Monday, July 27, 2009

Buttonholer Winners & Tips

You know how when you're watching a show on TV and during one of the commercial breaks a news preview comes on with a teaser about how a giant gorilla is barreling down your street at this very moment and then cuts off with "Details at 11?" Then you tune into the news at 11 to find out What Is Going On?? and the story you tuned in to see isn't shown until about 11:28? Well, that's what I'm doing with the winners of the buttonholer contest. They are below, but you'll have to watch nearly all of the newscast before it's announced. Hee hee hee ...!!

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So, yesterday I was finishing up my Shapely Shirt by stitching the buttonholes with my Singer buttonholer attachment. I decided to take some pics along the way to illustrate some tips I want to share.

But before I forget, make sure to visit EmilyKate's blog and watch her buttonholer attachment tutorial, here. You won't need any instructions at all after watching. (Great info, EmilyKate!).

OK, here we go …

If you're like me, one of the first things you'll wonder about after getting this thing hooked up to your machine is, "How the heck do I align everything so all my buttonholes start and end the same distance from the edge?" Well, it's easy enough to do, but not so easy to describe in words. Hopefully, I'll do OK.

First, mark your starting dots along the fabric edge. (One dot for each buttonhole.) My mark is in red below, with the needle stuck through it.

Notice that the back grabber foot thing around the needle is NOT centered to the needle. That's OK. It's normal. It will hardly ever be centered when you start, and yes, the position will likely be different each time.

Instead of trying to center things, what you need to do is become familiar with all the steps the needle takes as the attachment moves around to sew the buttonhole. To do that, raise your needle and start turning the white knob shown below. If it turns without clicking, turn it in the other direction. You need to hear those clicks and also see the attachment moving around. Each click is one movement.

Move it around for a couple passes until you can anticipate when it's nearing the starting point … which is one click past the center white line at the back of the black foot, circled below. It's a very subtle right-swing motion, so look for it. Missed it? OK, go around again. THAT is where you will start each buttonhole. (Pay no attention to my needle out of the red mark or the thread coming from it. I had started and then decided to take this pic, so I raised the needle and moved things around so I'd be able to get a shot of that white line.)

Practice on some scraps before you dive right into a real project. It's better to practice than to need to rip out buttonhole stitches. ;-)

Once you start, don't try to guide the fabric. The buttonholer takes it and moves it in all sorts of directions. This is what is supposed to happen. Let it.

Here is the backside of the first real buttonholes sewn with my attachment. I used a washaway stablizer underneath the fabric when stitching the buttonholes because this fabric is cotton/Lycra and it likes to pucker if you sew a buttonhole without the stabilizer. (I tested it first before diving in, which is how I learned this!)

We interrupt this fascinating blog post to bring you this announcement: The numbers 6 and 43 were randomly generated, in that order. That means Dawn (7/22/09 7:55 PM) wins first prize, and The Slapdash Sewist (7/24/09 8:13 PM) wins second prize. Congrats ladies. Email me your addresses to djc @ and I'll get this in the mail to you soon. Remember, you only have 48 hours before I move to the next names below yours. Dawn, I wish I could fit in the box with the attachment — I've always wanted to visit Alaska. ;-)

Here are my buttonhole cutting tools. One is a tube of Fray Block that I dab onto the buttonholes before cutting them. (I also dab this on the thread knots of the buttons for extra insurance.) The other items are my buttonhole chisel and mini self-healing mat that came with the chisel. The chisel is the best tool for cutting open a buttonhole. It's easy to position so that no threads are cut and if you're paying even a little bit of attention, it's pretty difficult to slice through the end of a buttonhole.

The buttonhole after being cut open. Beautiful, isn't it? ;-)


  1. What great timing for this post. I just made my first buttonholes on a real garment with my buttonholer. Unfortunately, I now need to wash said garment since apparently the little feed dogs on the foot of my buttonholer are dirty. They didn't mark any of the test pieces I made, but sure did all down the front of this waistcoat. Grr!

  2. I used mine this weekend for a buttonhole on my "loud" skirt. It was truly a wonderful result. My biggest problem was that I had a hard time getting the contraption to lift far enough to fit a waistband under it. *sigh* the problems we face in life. I can see how it would be just wonderful for a row of buttonholes! Thank you so much for emailing me the directions, really! And congrats to your lucky winners!

  3. I just sent you the email. I had to comment too about that cute, cute, cute little mat. I use a regular Lowe's wood chisel and block of wood. Your little mat is too cute though.

    Thanks for the buttonholer!!!

  4. I have another bid in on one, so we'll see if I get this one and get to use your instructions, which are great as always.

  5. That was a fascinating blog post. I'm still not sure how it works, esp on a machine without backtack, but I have faith. And so excited that I will have one of my own soon!!! Thank you!

  6. Thanks for your generousity in sharing your expertise! It takes time to put such a thoughtful and complete tutorial together too. Love the gorilla buttonhole winner update :)

  7. Now that you describe how to line it all up, it seems so obvious - and yet I've had my buttonhole attachment for years being too scared to use it on a Real Garment because I couldn't get it to line up right.


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