Do you struggle with sewing buttonholes? Does your machine fight back? Do avoid making blouses, shirts, and jackets because they have buttonholes? I was there once too. I love my old sewing machine (it’s a Pfaff), it sews great! But it’s 20 years old and makes crappy buttonhole stitches, partially because the operator (me) needs to spin dials, calculate side lengths and bar tacks, sink the needle, etc. Below I will show you how to sew a buttonhole the easy way.
The Search For The Best Machine
I spent some time looking for an inexpensive, quality sewing machine, essentially to make buttonholes; but also something I could use in my studio for my wonderful students. I needed a good sturdy machine that was easy to use and worked great. Discovering the Brother CS6000i was a joy and I love it! I use it regularly, it is the only machine I make buttonholes on, and I love all the extra features that this digital machine offers, like the down needle position and all the stitches if offers..
Let me take you on a little buttonhole journey…
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What Are Buttonholes or Button Holes
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a buttonhole as a noun is “a slit or loop through which a button is passed.” As a verb it is, “1. to furnish with buttonholes or 2. to work with buttonhole stitch or 3. to detain in conversation by or as if holding on to the outer garments.”
We are going to explore the noun – “a slit or loop through which a button is passed.” Although there are several people I would detain as in the verb version 3! Just kidding – maybe!
You will see buttonhole and button hole used interchangeably, I prefer to use it as one word, so there’s that.
You can make a buttonhole by hand sewing or sewing machine. I can honestly say I have never hand sewn a buttonhole from scratch. I have repaired a few, never set out to hand sew one. Sounds like an idea for a new post – maybe not!
About The Brother CS6000i
The Brother CS6000i is a workhorse. It offers lots of great options at an affordable price. I love the features of the sewing machine and you can read my review The Best Beginner Sewing Machine. That review covers all the great features of the machine. In this post, I’m going to dive deep into the murky waters of how to sew a buttonhole the easy way.
When you sew a buttonhole, the buttonhole foot is the most important tool in the entire buttonhole system. Unless, of course, you choose to make a buttonhole by hand. But why would you?
One of the most critical parts of creating amazing buttonholes is the buttonhole foot. It sets the gauge of the buttonhole, secures the fabric in place, and guides the fabric through the stitching process. On the Brother CS6000i one flick of the finger and the sewing foot is released and easily removed (see the demonstration in the YouTube video below). The buttonhole foot attachment is guided into position and then snaps on fairly easily. You do need to guide it into the correct position, but it’s not a biggie.
Determining the length of your buttonhole with the CS6000i couldn’t be easier. You slide your button into the slot on the back of the buttonhole foot and the machine will automatically do all the calculations. It makes your sewing sew easy and the results are gorgeous buttonholes where the buttons slide in and out perfectly.
On my old machine I need to mark my buttonhole with a fabric pen by measuring the buttons, hen calculate the length and set the stitch width, zig zag stitch down one side, change the stitch, bar tack, zig zag back up the other side, and finish with a bar tack. It was 50/50 that I would actually get the distance even top and bottom. Too many steps for me, and I’ve been sewing for more than 40 years. Lots of ugly buttonholes!
How to sew a buttonhole the easy way you ask. Well, once you determine where to place your fabric in relation to the buttonhole foot, you drop the presser foot, then sink the sewing needle. As the machine begins the sewing process, gently guide the thread tail out of the needle path for a neat, clean edge. So simple and easy. Check out the video below that demonstrates how to make a buttonhole.
Cutting Open Your Buttonhole
Never use a seam ripper to cut open your buttonhole!
I use my seam ripper frequently, it’s the best tool for when things go slightly off course. However, they are not the best tool for cutting open a buttonhole. One slip of the seam ripper and your opening will go from the end of the buttonhole to the full length of your garment. That would be tragic.
Gone are the days when we use chisel cuts to open the buttonhole. A fairly foolproof method when cutting open your buttonhole is to slide glasshead pins on each end of the buttonhole. This will keep your scissors from going through the end threads when you cut your buttonhole slit. Then carefully fold your buttonhole in half and snip the inner fabric. Make sure you use sharp scissors, I like duckbilled scissors, but tiny gooseneck scissors work well also. I have demonstrated how to snip your buttonhole in the video below.
The Best Sewing Machine For Buttonholes
Any machine that will automatically calculate the size of your buttonhole and stitch it perfectly is the best machine for buttonholes. I love the CS6000i (I think I mentioned that already) because it sews amazing buttonholes, but also has many other wonderful features and is a great value for the money.
Horizontal Buttonholes Vs Vertical Buttonholes
There is a simple and practical rule for buttonholes. It is based on the stress and movement of your garment.
Vertical buttonholes are for blouses and dresses that have a placket. You don’t want the front or back of your garment sliding side to side in the buttonhole exposing your undergarments.
Horizontal buttonholes are for anywhere you need your garment to move. Cuffs, collars, waste bands, and outwear are all perfect places for horizonal buttonholes.
Practice Before You Sew Buttonholes
Before you sew buttonholes on your finished garment or DIY project, take a test run. Even with a great machine, you still want to see how the buttonhole will look.
The first step is to prepare practice fabric so it is the same as your finished garment. Make a sample by using scraps from your garment or project, layering them the same as they are in the real item. For instance, if you are making a shirt, you would have two or three layers of fabric in the placket along with a layer of interfacing. Assemble a test piece so it is a copy of your finished project and use that to give your buttonhole sewing a test run.
The test run is the perfect place to make any necessary adjustments or even just practice before you tackle the real thing. You don’t want to be ripping out your buttonhole stitches, it is a nightmare and can seriously ruin your fabric. And don’t skip on adding the interfacing, it makes a difference in the thickness of your sample.
One last step is to pass your button through the buttonhole to make sure it goes through snuggly. It should be a tight fit because the buttons will stretch out the stitching over time.
Assorted Buttonhole Feet
This is a photo of the buttonhole feet from my two sewing machines, the Pfaff and the Brother. They look similar to each other but the steps required to make the buttonholes on either of the sewing machines is very different.
I recorded a little video demonstration for YouTube of the buttonhole process on the Brother CS6000i. So many great options. After make your buttonholes, the only steps left are to sew on the buttons.
Video: YouTube Button Demonstration on the Brother CS6000i
My mom always said, “you need the right tools for the job.” Anyone can make great buttonholes, you just need to have the right tool. In this case, the best tool is a sewing machine that makes automatic buttonholes, and for me, that’s the Brother CS6000i.
I hope you enjoyed my little primer article on how to sew a buttonhole the easy way. Learning to sew buttonholes is not for the faint of heart. I have confidence that with the right tool, you too and sew an amazing buttonhole. I had a lot of fun practice all the different types my machine offers.
PS I hope you plan a new and exciting make and sew a buttonhole on your project. You might get some serious inspiration from my Spring Pattern and Fabric Haul, it’s one of my more popular posts.
PPS Be sure to post a comment below. I will leave a reply to your pressing buttonhole sewing questions.
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