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Making Pretty Buttonholes

Nothing makes a garment look homemade faster than a poorly sewn and cut buttonhole. Next time you are snoop shopping, check out the buttonholes on different price levels of ready-to-wear garments. Once you learn the secrets to great looking buttonholes, yours will be better than the designer garments.

1. Wrap a water-soluble gel stabilizer over the buttonhole edge covering the buttonhole placement on both the right and wrong sides of the buttonhole before stitching. This reduces the friction between the presser foot and the fabric. It also prevents fabrics from pulling down into the throat plate. The water-soluble stabilizer on the underside also seals the inner edges of the buttonhole.


2. Machine sew the buttonholes.

3. Place a 'dime size' of liquid seam sealant (Fray Check) onto a Post-It note. Dip the end of a straight pin or toothpick into the liquid and run a bead of sealer along the inside of the uncut buttonhole and let dry. 

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Comments (39)

SewKoooL SewKoooL writes: Thank you. I thought that I make good buttonholes with silk thread. Now my buttonholes are "really" good with your tip.
No expensive Bernina here, but a used Viking for under $200.
Posted: 6:21 pm on February 10th

KarlaB KarlaB writes: Wow! Thank you for the info on gel stabilizer. I had never heard of it. Now that I have seen this tutorial, I am looking forward to some real success with buttonholes in future!
Posted: 4:56 pm on January 8th

dbroncofan dbroncofan writes: Wish I'd read this before my first set of button holes were added to a dress this weekend.
Posted: 9:17 am on November 27th

KarenGass KarenGass writes: This worked wonderfully on a doll jacket I was making. It was even a stretch knit, and it worked perfectly! (i had interfaced the buttonhole area with tricot knit fusible) I have beautiful buttonholes on my doll jacket - which truthfully I was dreading. Now I can't wait to make some on my own garments! Thank you Louise :)
Posted: 2:54 pm on April 23rd

jakip jakip writes: This is the answer to many bloopers. Thanks
Posted: 11:38 am on April 23rd

Nannysc Nannysc writes: Excellent ~ Thank you so much!
Posted: 11:01 am on April 23rd

Pood Pood writes: More great tips and advice from Louise, I wish you'd write a full book on sewing and professional looking results for the home sewer. Note: If you iron Fray Check while it's wet or damp it won't go stiff or hard, stays soft and pliable.
Posted: 3:22 pm on April 19th

Nerdychick2001 Nerdychick2001 writes: wow, this came just in time - i am putting in buttonholes for a shirt (for a sewing class) and have never been very successful with making professional looking buttonholes. Looking forward to trying this! Thanks Louise!
Posted: 2:26 pm on April 19th

Lizziebeth Lizziebeth writes: Thank you for such excellent advice and helpful comments from Marjory. I copy the excellent tips onto my computer in my sewing files.
Posted: 5:03 am on April 19th

user-1109679 user-1109679 writes: As a shorty, I almost always have to reposition buttonholes. Rather than mark the garment, I go a step further and mark the buttonhole placement on a placket length strip of stabilizer and pin it in place. Its easy and accurate to mark the stabilizer with a fine point permanent pen so I end up with lovely, perfectly spaced buttonholes.
Posted: 12:05 am on April 19th

hvnlyhost hvnlyhost writes: I love the idea and will try it today, and I happen to have the same foot, wonderful!
Posted: 3:42 pm on April 18th

user-1111579 user-1111579 writes: Ghislane, It's available at Fabricland in Ontario if that helps. Thanks, Louise, should have read this after my disaster buttonhole of yesterday!
Posted: 3:05 pm on April 18th

marjoryt marjoryt writes: For buttonholes that will experience stress (such as my pants waistband), some buttonhole feet have a single tooth at the top and bottom. Thread can be wrapped around the back tooth, running under the foot, and crossed in the front tooth. The satin stitch for each bar of the button hole covers the thread, producing a firm, almost puffed appearance.

I've also in a few cases doubled the thread in the single needle to produce the thickest satin stitch possible - I've used this for children's and men's coats.

If you have access to silk thread, it makes truly beautiful fine buttonholes and wears really well. Learn from my experience however, and don't use embroidery thread!
Posted: 11:30 am on April 18th

KarenQuiltsTexas KarenQuiltsTexas writes: I was just glad to see someone using a Husqvarna machine rather than an Oh so expensive Bernina! Nice to see a lovely manually done buttonhole too - though there are many machines that will make a lovely automatic one. Though I've made a zillion buttonholes Louises "finishing" touches are new to me and will be immediately incorporated into my future technique - thank you for sharing!
Posted: 11:05 am on April 18th

winr winr writes: To USER274141: Sew grosgrain ribbon as a facing on both buttonhole and button sides of your cardigan before creating buttonholes. Done this many times and it adds structure to the buttonhole side and prevents sagging on the button side. Hope this helps.

