A Pattern with Buttons…do you run and hide?



So as I sit to write about this topic, I have to first admit that I learned to make buttonholes on my modern Bernina. It wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I actually learned how to make buttonholes manually. With that said, this is one thing that I would ask to check out when sewing machine shopping. Having a machine that makes buttonholes a breeze will save your sewing sanity. Also, it comes in particularly helpful when making the Beignet skirt.

My machine has what is called an automatic buttonhole foot and a featured called temporary altered stitch memory. Basically, what this means is that once I get a buttonhole that is the correct size, it will sew the same one over and over again. The buttonhole foot itself looks rather complex, but it really isn’t. There is a red sliding guide along one side and a red tick to mark the start. I use the sliding guide to set the size of buttonhole I want. Then I select the style of buttonhole that I would like. I have five options, of which I typically use one style: stitch #10.

To start the stitch, the machine will satin stitch down the left side. I watch as the guide I set moves closer to the beginning red tick.

When they match, I press reverse and the machine straights stitches in reverse back to the beginning, bartacks, satins down the right side and bartacks the end. That’s it! Can you see how much easier this can make things?


Now, about a manual buttonhole, they really aren’t so hard either. The older mechanical style Bernina’s have a dial that you turn as you go through the sequence of the buttonhole stitch. This dial will keep you on track and adjust your stitch width/length settings and needle position. The only hard part is that you have to measure out well and go slow so that your bartacks line up at beginning.
As if the automatic buttonhole wasn’t enough, I can sew a button on using my machine. I know that it is not hard to sew a button on by hand and I do enjoy hand sewing. But this is just so addictive! The foot is #18.


There is an adjustable metal bar in the middle of the foot that can be raised to increase the button’s shank. The stitch depends on which machine you have, but it is essentially as zig zag stitch with the feed dogs dropped (so it stitches in place). The spacing between holes on most buttons is the same no matter what size the button is. I always turn the hand wheel through the first few stitches to make sure that my needle doesn’t hit the button.


OK, so I promise that it is not my aim to sell you all on Bernina’s, but rather open up a discussion. I am sure that many sewing machines make this stitch easier to achieve. How do you do buttonholes on your machine? Do you like doing buttons?

Jaime David   —  

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Comments 14


I used to be terrified of doing buttonholes, mostly because my mother, who taught me how to sew, loathed them. So I blindly followed in her steps being terrified of button holes.

Eventually, however, I had to face my fear. My wedding dress had over 25 tiny buttons up the front of the bodice and there was no one to do them but me. So I buckled down and really figured out how my machine worked. I read the manual over and over and practiced on scrap fabric.

And you know what? I did 25 buttonholes in a row without a single flaw. It’s all about knowing your machine.


My machine does automatic buttonholes, which is lovely when it works as advertised. Sadly, the machine often gets stuck in one place and sews a giant knot in the middle of the buttonhole! I’m not sure what causes this or how to fix it – I follow the manual, make test buttonholes on scrap fabric until I get one without a knot, and still don’t have any idea how to make the machine work consistently.

Has anyone else run into this problem? If so, what did you do? Does anyone know how to fix it?

Sunni Standing

I do have a machine that will do buttonholes and also attach buttons. I personally prefer to sew my buttons on manually. I use my buttonholer alot but I think that manually sewn buttonholes are really beautiful, especially with silk thread. I also love bound buttonholes. Those can give a lovely couture finish to your garments.

Anna Boberg

My modern machine makes buttonholes like magic. And can also sew the buttons. Or sometimes I make all of it by hand, because as Sunni says, it just looks so lovely when done with silk thread.

I think the tricky part is to measure so the buttonholes are spread evenly.

Twila Jean

I wish my machine had an automatic button hole option. I tried to just make them myself one time with a tutorial.. oh dear…. not the way it looked in the pictures at all HAHAH.

I am buying a new machine for Xmas, so I am making sure to get one with BUTTON HOLE :)


I love buttons but hate doing button-holes to the extent that I might look for an alternative way of doing things. I’m rarely happy with machine button holes and find them too obtrusive, particularly on fine cottons (which I use a lot) so will handstitch if necessary. But I agree with Elisabeth, you have to get the machine working for you and do lots of practice runs.


I have never sewed a buttonhole by hand and the first time I actually used my machine’s buttonholer was just last month! And I’ve had this machine for a couple years. I’ve always been intimidated by the whole contraption.

Once I tried it, though, I’m hooked. I use a Janome and it come with a buttonhole foot that uses the actual button to guage the size. The button fits snug in the back of the foot and a lever keep the foot in place and measures out the length. It took me a while to figure it out. Very interesting process.

I still prefer to sew the buttons on by hand, though. Maybe I’ll eventually get up the nerve to try it on the machine, but I don’t mind handsewing for now.

Very interesting post!


I am one of those people who are terrified by buttonholes. Thanks so much for demystifying.


I have the basic of basic Singers and it does buttonholes, buttons, darns, tons of stuff. I love it!! The buttonhole foot is awesome! I haven’t ever sewn buttons on things that have holes in the front, I guess all the ones I choose are only in the back…


I willingly admit I run and hide. In fact, I will also cower in the corner and beg for my mother. Now I know there are feet involved I’m tempted to also cry in my milk. I think my sewn wardrobe will comprise of garments attached only by poorly aligned zippers and press studs…

However you have inspired me to at least try. So I will. :)


I am having such a good time reading these comments! I love that many of you seem to be comfortable with your buttonhole features and others are inspired to try.

I wanted to address Ceka’s question about getting stuck in the middle of a buttonhole. I have had this happen and it is typically when I am doing a buttonhole that runs into a seam (or a change in fabric thickness). Then the foot won’t progress and gets stuck in one place. I have resolved this by: a. force- one time (don’t recommend) b. a tool called a compensation plate (much better) c. using the manual buttonhole foot and settings (this is per my machine and would vary situation to situation). If you can find a compensation plate to sit under the foot to ease into the varying thickness for your machine you might be surprised how much it could help. There is another thought that I had… and this would depend on the machine, but the automatic buttonhole foot on the Bernina must be calibrated to work correctly. I believe that there is a sensor that reads the “eye” on the foot to set the length. Our tech can re-calibrate the foot and this is not too uncommon. Hopefully that helps.


When I was recently knitting the buttonhole band of a tweedy sweater, I didn’t like the instruction’s placement of the buttonhole. There was a decorative knitted ridge running down the center of the band and the directions had me knitting the buttonhole off-center. I tried, but I thought it looked terrible that way. When I tried to knit it instead right on the ridge the make-up of that stitch seemed too complicated to alter (thus the original knitting directions, of course), so I skipped the buttonholes entirely. My plan was to do them later with the automatic buttonhole maker on my sewing machine. A test stitch on a heavy fabric was perfect but not on my sweater! The machine clogged up on that ridge and mercifully I was able to get it undone. So here I am, looking up directions for handmade buttonholes. It has been a long time but I recall doing a passable job at it and I’m going to try again. Glad to find this site. Thanks.


It’s been a late night feasting on ALL of your amazing tutorials – thank you for that – but is it sleep deprivation or are the images for this tutorial missing?
I use Firefox as my browser.

Warm Regards!


Yes, this looks like a wonderful tutorial, but the photos aren’t showing up. Can you please fix it?? I also just found this site and your patterns and have been going crazy reading all the awesome tutorials and planning what patterns to order!

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