Once upon a time I was absolutely TERRIFIED to add buttonholes to my garments. The sheer thought of completing a garment only to ultimately cut a hole into it felt too risky for the amount of time I had invested. So I did what any sensible person would do and just avoided them like the plague focused on other projects! But really, they aren’t so bad – and I’m here to share with you the three tips that have helped me to mentally (and physically) prepare to make all the buttonhole-covered clothing of my dreams!
I’m using my latest True Bias Southport to walk through the three tips. This is my second time making it – but the first time I used proper buttons (I used pearl snaps and wrote a full review on Harper+Lu here). I am MUCH happier with the buttons and hope that at least one of the tips below is helpful to you (and hey – maybe you use them to make yourself a Southport too)!
This orange wall was another amazing backdrop. The bold color was perfect for Mac’s neutral outfit.
Tip 1: Get the right tools
There’s an entire market of notions dedicated to sewing on buttons. I will admit that if it makes my life easier, I don’t hesitate to pick it up. So perhaps my list is longer than usual, but I will explain what I have in my toolkit to help me. The list below includes Amazon affiliate links – but they are exactly what I purchased for myself, and I think you will find them useful too!
- Good interfacing – I can’t remember where I found out about Fashion Sewing Supply, but they have really high quality interfacing that won’t shrink! Now that I am using better quality materials, I want my interfacing to match. Think of good interfacing as the Spanx to a great Bodycon dress!
- Buttonhole cutter set – I purchased this one on amazon. I love that there is the straight blade which pretty much runs the length of the buttonholes I make, is extra sharp, and provides protection for my table!
- Fraycheck – this is a hidden gem! I have typically used fraycheck for the ends of my serged seams, but I started putting a small amount in the middle of my button holes before using my cutter and it has been BRILLIANT – when I inevitably nick the threads in the buttonhole, the fraycheck keeps the whole buttonhole from unraveling!!!
- Sewing gauge – I am short-waisted, so I shorten all my tops in two places (above the bust and at the waistline – 2 full inches removed in total). This really throws off any markers from the pattern pieces, so I always have to redraw them, and this sewing gauge helps me make quick work of that!
- Glue stick – perfect way to hold down buttons while stitching them down. I use the washable ones to be safe – and have the added benefit of using them for gluing pdf patterns together.
- Chalk – to mark your button holes (I use white for most garments, but always keep a colored set of refills for lighter colors where the white doesn’t always show up). I like the way this set has a nice holder for the chalk, and that I can easily swap out the colors.
- Correct feet for making the hole and sewing on the button – probably most obvious of the bunch – but it felt important to call this out! This will be machine specific. My machine makes exactly 1 type of automatic buttonhole so it isn’t a big decision for me — but perhaps you might have a machine with more bells and whistles.
Tip 2: Test first – adjust accordingly
When sewing on a button hole it is important that you make a test hole on a fabric scrap the same thickness as your garment. You may find you need to make adjustments to the tension or stitch length/width. Even if not, it’s just good practice to get into the habit of testing – it will save you all kinds of headaches later!
Tip 3: Check buttonhole direction
Turns out – I sewed this one wrong – whoops! Vertical button holes fit better on a placket of this size and also leave less movement in the garment. For jeans, bulky sweaters, coats, etc – you would want a little more movement in the buttonhole! Next time, I will make sure to check the instructions before making such a sewing faux pas!
Easy peasy – hopefully knowing these three helps you get over your anxiety (if you have any) or gave you some additional ways to make tackling button plackets easier or more enjoyable! What did I miss? Is there anything on this list that is new for you or that you have been waiting to incorporate? Let me know below!