Rouleaux for fabric button loops

Two good photo tutorials from Tilly and the Buttons.

Using a bodkin or loop turner to turn

The key tips :
– Cut the strip on the bias, whatever the pattern instructions say. If that would waste a lot of fabric, cut 2 shorter strips.
– Cut the strip a couple of inches longer than needed, as the ends are likely to be a mess.
– Cut the end at an angle, so the first section being pulled through is narrow.
– Trim the seam allowances narrower than the loop. This is a technique I have great difficulty with, and that is the only thing that works for me. If this technique comes easily to you, leave the wide seam allowances (or just trim one side), as they give the loops more substance and wear resistance.

Using threads to turn narrow loops
Alternatives – use a thick thread such as crochet thread or perle embroidery thread.


Hand sewn buttonhole

A buttonhole needs to stand up to wear.

Buttonhole stitch is tougher than blanket stitch, and tailor’s buttonhole stitch is tougher yet.
Here’s how to sew these stitches.

Here are buttonhole sewing instructions from the days before zigzag sewing machines were available, from a school book called Clothing and Health.

Every schoolgirl had to learn this. Much practice needed to get the stitching regular and even !

Here’s a modern tutorial for hand made buttonholes in a tailored jacket.

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Basic and 4-step buttonholes

Sections with links on :
– marking buttonholes,
– buttonholes on a basic zigzag machine,
– 4-step buttonhole.

Check which direction your machine sews in.
My previous machine sewed buttonholes forwards, towards the sewer.
So the marked starting point for a buttonhole needed to be the end away from the sewer.

My newest machine sews buttonholes away from the sewer.
So the marked starting point needs to be the end nearest the sewer.

4-step buttonholes don’t have an automatic way of setting the length of the buttonhole. You have to stop the sewing. So the ends need to be marked clearly. It’s best to make marks longer and wider than the presser foot, so you can always see them.

Also it’s helpful to have a sliding buttonhole presser foot, with markings you can use for reference when controlling the length.

Some general guides on marking and sewing machine buttonholes :
Placing and sewing buttonholes, pdf from the University of Kentucky.
Sarah Veblen’s class at Pattern Review (Not free).

Machine made buttonholes

The simplest machine-made buttonhole has 4 parts – the 2 sides, and the 2 end bar tacks.
As sewing machines have added more controls, so various ways of making the process easier have been devised.
So any particular tutorial may be nothing like what your machine does. I’m trying to cover the possibilities here.

Machine has no specific help with making buttonholes

If your machine has zigzag stitch but has no specific buttons or controls for buttonholes, you can sew a buttonhole.
Here are a couple of photo tutorials :
Megan Nielsen.
Sew Mama Sew.
Does need practice, especially if the reverse stitching control is not near the stitching area, but it is possible !

4-step buttonhole

The machine automatically sets the position and width of the zigzag stitching, and sews each of the 4 sides of a buttonhole as a separate step. The machine operator chooses the step, and controls the start and stop of each step.
Modern mechanical sewing machines usually have this sort of buttonhole.

This video about a Brother machine is a good general introduction which works for many machines.

Though there are many variations on this process.

On some machines you choose the steps on a selector dial.

(Janome made machine from John Lewis)

On some machines you choose the steps using push buttons.

(Pfaff Select machine)

The sequence of steps may be named by pictures, numbers or letters, see the machine manual.

Some machines, like the Brother in the video, start sewing with an end bar tack.

Some machines start by sewing one of the sides.
Here’s an video from Janome of starting by sewing a side.
And here’s a written with photos tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons showing a machine which sews one of the long sides first.

As well as sewing ends or sides first, some machines start sewing buttonholes forward, some backward.

Different companies use different designs of presser foot. Here’s a different presser foot from Singer.

With 4-step buttonholes you control the length of the buttonhole by starting and stopping the stitching. It is a good idea to practice stopping accurately. If your machine does not sew one stitch at a time, finish the stitching manually by ‘walking’ the stitching – turn the hand-wheel (top towards you) to make the final accurately placed stitches.

On some machines you can control :
– the width of the buttonhole.
– the distance apart of the zigzags,
by using the controls for the width and length of the zigzag.

Buttonholes are easy to make, once you’ve got your head round how your machine does it. But definitely sew test buttonholes on the same fabric layers you plan to make buttonholes on, before doing it ‘for real’.

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