Tutorial: How to Make A Perfect Buttonhole

Buttonholes can induce a little anxiety, especially if you have to make ten or twelve of them on a shirt. But if you follow these simple steps, and practice, you will soon be making lovely buttonholes without batting an eyelash. Really!

Grainline Archer by Sew Maris

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Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. A garment with appropriate interfacing applied to the area where buttonholes will be made
  2. Sewing machine with buttonhole foot
  3. Thread
  4. Water soluble stabilizer (like Solvy)
  5. Marking tool (I like the Frxion pens for this job)
  6. Optional: Simflex buttonhole marking tool
  7. Optional: Fray-check

How to Make a Buttonhole


How to make a perfect buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

1. Using the pattern guide or a Simflex marking tool, mark the placement for your buttonholes on your garment. In the example above, the buttonholes are vertical, so I marked a horizontal line where the buttonhole needs to start, and a vertical line to keep my stitching correctly centered on the shirt front.

Hint: If your sewing machine automatically stitches the correct buttonhole length like mine does, you will only have to mark the starting placement line for the buttonhole,and the machine will determine the . correct ending point.

2. Select the buttonhole stitch on your sewing machine.

Hint: If you increase the stitch length slightly your finished buttonholes will look more ready-to-wear (RTW).

3. Cut two strips or enough rectangles of Solvy to place on top and underneath each buttonhole marking. (Make a “sandwich” of Solvy-garment-Solvy.)

How to make a perfect buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

4. Align your garment under the buttonhole foot so the needle is at the beginning of the buttonhole mark, and stitch the buttonhole. Well, the machine does this part.;-)

How to make a perfect buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

5. Repeat until all your buttonholes are completed. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

6. Gently tear off the excess Solvy around the buttonholes, and place a “line” of Fray-check in between the 2 rows of zig-zag stiching of each buttonhole. Let dry.

How to Make a Perfect Buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

7. Cut open each buttonhole. That’s it! Not so bad, especially with today’s modern sewing machines that really help simplify this task.

Hint: My preferred method of cutting through the garment is to use a Japanese 15 mm buttonhole cutter as shown above. The knife edge is both very sharp and very thin, so you are much less likely to cut into your stitches. You can also use a seam ripper to open a little hole in the buttonhole and finish cutting with a pair of sharp scissors, or you can fold the buttonhole in half and snip a hole with sharp scissors, too. Regardless of which technique you use, BE CAREFUL! If you cut through your stitches it is possible to “re-stitch” , but your buttonhole will look a little sad. 🙁

I hope this tute helps you make purrrr-fect buttonholes on your next garment. It really is just a series of little things that add up to making a better buttonhole. Be sure to practice on scraps before you tackle the “real” garment.

Happy sewing!



12 Responses to Tutorial: How to Make A Perfect Buttonhole

    • Hi Lyric – Solvy works great for providing a temporary stabilizer for embroidery stitching too. There is also a “paper-y” version that is great for applique work.

  1. Ms Maris thank you for this tutorial.But I wonder why will increasing the stitchlength make the garment look more RTW? Marcella in Holland

    • Thanks so much for commenting Marcella! If you compare the buttonholes on a RTW and one made by your sewing machine with the automatic buttonhole setting, the zig-zag stitches are usually closer together (more satin-stitch-like) on the one from your home sewing machine. Basically – more thread is used on a home sewing machine buttonhole. Decide which setting you prefer and use that! Happy sewing!

  2. These are great tips Maris! I’ve been using the Solvi stabiliser trick for a while and that has improved my buttonholes out of sight! My main issue is my machine (which is older than me!) can be a bit temperamental, but your tip of lengthening the stitch may help with that issue (sometimes the feed dogs don’t advance so it creates a mountain of stitches in one place). I’m tempted by the cutting tool – are there different blade sizes?

    • Sarah – your interfacing might not be sturdy enough for your fabric too – or it could just b e your finicky machine. The lengthening might help, or a tune-up? There are 2 sizes of buttonhole chisel – 9mm and 15mm. At least that I sell – of course there are other options out there!

  3. When cutting open my buttonholes with the cutter, for some reason I get a much sharper cut if I whack it with a hammer rather than pushing it through. Gets out a lot of frustration, too!!

  4. Maris,

    I have had trouble using fraycheck. It has stained the fabric before when too much comes out. Have you had this experience? Thanks.


  5. This is amazing!!! I made a knit jacket with vertical buttonholes without any frustration because of this. Thanks to you.

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