How To Sew Buttonholes: Step By Step Tutorial

Dear friends, by virtue of the honesty that characterizes Robin, I have no qualms about admitting that on more than one occasion I have given up on a project for wearing buttonholes. The complexity of the matter added to a kind of laziness blocked my decisions when choosing a garment to sew.

But, after this start of sincerity, I must tell you that when I discovered the function of sewing buttonholes with the machine I made a whole collection of original and flattering shirts. So, I encourage you to look for the instruction booklet of your sewing machine (which should be on the bedside table next to some quality novel) and unveil once and for all this very useful function!

Below we will see in detail all the steps and materials necessary to successfully sew a buttonhole. Of course, we will always test on pieces of fabric with the same conditions (number of layers, thread direction, stability) as the final garment to adjust the measurement and the stitch length and width.

Let’s go there!

STEP 1 Stabilize the tissue

  • Add thermo-adhesive interlining to the outer layer of the fabric where we will sew the buttonhole.
interlining buttonhole reinforcement

This step is optional, but highly recommended because:

  • Adds stability to the buttonhole, making it more compact and durable.
  • Keeps the strands of fabric under control once we open the buttonhole in half.

In the following image we see a polished and self-assured buttonhole on the left, while his companion on the right is flimsy and will make our garment ugly with total security.

buttonholes stable stabilized unstable interlining

STEP 2 Measure and mark the button

  • Measure the diameter of the button using a caliper style ruler (or normal, in its absence, but this is very useful).
  • Add a few millimeters to the previous measurement to make sure that the button will pass freely.

Depending on the thickness of the button, more or less millimeters will be added. In the test we will test several options until we find the ideal measurement.

ruler measure diameter measure button
  • With a dressmaker’s chalk or textile marker we will mark the beginning and end of the buttonhole on the outside of the fabric.
button hole buttonholes mark fabric marker pen measure diameter ruler chalk

We will take this moment to talk about the orientation of the buttonholes. The general rule is to sew them horizontally, except if you have to do it in plaits, in which case we will make them vertical and centered on it. If you have doubts, the best way to clear them is by opening your closet!

buttonhole horizontal vertical

STEP 3 Prepare the machine

When sewing buttonholes by machine, two factors must be taken into account:

  • The thread

We can use the standard polyester thread without any problem, but it does not hurt to give the cotton thread a chance, since it has a more fluffy effect and fills the stitches with a voluminous finish.

Finally we have the twine thread, which is thicker and stronger, widely used in the exposed seams of jeans. If you go for this big guy, it is recommended to use it on the upper needle and put normal thread on the bobbin.

  • Special foot for sewing buttonholes

Surely your machine will bring it as standard, but if not, go to the shopping list! In addition to guiding us in sewing, it keeps the fabric layers well sealed.

STEP 4 Sew the buttonhole

With the appropriate thread and foot, the next step is to find on the control panel of our machine the buttons or levers corresponding to buttonhole sewing. Normally there are three and they are related to the sewing steps: one button sews vertically from top to bottom (as we normally do), another button sews horizontally (without going backwards or forwards) and a third button sews from bottom to top (as when sewing backwards) securing).

A rather punk feature of this tutorial is that, instead of starting by sewing with step 1 (which would be the left vertical buttonhole bar), we will do it with step 4. In this way we will leave one end of the buttonhole marked, so that when we go up the right vertical bar a little blind, we will see it without running the risk of passing us by.

And since it is much easier to understand this jumble of steps and bars with images than with text, let’s do it!

  • Sew the top end of the buttonhole with 3 stitches using the knob in position 4 (which is the same as position 2).
  • Raise the needle up (do not leave it stuck in the tissue because we could break it).

At this point the width we have chosen to zigzag will appear in its full splendor.

buttonhole sewing machine foot buttonholes steps
  • Shift knob to position and sew vertical bar to left of buttonhole.

Now the stitch length is responsible for making a thicker or more open zigzag. Normally, for sewing buttonholes we use a length between 0 and 1.

buttonhole sewing machine steps
  • When you reach the lower end of the buttonhole (indicated by the mark and the foot guide) raise the needle up.
  • Change the knob to position 2 and sew the bottom end of the buttonhole with 5 stitches.
  • Raise the needle up.
buttonhole buttonholes sewing machine steps
  • Change the knob to position 3 and sew the right sidebar (the machine will sew backward).
buttonhole sewing machine steps
  • Sew until you find the stitched end at the beginning.
  • Raise the needle up.
  • Return the knob to position 4 and do 2 additional stitches.
buttonhole buttonholes sewing machine steps
  1. Remove the sample from the machine leaving generous strands of thread.
remove buttonhole sewn sewing machine

STEP 5 cast off

  • With a needle, pass the strands to the wrong side of the piece.
hide strands behind the work buttonhole
  • Finish off the ends of thread by interlacing them with the stitches.

STEP 6 OPEN buttonhole

  • Place two pins on the inner ends of the buttonhole to avoid cutting stitches.
pins secure corners buttonhole open
  • With a very sharp looper or scissors cut through the middle of the buttonhole being very careful not to cut the stitches.
open grommet buttonholes
  • Check if the button passes with the necessary clearance through the buttonhole.
buttonhole sewing machine button test

With the buttonhole test passed, we are ready to sew them happily and confidently on the final garment!
Then we will sew all the buttons in their corresponding place. You can review the necessary steps on how to sew a button.

Undo a buttonhole

In the event that you have sewn a buttonhole and you do not like the result, as long as you have not passed the cutting phase, we can easily solve it with our great ally: the stripper.

  1. Cut the strands of the zigzag stitches at the back of the piece.
undo buttonhole
  • From the front, there will be nothing left but to pull the strands loose.

Thus we will not run the risk of pulling threads from the front of the garment, which in some cases can be catastrophic.

undo buttonhole

I hope you have gotten a crazy desire to sew buttonholes on shirts, cushions … or any surface that can be closed with a button!

You already know that any question, concern or comment will be welcome 🙂



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