How To Make A Buttonhole

Sewers who can whip up a gorgeous outfit may balk when it comes to making a buttonhole. If you are one of them, you can always use a safety pin. After all, that is what you see coming down some of the runways during fashion week. But most of us prefer the clean look of a well-crafted buttonhole with an attractive button to add some bling. This touch can be yours if you keep in mind these three quick tips to making a buttonhole: type, size and spacing. If you are attempting your first buttonholes, check out videos or a sewing book. Use these tips as your guide for creating beautifully sewn buttonholes.


First decide whether you want to make your buttonhole on a sewing machine or by hand.

A machine-made buttonhole has pros and cons. If you practice, practice, practice, bound buttonholes, which uses a combination of machine and handstitching, gives a superior, couture look to your garment. It is not a beginner skill, however, but not super advanced, either. However, bound buttonholes are definitely worth learning for adding a highly professional touch to your clothes. It requires careful pinning and sewing of a second piece of fabric to your garment, which is then turned to the inside much as a facing is. The tricky part is getting the corners square, but otherwise this is a very manageable technique to learn with a little practice. Do not try it on your garment without several test runs, however.

The second type of machine-made buttonhole uses either a buttonhole presser foot attachment or a built-in buttonhole feature on your machine. Some sewers forego attachments and use their zigzag stitch. They use the narrowest width to sew two lines of stitching very close to each other and just slightly longer than the button. The two lines of stitching are connected by bartacking or stationary stitching each end. When the buttonhole is sewn, mark the bartackings with a straight pin so you don’t cut too far, and with the tip of a very sharp scissor, make a cut inside the stitching to open the buttonhole.

Learning how to make a buttonhole by hand requires a little practice as well, but the technique is easily mastered by even novice sewers. Handmade buttonholes feature the blanket stitch around the edges of an open buttonhole. In this case you cut open the buttonhole after carefully measuring the size and place these stitches close together around the entire hole. If you sew more than one row, use a single thread or the stitching will bunch. Pull your thread through carefully so you don’t have loops in the buttonhole.

Feel free to be creative and use contrasting or novelty thread in your buttonholes.


Size matters in buttonholes. You know how aggravating it is to have a shirt button that you have to fight to fit into the buttonhole, or a button that constantly comes undone because the hole is too large to hold it down. To get the right size for your buttonhole, lay your button on the fabric and with fabric chalk, mark the edges of the button and then add 1/8th inch to each end, for a total of 1/4th inch of ease in your buttonhole.


This technique is based on seam guides for sewing accurate seams. Avoid unevenly spaced buttonholes by investing in several inches each of very inexpensive ribbon in varying widths from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inch. Store in a small plastic bag in your sewing basket. When it is time to make your buttonhole, determine how close to the edge of your garment you want to begin your buttonhole. Find a ribbon that width and pin along the edge of your garment. If your buttonhole is horizontal, you might use 1/4th inch ribbon to bring it closer to the edge. For a vertical buttonhole, you might use ½ inch or 3/4ths inch ribbon. Start your buttonhole exactly at the edge of the ribbon to ensure each buttonhole is a uniform distance from the edge of your garment.

For vertical spacing, measure the length of the buttonhole area of your garment. Divide it by the number of buttonholes you require. If you have a 14 inch shirt front and six buttons, each buttonhole should be 2 1/3rd inches apart. Pin the first buttonhole and then measure 2 1/3rd inches and place your second pin, and so on.

The last tip is to measure exactly half the width or length of your buttonhole and begin sewing on your button in the center of the buttonhole. Then throw away those safety pins and enjoy your perfectly finished garment.

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