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Machine Embroidered Buttonholes

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Click here to download this article as a PDF for future reference.

Many of you wrote that buttonholes are a struggle when it comes to sewing. I agree! One of the worst parts about adding a buttonhole is it’s just about the last thing you do when making a garment. I begin to sweat thinking about marking the buttonholes, spacing them evenly, stitching them perfectly straight, even and parallel. How many times has the foot jammed against the seam allowance resulting in a shorter than planned buttonhole?

Hmm… I don’t think it’s the machine. In fact, most machines have the ability to make a very professional buttonhole. The problem is the operator, me. My sewing/tailoring skills do not equal my embroidery skills. It might have something to do with my attention span but that’s material for another blog! If you’re like me, you might consider using your embroidery machine to create buttonholes.

Why machine embroider your buttonholes? The number one reason for me is control. Machine embroidered buttonholes give me total control over the length of the buttonhole and the placement because I’m starting with a digital file that will stitch perfect duplicates since I don’t have to guide the fabric under the foot.

So let’s take a look at how to embroider buttonholes.

First, select the buttons. Measure the buttons and add a small amount (such as .10 of an inch) to the diameter. That measurement will be the length of the buttonhole. Click here for four buttonholes for you to download. You’ll find two 1” buttonholes (square and round) and two 2” buttonholes (square and round). Resize the length only of the designs to accommodate your button.

Naturally, you must make a test buttonhole on the same fabric as the final garment. The sample must include the sample interfacing, facing or lining. You can’t cheat here – it’s the only way to guarantee positive results and this is when you’ll tweak the length.

Crisp or lightweight tear-away stabilizer works beautifully on buttonholes because it tears cleanly. Once hooped, draw a straight line down the length of the hoop to use as an alignment mark.

Insert the metal frame of Magna-Hoop Jumbo. It’s not mandatory to use Magna-Hoop Jumbo but it sure does simplify the task.

Place the garment edge next to the drawn line and place Magna-Hoop Jumbo’s acrylic frame on top. Slide magnets into the slots to hold the garment firmly in the hoop.

Attach the hoop to the machine and select the tested (and tweaked) buttonhole design. Rotate the design so it runs perpendicular to the garment edge for horizontal buttonholes. Also, advance to the first stitch to see what end of the buttonhole will stitch first. You want to stitch the end closest to the edge first and sew away from the edge. The fabric will not bulge next to the seam if you do this (a frequent occurrence in manual buttonholes). Rotate or mirror image the design if necessary.

Measure the distance from the garment edge to the end of the buttonhole. For pleasing proportions, it’s best to leave a space between the end of the buttonhole and the garment edge that is half the diameter of the button. For the 2” buttonhole, move the end of the design 1” from the garment edge.

Stitch the buttonhole.

Reposition the design to the next marked position. You won’t have to measure the distance unless you’re changing button sizes. Here I’m stitching the 1” buttonhole.

Continue adding the buttonholes until you’ve finished the required quantity.

Remove from the hoop and tear away the stabilizer. Use a seam ripper or a chisel and wood block to open the buttonhole. If using the seam ripper method, insert a pin at one end of the stitch to avoid slicing beyond the buttonhole.

Or place the buttonhole over a wood block, and insert the chisel into the space between the satin stitching. Press down to cut the fabric.

Design Tips: Buttonhole Placement

It can be challenging to determine evenly-spaced buttonhole placement. For garments, mark the widest point of the bust and the top of the garment. Fold the garment, meeting the top mark to the bust mark. Place a third mark at the fold. You now have the positions for the top three buttons. Measure the distance between two buttons. Use that measurement to mark the remainder of the buttons below the bust point.

Fuzzy Fibers

Place a piece of fusible web (protective paper removed) over the buttonhole area. Stitch the buttonhole. Tear away the excess fusible web. Press the buttonhole with a hot steam iron to melt the fusible web into the satin stitches. Once cooled, cut open the buttonhole. The fusible web will tame the fuzzy fibers.

