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How to Master Buttonholes on Your Sewing Machine Full Guide of 2024

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how to make better buttonholes on your sewing machineYou’ve got a gorgeous project ready to be buttoned up, but those pesky buttonholes have you breaking out in hives. We get it, buttonholes can be tricky. But with the right tips and tricks, you’ll be punching out perfect buttonholes in no time.

This comprehensive guide’s got your back. We’ll walk you through everything from marking placement to hiding threads so you can master machine buttonholes once and for all. You’ll learn the ins and outs of basic and fancy buttonholes and easy step-by-step instructions for both automatic and manual machines—no special feet required.

Dive in and wave buh-bye to buttonhole frustration for good. With a bit of practice and patience, you’ll have this vital skill locked down tighter than those buttons in their holes.

Key Takeaways

  • Use the buttonhole foot for optimal results.
  • Precisely mark the position and length with a pen, ruler, or tape measure.
  • Adjust the settings based on the type of fabric.
  • Sew secure stitches and reinforce them with backstitching.

What You’ll Need to Sew a Buttonhole

What You
You’ll need a buttonhole foot, some fabric stabilizer, and a marking tool to get started sewing those pro buttonholes. A buttonhole foot is essential – it has ridges to guide uniform stitching and markings to determine length.

Choose an all-purpose foot for most fabrics or a specialty foot for leather, vinyl, or thick layers.

Stabilizing interfacing supports the fabric so stitches don’t stretch it out of shape. Iron-on interfacing onto the wrong side before sewing or use a tear-away backing.

Mark the buttonhole’s position and length with a fabric pen and measuring tape. For straight lines, use a ruler. You’ll also need strong, dense buttonhole thread, a seam ripper to open the hole neatly, and scissors or a special cutter for snipping the ends smoothly.

Practice on scrap material first to adjust settings. Take your time and follow the guidelines to stitch professional-looking buttonholes with ease.

Perfect buttonholes can make all the difference on a garment, so the right tools and knowledge empower crafters to master this finishing skill.

Know Your Basic Buttonholes

Know Your Basic Buttonholes
When selecting a buttonhole style, consider the garment’s fabric weight and intended use. For lightweight fabrics like silks and chiffons, opt for a rounded or keyhole buttonhole that won’t fray or distort delicate material.

Heavier fabrics like denim and wool can handle the reinforcement of square and horizontal bar tack buttonholes. Adjust the buttonhole length on your machine to match your button’s diameter – this ensures a snug fit.

Position the garment accurately under the presser foot to sew straight buttonholes. Test fabrics first to check stitch settings before sewing on your project. Knot threads at the end to avoid unraveling.

A knit buttonhole with zigzag stitches stretches with knits. Square buttonholes are versatile for suits, blouses, and heavy coats, while a keyhole suits light fabrics. For best results, practice buttonhole demonstrations on scrap fabric. Choose a buttonhole style appropriate for the garment’s fabric and purpose.

One Additional, Extra-fancy Option: Corded Buttonholes

One Additional, Extra-fancy Option: Corded Buttonholes
Have you ever considered adding strength and style to your buttonholes with cording? For an extra touch of vintage styling and sturdiness, try sewing corded buttonholes. This traditional technique uses narrow cording inside the buttonhole for a raised, decorative effect.

To create fabulous corded buttonholes, first stabilize your fabric as you normally would for any buttonhole. Then fold a length of cording in half and insert it into the groove under the buttonhole foot.

As you sew the buttonhole, the foot will stitch over the cord to hold it in place inside the stitches. Remove the fabric when finished and gently pull the cord ends to settle them into the corners before cutting off the excess.

Make sure to use heavy-duty thread and take careful stitching to ensure the cord lies flat in the buttonhole without gaps. With practice, you can add beautiful corded accents to any garment from blouses to coats.

Just think of the compliments you’ll get! Your clothing will have that special handmade detail, thanks to this simple but elegant buttonhole variation.

