Automatic Buttonhole Hints and Tips

When I get clients who open up their new machines for the first time, I like to show them what all the attachments are for, and the buttonhole foot usually scares them! So I wanted to share the things I have learn’t along the way having used it many times.

If you have a digital machine like this one there will be various buttonhole functions. Generally you can have rounded buttonholes or square ones – this is purely down to taste, however there is always a buttonhole with a wider hole at one end. This one is for thicker fabrics, like coats.

Select your chosen buttonhole on your machine. Then make sure you have the foot the right way around. It should be like this picture with the button section at the back.

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Usually the white bit shown above is squashed together and you have to push the white bit that sticks out on the left in the picture. Then it should slide up, opening a gap in which you insert your button. Once the button is in, clamp it down so it holds it in place. My buttons were too big to clamp so I removed them once I had the correct size on the foot. The reason you put your button in there is so that the machine will sew the hole to the exact measurement.  On the older machines you have to measure it yourself and you run the risk of making the hole too small or too big. It’s very useful for this project (which is a waistcoat my son made for himself), as I have used lots of different buttons from my box, each being a slightly different size. Measuring them all would have been a nightmare!

So before you go any further you need to mark out on your garment where you want your buttonholes. If you are working from a pattern, then usually they will provide a guide for button placement. So I just used a ruler and some tailors chalk to mark where I wanted the buttons.

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What I have learn’t about this is try to avoid the seam where your fabric doubles up at the edge as the automatic buttonhole functions much prefer a flat seam and get all muddled up if you try to mount the edge halfway along a buttonhole. So I have marked mine just past the seam. Place the buttonhole foot on the machine just like any other foot attachment, but the bulk of the foot will sit at the back of the machine not the front or it won’t work. Then the part that most people forget is that there is a lever to the left of your machine, next to the needle threader if you have one. It is usually a black lever. If you pull this downwards it should sit behind the white ledge on the foot as shown. This lever tells the machine when to stop at the top of the buttonhole so it is really important or it will keep going!

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Position the foot over your chalk mark, making sure you are exactly the same distance from the edge on every buttonhole so they don’t look wonky. Make note that all the machines I have ever used (a fair few!) sew buttonholes from front to back. So we are all set up, buttonhole stitch selected, foot on, button in foot, foot positioned on garment away from the hem. Then all you have to do is to start sewing, the machine does all the work for you! I found with this garment which was lined in fleece that it worked better if I did it fleece side up. The reason for this is that fleece is stretchy and the teeth (feed dog) are at the bottom of the machine and they can stretch the fleece as you are sewing making the button hole far too small.

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Another tip, especially if you are using a thinner fabric, is to interface wherever you are sewing a buttonhole. This will add strength to the buttonhole and because it is stiffer when you are sewing the buttonhole, it will be neater and more accurate, and much easier to cut a neat line through at the end.

Once you are happy with your buttonhole, use your seam ripper (make sure you have a decent sharp one otherwise you can undo all your hard work!), to carefully cut through the hole in the middle. Voila! I hope this has helped you a little and encouraged you to try out that foot on your machine! Let me know how you get on!

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