You *can* make smart looking machine buttonholes. This is not a myth.
For those of you who choose not to take the time (or can’t for whatever reason) to make handmade buttonholes you can use your machine to great effect. Now granted, hand sewn buttonholes are period correct until the sewing machine could produce zig-zag stitches, but who cares when you just want to finish the costume.
I highly admire those who make (all) their buttonholes by hand. I, however, create mine by machine nearly on all projects. It’s just faster.
Follow these tips to get great looking buttonholes when sewing by machine.
1. Start with reducing your machine tension. My wonderful Viking Lily is digital and shows me how far to adjust. If you don’t have a smart machine, turn down the tension (toward the lower numbers) a couple of notches. This will ease the top zig-zag stitch and allow it to lie smooth while locking the bobbin stitches tight.
2. Test on a scrap of your fashion fabric first. No need to do a full stitch, but at least test the width and closeness of the stitches.
3. Ease the fabric under the foot to get the stitches even. For a great looking stitch, you want the thread to be close together to produce a solid line.
4. Buttonholes should measure about 1/8″ longer than your button. So if you have a 5/8″ size button, make your button hole ¾”.
5. If you have a ball button the buttonhole length will need a bit longer than the 1/8″ ease noted above.
6. Draw the hole line in disappearing pen or marking pencil. When sewing your first side, go RIGHT OVER that line. This will keep the buttonhole straight. If you sew down one side, the marking (which is then in the very center of the hole) may show, even after you cut the hole open.
7. To disguise the machine stitches, after the hole is cut open, go over each side with a quick blanket stitch. You’ll have the strength of the machine stitch but the look of a hand-finished opening.