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How to Sew a Buttonhole Without a Buttonhole Foot: Easy DIY Technique! (2024)

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how to sew a buttonhole without a buttonhole footDon’t stress if you don’t have a buttonhole foot – you can absolutely sew a buttonhole without one!

Set your machine to a wide zigzag stitch with the length at zero. Stabilize the fabric with interfacing. Mark the buttonhole placement and stitch bartacks at each end.

Carefully sew down one side, pivot, and sew across the end. Once it’s sewn, use a seam ripper to cut open the buttonhole opening.

With a little practice, you’ll be stitching flawless buttonholes in no time. Want to learn the full technique step-by-step? Keep reading for all the details.

Key Takeaways

  • With a bit of elbow grease and some creative thinking, you can sew buttonholes like a pro without any fancy gadgets. It’s like unlocking a secret sewing superpower!
  • The key is setting your machine to a wide zigzag stitch with the length at zero, then carefully stitching bar tacks at each end. It’s a bit like sewing a tiny architectural marvel.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different stitch widths and lengths to find the perfect settings for your fabric. It’s like being a mad scientist of buttonhole wizardry!
  • Remember to reinforce the fabric with interfacing first – it’s like giving your buttonhole a sturdy foundation to stand the test of time (and tugging).

How to Sew a Buttonhole Without a Buttonhole Foot?

To sew a buttonhole without a buttonhole foot, switch your sewing machine to a wide zigzag stitch and carefully sew around the marked buttonhole area. After sewing the zigzag outline, cut open the buttonhole in the center and finish by sewing horizontal bar tacks at each end.

Preparing the Fabric and Marking the Buttonhole

Preparing the Fabric and Marking the Buttonhole
First, you’ll want to fuse interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric to stabilize the area where you’ll sew the buttonhole. Next, use a pencil or chalk to mark where you want the buttonhole placed, and draw a straight line indicating the desired length of the buttonhole opening.

Fuse Interfacing to the Wrong Side of the Fabric

You’ll need to fuse interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric. This reinforces the area and prevents the buttonhole from stretching out. Consider these options:

Follow the interfacing’s heat settings. A well-interfaced fabric provides the stability needed for a crisp, long-lasting buttonhole.

Mark the Buttonhole Placement With a Pencil or Chalk

With the interfacing fused, grab a pencil or chalk and mark the buttonhole placement. Measure the button diameter, then add 2mm for the buttonhole opening length. Make perpendicular lines at each end forming an "I" shape to mark the bartack locations. Chalk works great on darker fabrics, while pencil markings are less visible on lighter colors.

Draw a Line for the Buttonhole Opening

Use the button to determine the opening size. Draw a line slightly longer than the button’s diameter, then add perpendicular lines at each end to form an "I". This marks:

  • Button position
  • Button size
  • Mark placement
  • Line length and width

Ensure the line accurately represents the buttonhole opening length. Extend the ends beyond the desired bartack placements.

Setting the Zigzag Stitch

Setting the Zigzag Stitch
To sew a buttonhole without a buttonhole foot, start by changing your sewing machine’s stitch to the zigzag setting. Then, set the stitch length to zero while adjusting the stitch width to the widest option available on your machine.

Change the Stitch to Zigzag

First, change your sewing machine’s stitch to a zigzag. Make sure you select a narrow zigzag stitch, with a stitch width just wide enough for your buttonhole. Adjust the stitch width to the widest setting, making it easy to sew the sides of your buttonhole. If needed, consult your machine’s manual for troubleshooting the zigzag stitch width.

Set the Stitch Length to Zero

Next, you’ll need to set the stitch length to zero. This will create a dense, narrow zigzag stitch for the bartacks and sides of the buttonhole. Here are the key steps:

  1. Locate the stitch length dial or setting on your sewing machine.
  2. Rotate or adjust it to the zero or shortest length setting.
  3. Test the stitch on a scrap fabric to confirm that it’s a tight zigzag.

With the stitch length at zero, you’re ready to sew crisp, clean bartacks and sides for a professional-looking buttonhole.

Adjust the Stitch Width to the Widest Setting

With the stitch length at zero, adjust the stitch width to the widest setting. This creates a dense zigzag that forms the bartacks and sides of the buttonhole.

Width Use
Widest Bartacks
Narrow Buttonhole Sides
Medium Experiment

The wider bartacks reinforce the buttonhole ends, preventing fraying. Get creative – play with the width to find the perfect dense zigzag stitch for your buttonhole!

Experiment With the Stitch Width for the Bartacks

Once the stitch width is set, experiment with a narrower zigzag for the bartacks. The width should create a dense, tightly-packed row of stitches to reinforce the buttonhole ends. Consider the fabric thickness, needle size, and thread tension when adjusting the bartack width for ideal stitch density and durability.

Sewing the Buttonhole

Sewing the Buttonhole
Start by sewing the top bartack – stitch a few tight, reinforcing zig-zag stitches to secure the beginning of the buttonhole. Then, position the fabric so the marked buttonhole line is directly under the needle, and sew down the right side using a narrow zig-zag stitch, keeping the left swing of the needle following the marked line.