Posted: 10:08 am on April 18th

user-274141 user-274141 writes: Thank you Louise. I have a cardigan waiting to be put together I will use this tip for sewn buttonholes. I have been a Passap Knitter for many years and many times I have thought about trying this method. Now I can!!
Posted: 3:51 am on April 18th

Catzilla Catzilla writes: Thank you for information never thought of using water soluble stabilizer for buttonholes.

Posted: 2:40 am on April 18th

Martha_Moser Martha_Moser writes: What machine foot is that in the photo? It doesn't look like the buttonhole foot I use for a computerized buttonhole.
Posted: 11:16 pm on April 17th

Basketwoman Basketwoman writes: This is a great idea! Thanks!
Posted: 10:14 pm on April 17th

Basketwoman Basketwoman writes: This is a great idea! Thanks!
Posted: 10:14 pm on April 17th

Basketwoman Basketwoman writes: This is a great idea! Thanks!
Posted: 10:14 pm on April 17th

DSwindle69 DSwindle69 writes: love the idea of fray check,I also use machine embroidery
thread to make my button holes,they come out with less bulk
Posted: 8:39 pm on April 17th

Camielle Camielle writes: Louise, you are just the fox! Camielle
Posted: 5:07 pm on April 17th

memartie memartie writes: Floriani Heat Away will work wonderfully well, too. Once pulled away it will remain under the buttonhole stitching, even when washed!
Posted: 4:22 pm on April 17th

CarolynSoto1 CarolynSoto1 writes: This is so smart! Why don't you publish this is the magazine so nobody will miss this great tip?
Posted: 4:18 pm on April 17th

lmndesigns lmndesigns writes: I have always been complimented on my machine made buttonholes. Now they are going to be even better.
Posted: 3:57 pm on April 17th

JaneInKC JaneInKC writes: I would recommend trying Fray Block (rather than Fray Check), as it dries without stiffness in my experience. The toothpick is a great suggestion and is so helpful to those of us with a little tremor to contend with.
Posted: 3:47 pm on April 17th

LadyVagabond LadyVagabond writes: Excellent advice. Thank you!
Posted: 3:05 pm on April 17th

rosb rosb writes: Fantastic ..I have 5 shirts waiting for me to do buttonholes but keep putting off doing them as I know they let down my garments standard.Thanks
Posted: 3:05 pm on April 17th

nandas nandas writes: brilliant! my buttonhole confidence just went up!! thanks.
Posted: 2:20 pm on April 17th

nandas nandas writes: brilliant! my buttonhole confidence just went up!! thanks.
Posted: 2:20 pm on April 17th

Scheri Scheri writes: Never thought to finish with Fray Check. Great idea. Thank you for the great tip.
Posted: 2:17 pm on April 17th

Frisky50 Frisky50 writes: WOW! I was totally averse to making button holes - and would rather make bound buttonholes than machine made! Or just put snaps instead of those dreaded machine-made ones. But YOU have changed that for me forever! Can't wait to do another "perfect" set of machine-made one!
Posted: 2:11 pm on April 17th

bubbie bubbie writes: User 1120582..............One Canadian to another. Just go to any sewing store that carries embroidery supplies. Ask for water soluble stabilizer. I use it all the time
Posted: 2:05 pm on April 17th

bubbie bubbie writes: Why didn't I think of it all the years I was sewing for others. I am finally ready to retire, but I am sure I will use this on my own garments.
Posted: 2:02 pm on April 17th

simplypat simplypat writes: I also add a light weight fusible such as Misty with the interfacing. This helps reduce/eliminate fraying once button hole is cut.
Posted: 2:01 pm on April 17th

Ghislaine Ghislaine writes: OH !!! Goodie Goodie !!! This is a great idea,thanks a million,the problem is I am a french person and in Montreal I wonder where I could get that gel,do you think it's available in Québec,Canada,if not is there anything else I could use.
Posted: 1:59 pm on April 17th

talondrago talondrago writes: Wonderful, thank you.

Posted: 1:50 pm on April 17th

Janis14 Janis14 writes: Thanks, Louise. This was very helpful.
Posted: 10:46 am on April 14th

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