Here’s your assignment this week:

Since making machine embroidered buttonholes is so much easier with Magna-Hoop Jumbo, we’re giving one away to a lucky, random reader! Last week, we discussed my Stipple line of quilt designs. Tell me what new designs you would like to see in the Stipple Collection and you could be the lucky winner. If you’re curious to know what we Stipple Collections are available now, just click here to view them

If you enjoy reading about machine embroidery, subscribe to this blog. We’d love to have you as a regular visitor and your participation helps us grow. See what one of our faithful readers has to say about Eileen’s blog:

Marge Geraci on June 30, 2011

“I am so thankful for your magazine and your blog! I have learned so very much from you. The joy I get from my embroidery machine would not be near as fulfilling if it were not from your knowledge and willingness to share it with all of us. Thanks so much!”

Just click here to subscribe to Eileen’s blog. It’s FREE!

The winner of last week’s assignment answered the question:

Tell us if you have a treasured quilt you made for a family member or perhaps you have a quilt your own mother made you that you have kept over the years. Tell us about the colors, the style and what makes the quilt so special. Share your quilting story with us and you could be this week’s HoopSisters winner!

Congratulations to Vickie Glass!  Her comment below was randomly drawn to win the generous prize from HoopSisters. (1 roll of Battilizer, Twists and Turns Quilt CD and EmbroidaBlock Trimmer by George)

“My great-grandmother and great-aunt made a quilt top of twelve 12″ blocks on muslin of the Dresden plate pattern and very much look like sunflowers in 1928. The fabrics are probably from clothing and the colors are a strange shades of blue, green and a peachy orange which is the center. They are outlined with black embroidery thread. The amazing thing is the great aunt who did the embroidery and outline stitching was considered blind by the state of Texas. Unfortunately the top was never quilted and
stored away in an old chest in an outdoor shed. It got wet and had huge rust spots. I managed to get my hands on it but was unable to remove spots. It had 6 useable blocks. I took 4 of the blocks, backed them with Kona cotton, echo quilted around the designs and pieced them together to be a wall hanging and bordered them with a blue wood grain looking fabric. I found some Laurel Birch fabric that had butterflies and hummingbirds with heart labels. The colors accented the colors in the
sunflowers and were the inspiration to finally be able to do something with the blocks. I sent the label pieces to my brothers and their wives for them to sign and return. I also
sent to each of my nieces and nephews and they were to include their children on theirs. I even have blank ones on there for future children, etc. I appliqued all the labels and scattered around the sunflowers. I included a blank one in the center for my parents to sign. This was presented to my Mom Christmas 2005. My Mom and Dad were so happy to receive it. I enjoyed every minute of working on it.” – Vickie Glass

Don’t forget!  There’s still time to participate in the Everyone Smiles with Designs in Machine Embroidery contest!  Click here for more information.

Want more sewing and embroidery tips?  If you missed my article on inserting zippers click here!
Don’t miss Eileen’s weekly blog!  Subscribe now. It’s free!

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95 COMMENTS

  • Susan Weber

    I think stipple patterns in baby items would be nice when doing a baby quilt.

  • Betsy

    I’d like to see Stipple ABC’s….A with an Apple, B with a Ball, etc

  • Darlene Jacolik

    My dealer showed me this technique a couple of months after I bought my new machine and I have used it many times – love it! Thank you for all of the great ideas and tips you share.

    How abour some paisleys with some scrolls and flourishes.

  • Cindy McCarty

    I would love to see some modern/abstract designs to use with the stippling.

  • Michele

    I would love to see something for little boys, like cars, trains, or underwater creatures!

  • Kari

    I think some vegetable designs (e.g. chili peppers) would be a fun design. I also agree with the recommendations for baby designs.

    Would love to own the Magna-Hoop Jumbo. I’m also looking forward to seeing you this weekend (my first time)!

    • Eileen Roche

      Oh you’re joining us in Denver! Can’t wait to get there!

  • Bernice

    I agree with the comment for designs for little boys. Also some designs for men such as fishing or hunting motifs would be useful.

  • Lyn

    I would love to see Wildflowers, daisies or sunflowers. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Elizabeth Barnett

    since the Magna Hoops are not available for my machine (yet!!), I won’t expect to win … but I’d stipple designs in cookie-cutter type Christmas designs (I have a Bernina 340 deco – same hoops as the Janome 350E)

  • bubbieone

    How about fashin pieces being stippled…………..shoes purses, frilly skirts and blouses, hats, bonnets, or jewelry.
    I have lots of embroidery designs of these things.
    Or oriental designs…………lover them!

