Sewing buttonholes is one of those techniques that many beginner stitchers try to avoid… but once you get to grips with them, buttonholes are honestly pretty straightforward! Plus it’s a great skill to have under your (handmade) belt, as it opens up a whole world of shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts and more.
In this post I’m going to take you through sewing four-step buttonholes on a mechanical sewing machine. Check out my post of making one-step buttonholes on a digital machine too. (If you’re not sure which type of buttonholes your sewing machine makes, take a look at the manual.)
Four-step buttonholes take a bit more effort than the one-step kind, but the good thing about them is you have more control over how they turn out. Always always always test sew a buttonhole (or five) on a double scrap of your fabric (interfaced if your project) before starting on your precious garment, so you have a chance to alter the settings and check everything is in order first. The other key with four-step buttonholes is to ensure that you’re stitching them to the correct length.
Mark the buttonhole on your fabric. Attach the buttonhole foot to your sewing machine, and position the fabric underneath it so the window is showing the full buttonhole and the top end of the buttonhole (the end furthest away from you) is underneath the needle. Lace the thread under the foot and towards the back.
Set the stitch length to 0.5 to 1mm. We’re going to start by sewing the left side of the buttonhole – set your machine to buttonhole stitch 1 (check your manual if you’re not sure which one that is, or if your machine looks different to mine).
Put your foot down on the pedal to start sewing – your machine will make short, dense zigzag stitches to form the left-hand side of the buttonhole. Stop sewing when you reach the bottom of the buttonhole marking. You want to end with the needle on the left of the zigzag – turn the handwheel if it hasn’t already landed on the left.
Now set the machine to buttonhole stitch 2/4. Slowly sew five stitches to form the bottom of the buttonhole, stopping with the needle on the right.
To sew the right-hand side of the buttonhole, set the machine to buttonhole stitch 3. Sew until you reach the top of the buttonhole marking.
Set the machine to buttonhole stitch 2/4 again and sew about five stitches across the top of the buttonhole.
Finally, set the machine to the straight stitch and sew a couple of stitches and reverse stitches over the top of the buttonhole to secure the threads in place.
And that’s it!
Now you can open up your buttonhole with a seam ripper. It's a good idea to stick a pin in each end to act as a buffer so you don't accidentally rip through your fabric :)
PS. If you’d like to watch a video lesson on making buttonholes, check out my online workshop, Sew Your Own Shirt or Shirt Dress.