Buttons make beautiful fastenings so here’s our easy guide to sewing the perfect button and buttonhole on your sewing machine!
Buttons come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and styles so when using them as closures for a garment, you’ll need to find the perfect button and sew a buttonhole to fit it!
Things to consider when selecting a button:
- Make sure the button is the correct size for the garment.
- The button needs to be washable at the same temperature as the fabric.
It’s definitely all about the buttons on the Fiona Sundress from Closet Core. They can instantly transform a piece of clothing from plain to on-trend in a matter of seconds!
To find you UK local stockist of this pattern, visit www.hantexonline.co.uk/closetcore
A buttonhole is a set of very narrow zigzag stitches that’s sewn in two close lines and finished off at the ends to form a rectangle box. Most modern sewing machines offer a one-step buttonhole system making it a quick and easy task, and comes with an automatic buttonhole foot, which actually doesn’t look like a foot at all!
Our Janome machine has three different types of buttonholes – square, round-end, and keyhole. These are sensor buttonholes, which means that the size of the buttonhole is set automatically when the button is placed in the rear of the buttonhole foot. Clever stuff isn’t it?
Different buttonholes and when to use them:
SQUARE – Use this one on medium to heavy fabrics.
ROUND-END – Use on finer to medium-weight fabrics such as blouses and children’s clothes.
KEYHOLE – Use on medium to heavy fabrics with larger and thicker buttons.
Sewing a buttonhole with your machine
The buttonhole foot attaches to your machine just like any presser foot:
- Slot the button at the back of the foot by pulling the foot back.
- Pull the black button lever at the side down as far as it will go
- Use the same colour thread on the top of the machine and in the bobbin. Draw the needle thread to the left through the foot hole and mark the buttonhole position and lower the needle to the starting point and lower the foot.
- Start sewing while pulling the thread gently to the left for the first few stitches. Then let the machine finish off the stitching sequence.
- Stitching starts off in front of the buttonhole and the machine will stop automatically when the buttonhole is completed. Then raise the buttonhole lever.
- For sturdier buttonholes, you can sew another layer of stitching over the top. To do this, just leave the buttonhole lever down and start sewing
Cutting open the buttonhole:
Place a pin at the top and bottom of the buttonhole so that you use a seam ripper to cut the stitches and not the ends of the buttonhole stitches. You can buy a buttonhole cutter tool, which works as a flat
sharp chisel to press through the buttonhole and cut it open.
You can purchase this Buttonhole Cutter on Amazon. This one includes a straight cutter, keyhole cutter, and a 2in square mini mat to press neat clean buttonholes. Priced at £8.99 and available from www.amazon.co.uk
Sewing a button on your machine
Do you sew your buttons on by hand? Well, you can use your machine to do this more neatly. You can buy a button sewing foot specially designed to hold your button still while your machine stitches it down. Most have a rubber coating to help keep the button from slipping. The foot attaches in two places – behind the back bar as well as in front so make sure the back part of the foot is lifted to click into place. The blue rubber part of the foot is designed to hold the button in place once you have lowered the presser foot on top of the button.
How to sew a two-hole button using your sewing machine
- Mark where each button will be sewn on your garment (this will be shown on your pattern).
- Drop your machine’s feed dogs – this makes sure the button doesn’t move or break your needle, and attach the button sewing foot.
- Choose your button sewing stitch. Look at the stitch chart for a stitch that looks like a button but don’t worry if you haven’t got this as you can also be easily down with a zigzag stitch – just set the stitch length to 0.
- Position the button under the foot so the needle comes down in the left hole of the button. Lower the foot to hold the button in place. Then hand hand-crank the machine so the needle comes down and goes through the centre of the left hole. You may need to move to get the best alignment.
- Continue so the needle goes back up and then comes down in the right hole. To adjust this drop position, change the stitch width. Start to stitch and sew about 8 stitches to secure the button.
- Raise the presser foot and remove your button and fabric. Snip the thread tails, leaving at least 4in of thread and tie tightly.
TIP: Most manufactured buttons have the same gap between the button eyes, and 3.5mm stitch is usually perfect for sewing buttons on!
Troubleshooting tips and advice
How do I space out the buttons on my garment?
Buttonholes will be marked on your sewing pattern with short lines, and a circle or a cross on top of the buttonhole marking marks the button position. Remember that a women’s garment does up right over left (so you’ll need to mark the buttonholes on the left side).
The fabric has stretched around the buttonhole
When using a stretch or fine fabric, you should always use a stabiliser on the back of the buttonhole and try not to pull at the fabric as you sew. I like to use a small piece of a tear away so excess can be removed after sewing.
The button doesn’t fit through the buttonhole!
Always make a test buttonhole on a scrap of fabric to check your settings and test that the button fits through easily. If it doesn’t, you can pull the button holder back a little more, and try again!
The button has more than two holes
Just follow the steps twice and choose whether you do parallel bars or a criss-cross with the stitching on the button.
The buttons are sewn on too tightly
Use a pin to place in the middle of the button sewing foot to make room for movement.
What is a stabiliser plate?
A stabiliser plate is designed to hold and support your fabric and is also attached to the buttonhole foot. It’s not essential but and is particularly useful when sewing a buttonhole over the hem of thicker fabrics.
These photos were taken using our Janome DKS30SE sewing machine. To find out more about this machine, visit www.janome.co.uk.
Author: Julie Bonnar