  • Jennifer P

    I thought I was the only one whose machine can’t use the magna hoop! I have an Elna 8300, which also uses the same hoop as the Janome 350E. I envision stipples in animal shapes that could be alternated with applique in the same shape for baby quilts. My first grandchild is six months old now so I have baby on the brain.

  • Gail Beam

    I would like to see some stipple designs for sea creatures and fish, cute little bugs, Halloween, and log cabins with some coordinating items. Thanks for the chance to win a magna hoop, I would love to own one of these special hoops!
    Gail

  • Alice Hook

    I would love to see stipple designs in hearts. Thanks so much. Love your blog!

  • Gena Allen

    I would like to see some horse shaped stipple. There are a lot of people out there who would love this!

  • Margaret Pepper

    I would like to see an assortment of designs for teen boys. I would love to make a stipple quilt for each of my grandsons incorporating embroidery, but it is hard to find designs for teen boys.

  • Katrina H

    What about stipple fruit designs for the kitchen? A great table topper or placemats!

  • Dyane Frig

    I would love to see children/baby quilts. Thank you for the buttonholes. I will use them on my next project!

  • Jane

    I would like to see crazy patch in your stipple designs. You can use up small fabric pieces and with your know how have great looking stitches. That would be fun.
    The zipper download was great.
    I can’t wait for you to get the Bernina 830 snap and mega hoop.
    Jane

  • jeanne

    I would love to stipple roses, peacocks — oh so many ideas.

  • Elaine Tabor

    I love stipple designs. I think flowers would be nice to have. Tulips are my favorite. I sure would love to get the Magna hoop. It’s been on my wish list for quite a while.
    Thank you for the chance to win this.

  • Phyllis Hiles

    How about angels. I have the tropical flowers and butterflies and I would buy some with angels.

  • Nancy Alexander

    I would love to see kitties/cats in the stipple design series. Probably more realistic instead of cartoony. Can you tell that I love the stipple series of quilts? I already own the Tropical Flowers, Butterflies and more recently acquired “Machine embroidered and Applique”. I love that I will be able to finish a quilt in my lifetime. Please keep on publishing and digitizing, Eileen. And thanks for asking what we would like next!!

  • Pam D

    I would love to see puppies/dogs for all us dog lovers out there.

  • Jeanette Wade

    Stipple designs with cats in playful attitudes and the abc, this could be used for us grownups that love cats or for children at almost any age. A is for Always pet the cat. B is for Best of show cat and so on. Love your magazine and get inspired each issue, but on the down side seem to have more projects than time. But on the bright side I never run out of things to make. My favorite item to make is quilts for out Wounded Heroes, that too might make a great stipple design. Think about it.

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    I’d like to see Stipple hummingbirds!

  • Anne

    I would like to see colorful birds

  • Cindy McCord

    Hi Eileen. I would love to see “Stipple Paisleys”. I love, love, love paisleys and you could do so much with them. You could make them different sizes and do all sorts of embroidery or applique in them. Thanks and keep your great products coming!!

  • Lillian Moser

    With a new grandchild here I would love to see baby items utilizing the stipple design.

  • Paule-Marie

    cats, roses, fruits and vegies.

  • Mary Anne

    So many great ideas from the above, my favorite would be angels. I’ve recently begun to make angel pillows and pillowcases for friends and family members with serious illnesses, something in stipple for a prayer quilt or shawl would be wonderful, would save so much time putting one together! Thank you SO mcuh for the buttonhole patterns and lesson, will be put to good use by lots of us

  • Denice

    It has allready been said but I allso would like to request a stippling design set for babies. I have a new great nephew and would like to make him a baby quilt. I am sure it could be used to creat a baby carry all bag and even a bunting bag if there were a variety of shaped and sizes to the design set. Good luck with that one.

  • Rosa Smith

    I too would love baby designs and Easter or spring things like chickens, rabbits, flowers ect. that could be used for a number of items. I love the butterflies and was fixing to order the flowers with my discount but it slipped by me. It is a fun way to quilt.

