backwards first.
  7. Follow the instructions in your manual to sew a buttonhole. All sewing machines are different. I have a basic Singer sewing machine and all I have to do is pull down a lever near the presser foot to engage the automatic buttonhole maker.
  8. Cut the buttonhole open with a seam ripper, starting at the edges and cutting towards the middle.
  9. Repeat these steps for all of the buttonholes you need to make.

Helpful Hints for Making Buttonholes

  • Put interfacing behind each buttonhole to prevent stretching when making buttonholes on lightweight material.
  • Use polyester thread or machine embroidery thread on lightweight fabrics instead of all-purpose thread.
  • Loosen the upper tension to avoid bunching.
  • Prevent tunneling and stitches sinking into the fabric with water soluble stabilizer
  • Use a longer stitch length on heavy and bulky fabrics.
  • Sew slowly to catch any problems early because it takes a long time to unpick a buttonhole.

How to Make Better Buttonholes with a Sewing Machine

Do you have any other advice for making buttonholes? Leave a comment below.
Image credit kellyhogaboom via Flickr