How to Sew an Automatic Buttonhole

How to Sew an Automatic Buttonhole
With your garment stabilized and marked, you’re ready to start sewing beautiful automatic buttonholes. An automatic buttonhole foot attaches to your sewing machine and does most of the tricky work for you.

Simply choose your desired buttonhole style, like basic square or rounded, then position your fabric under the foot. Your sewing machine will stitch the buttonhole in a few automatic steps, following the spacing you marked.

When sewing the actual buttonhole:

  • Match your thread color closely to your garment fabric. Slightly looser top tension makes sewing easier.
  • Use an appropriate stabilizer behind the buttonhole area so stitches don’t pucker.
  • Mark the top and bottom of the buttonhole slit using a fabric pen on the right side of fabric.
  • Insert a button of choice into the automatic foot to determine sizing. The machine will sew a buttonhole customized to that button size.

With some practice on test material, you’ll be sewing professional buttonholes in no time.

How to Open the Buttonhole

How to Open the Buttonhole
When your buttonhole is complete, it’s time to cut it open. Carefully cut down the center using a seam ripper or small scissors, being cautious not to cut the stitches on either side.

Option 1

Slide that sharp seam ripper through the dense stitches to free your buttonhole. With medium-weight fusible stabilizer behind it, your fabric will stay intact. Align the ripper’s tip inside the slit and pierce the bartacks at each end. Then slice through the dense satin stitches down the center, stopping precisely at the marked endpoints.

For rounded ends, angle the ripper slightly. Take care not to cut the fabric underneath. Your crisp new buttonhole is ready for that favorite shank button. Admire the professional look as you slide it through the opening you crafted.

Option 2

After carefully cutting the buttonhole open, secure the fabric edges with a light coating of fray sealant or fabric glue. A buttonhole cutter set makes quick work of slicing open buttonholes. Use the circular cutter to open rounded ends, then insert the chisel end in the slit and push to split open the rest.

If needed, alter the buttonhole shape using a seam ripper to snip excess threads. Stabilize with interfacing behind buttonholes prone to stretching like on knits. Troubleshoot issues like uneven stitching by adjusting presser foot pressure. With practice, you’ll achieve beautiful, professional buttonholes to showcase on garments.

How to Sew a Basic 4-step Buttonhole

How to Sew a Basic 4-step Buttonhole
Align your fabric under the buttonhole foot, lower the presser foot, and sew forward until you reach the front marker. Then stop with your needle in the down position, raise the presser foot, and gently pull your fabric back until the front tab catches on the throat plate.

Lower the foot and sew back to the starting point. Repeat this process until you arrive at the back marker, stopping with the needle down. Raise the presser foot, pull the fabric back again until the tabs catch, lower the foot, and sew a few securing stitches.

Stabilize fabric behind the buttonhole area before starting to prevent tunneling.

Adjust thread tension slightly looser for smooth top stitching.

Use a sharp fabric pen to accurately mark the starting and ending points.

Select an appropriate stitch length and width for your fabric thickness.

With practice sewing each step methodically, you’ll achieve professional-looking buttonholes to beautifully finish any garment.

General Guidelines for Making Buttonholes

General Guidelines for Making Buttonholes
Tickle the empire waist before dancing through the buttonholes. Whether sewing vertical buttonholes on shirts or horizontal on collars, interface fabric first for professional results. Adjust machine settings per project, reducing top thread tension slightly. Match thread color close to the garment.

On regular machines, attach the pressure foot and align fabric under the foot. Carefully stitch a rectangle around the opening, reinforcing the ends. Adjust the stitch width and sew a dense buttonhole; too wide risks tears. Utilize bobbin thread at the bottom for sturdiness.

After sewing, use a seam ripper and straight pins to cut the buttonhole open. Apply fray sealant. With practice, buttonholes become quick and enjoyable. For the best outcomes, always test sew on scrap fabric first.

How to Make a Buttonhole With a Buttonhole Foot

How to Make a Buttonhole With a Buttonhole Foot
Transition: Now that we’ve covered some general guidelines, let’s dive into using a buttonhole foot to make perfect buttonholes every time.

