My fear of buttonholes has been holding me back, but I finally worked through it and finished! I don’t suffer from Koumpounophobia, but I was perversely amused to learn that fear of buttons is a thing. Apparently, Steve Jobs had it. My reluctance had more to do with a long history of messing up sewing projects on the very last step.
I chose simple dark brown buttons and brown all-purpose thread. Before starting, I needed to do a little trial and error. I haven’t used my machine to sew buttonholes in years, and I never did it often enough for it to become automatic. Rather than ruin my work, I set up a trial swatch to match the fabric and interfacing in the garment. Boy, was I glad I did!
My “Easy to Sew” pattern gave these instructions:
Transfer buttonhole markings to garment.
Make buttonholes at markings.
So…. that helped a lot.
Next step – read my sewing machine‘s manual. The machine’s instructions were also basic, but at least gave me enough to start experimenting.
I made a swatch with the same interfacing, lining and pinstripe fabric that I would be sewing.
After much experimentation, I was finally able to consistently stitch the buttonhole I wanted. I actually had to make a second test swatch because I ran out of room on the first one.
Here’s a full list of adjustments and additions I used.
- Place tear-away stabilizer under the buttonhole area.
- Use a walking foot.
- Set the stitch width to the maximum (in my case, 5mm).
- Run the bobbin thread through the eye of the bobbin case’s hook. This increases the tension on the bobbin thread.
- Increase the stitch density by adjusting the machine’s balance.
- Increase the presser foot pressure.
- Mark the vertical boundary of the buttonholes with two strips of blue tape.
- Insert a strip of wash-away stabilizer between the lines of tape. Use wash-away marker on the stabilizer to mark the buttonhole placement. Bonus – the lines are highly visible against the bright white wash-away.
- I still had problems with the long side of the buttonhole rectangle staying straight. Solution: set up the seam guide and use more blue tape to give it a “track” to follow.
- Make several buttonholes on the test swatch. I did not work with the actual vest until I could get three in a row exactly right.
- Open the holes in the test swatch sample and make sure the button fits. I used a very sharp seam ripper to cut the slots.
- Apply Fray Check to the buttonhole stitching.
- Before cutting the holes open, remove the stabilizer and place pins just inside the holes’ bartacks. The pins prevent over-cutting.
I checked and double checked my markings. Yes, I psyched myself out a little. One more triple check and I was ready to go.
Overkill? Maybe. You could make a case. But it worked!
I decided to hand-sew the buttons rather than machine-sew. The reason is that I wanted to make sure they were not attached too tightly. A too-tight button can pull through the fabric or distort the nice flat plane of the button placket.
I can’t believe it, but it’s really done!
I am so pleased with the finished outfit.
Do you have any tips for making buttonholes? Write a comment below – I would love to hear them.
In case you missed it, here is the rest of the series.
I have lots of great things planned for 2018. I can’t wait to share them with you!