Pinterest Button

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Buttonhole Tip for a Manual Buttonholer

One of my sewing machines is a beautiful industrial machine that I use for light manufacturing. If I can guide the fabric, it will do all the rest, including automatically trimming the thread! Some times it even makes my lunch for me (ok, not really). It is so great for all these things because that is all it does.

One of my other machines is a nearly 30 year old Bernina. It's been tried and true for thousands of alterations and it's still going strong. It has a 5 step buttonhole maker that was state of the art for a mechanical machine back in the day. Today, a lot of machines are electronic and buttonholers are automatic.

I don't create a lot of garments anymore. Alterations keep me pretty busy. I don't miss the buttonhole functionality much. When I do have to make buttonholes, I have found a way to make them uniform. It involves a non traditional sewing notion called electrical tape!

I start with a chalk line marking the center of the buttonhole. After determining the distance from the edge that I am placing the buttonhole, I place a piece of tape where the top of it will land. I then measure the length of the buttonhole, as you see here. I put a piece of tape where the bottom of the buttonhole will land.

Since this is the top of a new curtain for my sewing room, I want the buttonholes to be even. I tried using Scotch tape, but it didn't show up too well. The blue tape makes it was to see where my machine needs to stop.

Now I let my machine do the work. It doesn't hurt to sew into the tape once or twice. It will dull your needle just a little faster than normal, though.
IMG_1721.JPG And the finished product! Now this fabric was a sturdy twill for a curtain that closes off one wall of my fitting room. Of course you will want to try the tape on a piece of scrap to make sure you don't damage or stretch the fabric. I haven't had any trouble, though. It is much easier to reposition if the first try doesn't work, and it's easier to see than a line of chalk or fabric marker.


  1. I notice what appears to be a regular zigzag foot being used. No type of buttonhole attachment here? Do you do a leg, then widen the zigzag, another leg, then the final wide zigzag, all manually with no fancy foot? If so I am impressed. I've always wanted to try that but rely on my old Kenmore mechanical for its buttonholes. Love your blog by the way.

  2. Thanks, Bunny.
    Not quite. My machine takes five steps and you turn the manual dial after each step in complete. They are:
    1. Bar tack
    2. Left Leg
    3. Bar tack
    4. Right leg (going 'backwards')
    5. Stitch in place to backtack
    The length of the two legs is not set, it is up to me how long to go. That's why I need the tape.

    Good catch on the foot! I think I was in a hurry and forgot to switch!
    My usual foot is a buttonhole foot, more open in the middle for visibility. It also has a tab to add cording that gets stitched under the zigzag stitches in the two legs. Instead of a cord, though, I make a long length of thread and quadruple it.
    Some day I'll make a video and add more photos.