Sewing: A slit in a garment for a button to go through, reinforced by thread.

Some professionally made garments (particularly jackets) have little loops at the ends of their buttonholes, like tiny eyebolts. This is not possible to duplicate on most home sewing machines. However, a standard slit-shaped buttonhole can be created without the need for hand stitching.

More than any other aspect of sewing, buttonholes take practice. It's hard to get them even, and it looks terrible if you mess up. Don't even think about trying one anywhere that will show until you've done lots of them on scrap fabric.

Here's how to make a buttonhole using any sewing machine that can make a zigzag. Note that if you have a newer machine, with fancy pre-programmed buttonhole settings, you don't need to do it this way. But you can if you want to.

  1. Mark out your buttonholes with tailor's chalk. They should be at least 1/4 inch larger than the buttons you intend to use. As a rule, buttonholes should be perpendicular to the edge of the garment. This means the button will pull on the end of the buttonhole, not the middle (where it would gap and look really strange).
    The traditional marking is shaped like a capital "i", which emphasises where the ends are so all of the buttonholes end up the same length. (You'll really notice when they're not.)
         ---    \
          |      \
          |       \ chalk
          |       / marks
         ---     /
    ____________ <- fabric edge
    
  2. Set your stitch width to maximum and your stitch length to 0. You want a wide zigzag that isn't going anywhere fast.

  3. Position the needle at one end of the buttonhole marking, with the rest of it toward you. Stitch 5 or 6 zigzags to create the bar at one end of the buttonhole, finishing with your needle on the left.
         ===     <-stitching
          |      \
          |       \ chalk
          |       / marks
         ---     /
    ____________ <- fabric edge
    
    Don't pull the fabric out or cut the thread after this stage - you want the thread to be taut between steps.

  4. Now set stitch width to half of the maximum value and increase the stitch length a tiny bit. Position the needle so that its leftmost position matches the leftmost extent of the stitching you just did.

  5. Stitch down the length of the buttonhole to the other end.
        ===
        =|
        =|
        =|
        ---
    ____________ <- fabric edge
    
    Once again, don't pull the fabric out or cut the thread after this stage.

  6. Reset your stitch width to maximum and your stitch length to 0. Reposition the needle so its centre position matches the centre line of the buttonhole.

  7. Make 5 or 7 zigzags at that end of the buttonhole. Be sure to do an odd number, so you end with the needle at the extreme right.
        ===
        =|
        =|
        =|
        ===
    ____________ <- fabric edge
    
    Leave the needle down.

  8. With the needle down, turn the entire project around 180°.
    ____________ <- fabric edge
    
        ===
         |=
         |=
         |=
        ===
    
  9. Once again, set stitch width to half the maximum value and increase the stitch length a tiny bit. Position the needle so that its leftmost position matches the leftmost extent of the stitching you just did.

  10. Stitch down the length of the buttonhole back to where you started, being careful to stay parallel to the first side you did. Let the zigzag go a little into the bit you make in step 3 for added strength.
    ____________ <- fabric edge
    
        ===
        =|=
        =|=
        =|=
        ===
    
  11. Now, using either buttonhole scissors or ordinary sewing scissors, cut open the buttonhole. Make sure you don't cut the stitching, particularly at the ends. Clean up any loose threads, and admire. You've just made a buttonhole.

Most buttonholes are made with thread that matches the fabric color. Stick to that convention for any you make this way - these are functional buttonholes. Even with infinite care, you won't make a buttonhole beautiful enough to be a feature. For that, learn how to handstitch buttonholes and practice a lot. Even more than you practiced to learn this technique.

But"ton*hole` (?), n.

The hole or loop in which a button is caught.

 

© Webster 1913.


But"ton*hole`, v. t.

To hold at the button or buttonhole; to detain in conversation to weariness; to bore; as, he buttonholed me a quarter of an hour.

 

© Webster 1913.

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