Making buttonholes with a buttonhole foot attachment is the easiest way to get professional-looking results.

  1. Interface the fabric by using a stabilizer on the wrong side. This will reinforce the fabric and prevent stretching.
  2. Change your sewing machine to the buttonhole setting and attach the buttonhole foot.
  3. Position your fabric under the foot and lower the needle into the garment where you want the top of the buttonhole.
  4. Start sewing slowly and let the machine do most of the work. The buttonhole foot will sew the sides, bartacks, and finishing stitches automatically.
  5. Once finished, use a seam ripper to carefully open the buttonhole. Apply a fray preventative glue inside the buttonhole.

Be sure to first test your buttonhole settings and stitch width on a fabric scrap before sewing on your actual garment. The buttonhole foot saves tons of time and effort compared to hand stitching buttonholes! With some practice on your machine, you’ll be churning out professional-looking, durable buttonholes in no time.

How to Make a Buttonhole Without a Buttonhole Foot

How to Make a Buttonhole Without a Buttonhole Foot
You’ll stitch a fine buttonhole sans special foot with care and patience. A quality machine and the right settings are key for ease and speed. Make sure your machine offers a buttonhole stitch option and experiment with tension.

Use an appropriate needle; a jeans needle handles thicker fabrics. Stabilize fabric behind the buttonhole, especially on stretchy materials. Interface adds sturdiness. Mark the buttonhole slit precisely with disappearing ink.

Carefully align fabric under the presser foot and lower. Sew slowly and stop exactly at the marks. Gently tug fabric taut when restarting. Use sturdy thread like polyester. Avoid puckers by adjusting tension.

Hand finish thread ends and open the buttonhole precisely. Your patience is rewarded with professional results.

  • Test on scrap pieces first
  • Use sharp pins when cutting open
  • Press with interfacing behind
  • Check buttonhole foot manual

With care, practice, and the right tools, sewing machine buttonholes can rival commercial quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What size buttonhole do I need for different button sizes?

You’ll need a buttonhole that’s slightly larger than the button diameter. For small buttons under 1/2 inch, add 1/16 inch. For larger buttons, add 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Use a buttonhole gauge to test the size and mark the length on the fabric.

How can I fix a buttonhole if I mess it up?

If you mess up a buttonhole, don’t panic! Simply use a seam ripper to carefully remove the stitches. Re-mark and re-sew the buttonhole. Take your time and go slowly. With practice, your buttonhole skills will improve.

How do I know where to position the buttonhole on my garment?

You’ll want to position the buttonhole near the edge of your garment, aligning it evenly with where the button will be sewn. Use pins and tailor’s chalk to mark the buttonhole placement, and measure the distance between buttonholes if you are doing more than one.

What needles, threads, and interfacing work best for buttonholes?

Use all-purpose thread with a buttonhole or jeans needle. Interface the buttonhole area with a lightweight fusible interfacing.

What are some tips for getting perfectly even and straight buttonholes?

Double-check your fabric’s stability and ensure it is properly marked. Adjust the stitch width and length to achieve balanced density. Take your time and proceed with caution, following the marked guidelines. Regularly check the alignment and pivot the fabric as necessary.

Utilize an automatic buttonhole foot for consistent stitching. Prior to working on your actual project, practice the technique on scrap fabric to attain mastery.


You’ve got this! With a little practice and the right tools, mastering buttonholes is within your reach.

Let’s use Susan as an example. She was intimidated by buttonholes at first. But by following the step-by-step instructions, she gained confidence with each buttonhole. Susan says taking time to mark and test on a scrap was key. Now, she looks forward to sewing buttonholes, knowing it will elevate her sewing projects.

Don’t be afraid to use the automatic settings on your sewing machine and take advantage of specialty feet like the buttonhole foot. Keep pressing down on the foot pedal and before you know it, you’ll have professionally finished buttonholes that make you beam with sewing pride.

With patience and persistence, you can master buttonholes on your sewing machine in no time!

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.