Sew the Top Bartack

With the zigzag stitch set, position your fabric so the marked bartack location is centered under the needle.

Begin sewing, keeping an eye on the needle position and thread tension.

After a few zigzag stitches, gently lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric to sew across the buttonhole opening, reinforcing the bartack placement.

Lower the presser foot again, ready to tackle the right side.

Sew Down the Right Side of the Buttonhole

Once you’ve secured the top bartack, it’s time to sew down the right side. Keep that needle perfectly in line with the pencil mark as you go:

  • Use a narrow zigzag stitch
  • Keep the fabric taut but not stretched
  • Watch the zigzag direction closely
  • Adjust needle position if needed
  • Overlap stitches for a neat finish

Keep that thread nice and even—no lumps or tangles. Steady hands make for a smooth buttonhole!

Sew the Bottom Bartack

Once you’ve sewn the right side, keep the presser foot down and rotate the fabric 90 degrees. Now, with the needle in the center position and the width set for a tight zigzag, sew the bottom bartack. Here’s how to position it perfectly:

Step Needle Position Action
1 Center Lower needle into fabric
2 Left Zigzag to left edge of mark
3 Center Straight stitch across mark
4 Right Zigzag to right edge of mark
5 Center Straight stitch to end

With the bottom bartack complete, you’re ready for the final side.

Cutting and Finishing

Cutting and Finishing
Once you’ve stitched the buttonhole, it’s time to cut it open.

Carefully insert a buttonhole cutter or seam ripper under the threads along the marked line, being cautious not to snip into the bartacks.

If your machine doesn’t have an automatic thread cutter, secure the threads on the back side with a knot or two.

Adjust the settings if needed until the opening looks clean and the perfect width for your button to slide through easily.

Experiment with different stitch widths on scrap fabric first.

With practice, you’ll master the technique for a professional finish every time!

Tips and Troubleshooting

Tips and Troubleshooting
You should utilize this technique for sewing buttonholes on any pattern that requires them, as it provides a versatile method that doesn’t depend on specialized presser feet. Experimenting with different stitch lengths on each side of the buttonhole can help you achieve the desired appearance and sturdiness for your project’s specific fabric.

Use the Method for Patterns Requiring Buttonholes

Once you’ve mastered sewing buttonholes without a foot, use this method for patterns requiring buttonholes by:

  1. Marking buttonhole placement precisely with chalk or pencil
  2. Adjusting bartack width for neat, secure ends
  3. Testing stitch length on scrap fabric first
  4. Considering fabric type for appropriate settings

This versatile technique allows you to seamlessly incorporate buttonholes into any sewing project with confidence.

Experiment With Different Stitch Lengths on Either Side

For fabrics like denim, experiment with slightly longer stitch lengths on the buttonhole sides for strength. For lightweight fabrics, narrower stitches prevent fraying. Adjust bartack width and length too—denser bartacks reinforce buttonhole ends on sturdy fabrics, while delicate fabrics need a lighter touch. Perfecting stitch settings for your fabric elevates buttonhole quality.

Create a Buttonhole Without a Buttonhole Foot or Stitch

Experimenting with different stitch lengths can enhance your buttonholes’ appearance. But what if your machine lacks a dedicated buttonhole stitch or foot? Don’t fret! You can still create professional-looking buttonholes with:

  • Precise button placement
  • Fused fabric interfacing
  • Zigzag stitch width adjustments
  • Carefully positioned bartack stitches
  • Appropriately sized button openings

Unleash your creativity and sew buttonholes suited to your projects’ needs!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you determine the ideal buttonhole size?

To determine the ideal buttonhole size, measure your button’s diameter and add 2-3 mm. This slight excess guarantees effortless buttoning while preserving a snug fit. Mark the buttonhole length and perpendicular lines for an accurate "I" shape.

Is there a trick for sewing even bartacks?

For even bartacks, sew slowly, count stitches, and adjust stitch width/length if needed. Hold needle down while pivoting at corners to prevent gaps. Practice on scrap fabric for consistent tension and stitching.

What other stitch can substitute for the zigzag?

You can use a straight stitch instead of a zigzag for the sides of the buttonhole. Just baste it first with a long stitch length, then go over it again with a tighter straight stitch for reinforcement.

How do you prevent the buttonhole from fraying?

Zap that buttonhole fraying with a quick spritz of fray check! This magical seam sealant, properly applied, locks those pesky threads in place for a crisp, professional finish. Mastering this simple step elevates your sewing game instantly – pure buttony bliss awaits!

Can you sew buttonholes on knit or stretchy fabrics?

Yes, you can sew buttonholes on knits and stretchy fabrics. The key is to stabilize the area with interfacing or stabilizer before creating the buttonhole. This prevents the stretchy fabric from distorting the buttonhole shape during construction and use.


Mastering how to sew a buttonhole without a buttonhole foot is akin to discovering a hidden door – suddenly, a whole new world of sewing possibilities awaits.

With a little practice, your zigzag stitches and bar tacks will become as flawless as professionally-sewn buttonholes.

Embrace this versatile technique, and you’ll soon create polished garments that leave others wondering how you achieved such precision without specialized equipment.

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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.