  • Linda Coleman

    Thank you for this Eileen, which couldn’t have come at a better time as I am starting to make a patchwork jacket and was not looking forward to doing the buttonholes on it.
    I would love to see an updated version of a traditional quilt block like Hexagons or Dresden Plate.

  • Shirley R

    Ladies neck-up head-shots wearing hat fashions of the flapper era, victorian era, etc., these hats were so beautiful!

  • Andrea

    You have so many lovely stipple designs – and there are many great ideas listed above mine. I think taking this concept and developing project based designs would be something I’d like to see. For example, stipple flowers with in the hoop projects to make tote bags, zippered bags, etc.

  • Pat

    I would love to see all kinds of shells and seahorses as I live on the coast and enjoy all these things. Thanks for all the great information. As I’m new to all of this,Ididn’t realize you already had shells but would love the seahorses.

  • Sherrie

    Love the stipple designs, I have several. Would love to see crazy patch which would help use up leftovers.. Would love to win but the Magna Hoop won’t fit my Janome MC11000SE (wish it would).

  • Jackie

    I’d love to see one with a variety of sizes and shapes of snowmen.

  • Donna G.

    I love these Stipple designs, especially the autumn leaves! How about more fall designs, such as pumpkins, acorns, and mums and more geometric and paisley designs? Stipple designs are so versatile!

  • Anne Marie Reilly

    I’d like to see hearts and stars because they are versatile and would be applicable to many situations.

  • Vicky Isliefson

    I would like to see any stipple designs for the 5 X 7 hoop, as that is the largest hoop my machine uses.
    Also, on the topic of buttonholes, I would like to be able to get more designs for decorative button holes. I used my PE Design software to alter a small paisley design by inserting a button hole in it, but it was a lot of work! I know there are some designs out there, but they are hard to find.

    • Eileen Roche

      Vicky, most Stipple collections include all of the designs in the 5″ x 7″ size.

  • Joan Davidson

    I have the butterfly stipple, and I love it. I would like to see a Sun Bonnet Sue stipple. I think that would be fabulous for a little girl!

  • Jan Rudisill

    I would like to see stipple designs of lighthouses.

  • Candi R

    Stiples that make long borders of flowers or any of the above ideas that could be uses in borders of a quilt. I’m thinking around a baby quilt, bottom of a jacket, or a simple cross hatch quilt with some ‘fancy’ thrown in for charity lap quilts.
    I’ve always thought embroidery files that did buttonholes would be just the thing, and while I’ve got the programs that would let me digitize them myself, I thought they ought to already be somewhere. I like to put the buttonholes in as soon as I’ve ‘defined’ the section for the buttonholes. Things are still nice and flat and easier to work with…and I’m not at the end of the project and if necessary I can do a re-do..

  • Sher Mattison

    I would love to see a Christmas stipple…possibly bells or Christmas trees

  • ann rudokas

    I love snowflakes! I think stippled flakes would be great for quilts, pillows and table runners.

  • Claudia Wade

    Eileen – I love your blog and I just bought your new book on quilt blocks in the hoop. The book is amazing! So many new ideas.

    A question: are the oil pastels your mention permanent on fabric?

    Thanks, Claudia W

  • M J Carlson

    i would like to see Animal Stipple designs.
    I particularly like Cats. But pets or Zoo
    Animals would be fun.

  • Margaret Brantley

    I would love to see some stipple designs with an Oriental theme.

    Your Embroidery Buttonhole blog contains some great info. Thanks. I’ve just signed up to receive your blog by email.

  • Milpeg

    Thank you for this article. Just last week I was searching my embroidery collection for jazzy buttonholes.

    I would love to see the same design the old pedal machines have engraved on them. They would look right on all types of quilts. From the very ornate to the playful and comic. Now can it become a stippling design? I hope I am not shooting for the stars.

  • Carol Howell

    I think anything child related would be great! It seems we are always making charity quilts for kids. New babies seem to just keep coming too! Loved your Stitching Sisters Event!

  • Maureen

    Hello There,
    It would be fabulous for you to have some stipple blocks with Baby African Animals. We could use them on a lot of items. Or maybe some Angels.
    Thank you for all your information that you share.

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Pingback: All About Machine Embroidery:: Day 30 - Machine Embroidered Buttonholes - The Seasoned Homemaker on September 28, 2011

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