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How do I Sew a Buttonhole?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois

There are two ways to sew a buttonhole: using a sewing machine and by hand. A buttonhole is a small incision in a garment used to allow a fastener to attach two pieces of fabric together. The fastener or button can be a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors and styles. Buttonholes are often found on the front of a shirt, pants or other garments.

The first step, regardless of the method used, is to measure the size of the buttonhole. Flat buttons are typically the length of the button plus 0.2 inches (4 mm). For odd shaped buttons, measure the distance from one side of the button to the other. Next, mark the fabric with a tailor's pencil to indicate where the button will be. Check at least twice, and ensure that the location and length are correct and cut a straight incision into the fabric for the buttonhole.


The technique required to sew a buttonhole using a machine varies by machine type, but the overall steps are the same. Replace your standard sewing machine foot with the buttonhole foot. Place the material wrong side up in the machine. Select the buttonhole options for length as required and sew.

In the manual process, the stitch has a small half-knot that will stop the buttonhole from becoming unraveled. Obtain a small needle and a coordinating thread color. Many designers use a contrasting color for the buttonholes, for color contrast.

Flat buttons require holes the size of the button, plus about 0.2 inches.
Flat buttons require holes the size of the button, plus about 0.2 inches.

Cut a length of thread at least 10 inches (25.4 cm) long and tie a knot at one end. To make the first stitch, hold the thread parallel to the top of the buttonhole. Create an upward pointing loop and pass the needle through the loop, and then into the fabric. Be sure to start from the wrong side of the fabric and continue through to the right side.

For the next stitch, create another loop and pass the needle through the loop. The thread will line the edge of the buttonhole and be secured by the downward stitch. Repeat the stitch all the way around the buttonhole. At the end of the buttonhole, sew several quick, short stitches into the wrong side of the fabric to secure the end and cut the thread.

The timing of sewing in the actual button is quite flexible and a matter of personal preference. Sewing the button before the buttonhole gives you a focal point to check the location of the hole and ensure that it fits nicely. In this method, it is very important to check that the stitches are in line. If you sew the button after the buttonhole, it allows you to make the minor adjustments necessary to ensure the button is properly centered in each buttonhole.

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Discussion Comments


You know, the opposite of an "inward pointing loop".


what is "an upward pointing loop"?

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    • Buttons.
      By: elen_studio
    • Flat buttons require holes the size of the button, plus about 0.2 inches.
      By: Tombaky
      Flat buttons require holes the size of the button, plus about 0.2 inches.