Sew4Home MINI TIP Buttonholes!

How to Make a Machine Buttonhole: Automatic and Four-Step

Most of us understand how to sew on a button. Pretty easy and not scary at all. But buttonholes are a whole different matter. At the end of your project, after you’ve put in so much work, it’s time to for the buttonholes. You should be happy you’re almost done. But for many of us, beads of sweat start to form across our brows and we wonder, “Am I about to ruin everything by botching the buttonholes?” Well, you can stop sweating, because our friends at S4H have broken it down into individual steps. They’ve put together easy-to-follow instructions on how to put in a buttonhole using both automatic and basic sewing machines. From marking where it goes, to hiding that final thread tail.

Know Your Basic Buttonholes

Before you start, you should be familiar with the most commonly used buttonholes and what they’re designed to do.

Below is a Square buttonhole, which is widely used on medium to heavy weight fabrics. It’s a standard buttonhole for garments, and the one you would be most likely to use in home décor projects. You can usually make this style of buttonhole on even the most of basic sewing machines.

Buttonhole number two is rounded at one end and is used on fine to medium weight fabrics, especially for blouses or children’s clothes.

A buttonhole rounded at both ends is best on fine, delicate fabrics, such as silk.

The keyhole buttonhole is widely used on medium to heavy weight fabrics. It’s also suitable for larger and thicker buttons because the keyhole at one end allows a bit of an extra opening to push in a thicker button.

The open-effect buttonhole shown below is a stretch buttonhole, which can be used on stretch fabrics or on standard fabrics for a decorative effect.

A second option for knits is called, appropriately enough, a knit buttonhole. As with the stretch buttonhole above, this style could also be used on regular fabrics to create a decorative touch.

How to Sew an Automatic Buttonhole

One of the reasons we love the mid-range to high-end Janome models is because of how easily they do buttonholes (some machines have a dozen or more styles included). In general, the steps are as automatic as they come, and the results are always beautiful.

Always test sew your buttonhole before sewing it on your project. And be sure you’re testing under exactly the same conditions. That means on a scrap of the same fabric, in the same thickness, with the same stabilizer, and using the same thread.

Stabilize your fabric behind where the buttonhole will be stitched. For this example on a standard quilting weight cotton, we used a medium-weight fusible stabilizer.

Using a fabric pen and ruler, mark the near end of the buttonhole (the end closest to the edge of your project) and where the opening slit will be. There’s no need to mark the far end, since the machine will determine that automatically.

Insert your button into the back of the Janome Automatic Buttonhole foot. The foot has a sensor that will make a buttonhole in the appropriate size for your button. 

Attach the foot to the machine and pull down the buttonhole lever.

Choose your desired buttonhole. For this demonstration, we chose a basic square buttonhole.

Place your stabilized fabric under the foot. Position it so the needle will pierce at the intersection of the two marked lines. Your marked lines look like the letter, “T” – drop the point of the needle at the exact meeting point of the vertical line with the horizontal line. Hand crank the needle until it goes into the fabric.

Align your fabric as needed so the buttonhole will be sewn straight. We used the measuring guides on the machine’s sewing bed.

Start sewing. You can use a foot controller or a Start/Stop button. With either method, the machine sews all four sides of the buttonhole automatically and then stops.

If you want to sew additional buttonholes of the same size, just lift the presser foot, align the fabric on your next set of marks, and stitch the next buttonhole.

Janome MC 15000 Quilt Maker.

Remove your fabric from the machine and trim the thread tails. Then, carefully open the center slit to accept a button.

How to Sew a Basic 4-Step Buttonhole

The more basic sewing machines use a four-step process to sew a buttonhole. It requires a little extra measuring on your part. And when you’re sewing, you’ll need to manually stop at the appropriate buttonhole length.

To start, stabilize your fabric where the buttonhole will be stitched. As above, for this example we again used a medium-weight fusible stabilizer.

Mark your buttonhole on your fabric with a ruler and fabric pen, making it ¼” larger than your button. Mark both ends and the center buttonhole slit.

Attach the buttonhole foot to your machine. Align your fabric under the foot so the needle will pierce the intersection of the “T” markings at the back of the buttonhole. (Some machine models start the 4-step at the front, so be sure to check your manual.) Hand crank the balance wheel until the needle pierces the fabric.

Janome My Style 100.

On your machine, set the stitch selector to buttonhole Step 1.

Start sewing. Slow down as you near the front of your buttonhole. Stop exactly at the marked end point.

Select buttonhole Step 2. Sew about six stitches.

Select buttonhole Step 3. 

Start sewing. Slow down as you return to the back of your buttonhole. Stop exactly at the marked end point (just like you did above for the opposite side).

Select buttonhole Step 4. Sew about six stitches (just like you did at the front of the buttonhole). Remove your fabric from under the foot. Leave long tails when you snip your threads.

Using a hand needle, pull your thread tails to the back and knot them to secure.

Carefully cut open the buttonhole.

For more great buttonhole tips, review this article from Sew4Home.

By: Liz Johnson, Senior Editor, Sew4Home – a Janome Exclusive Studio

About janomeman

As Janome Canada's National Consumer Education Manager, I'm SEW excited to share my love of sewing, quilting and all things creative with everyone at our fabulous new Janome Sewing and Learning Centre in Oakville, ON. Have an idea for a class, or to be put onto our mailing list, E-mail me at
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2 Responses to Sew4Home MINI TIP Buttonholes!

  1. Christine Gibbons says:

    I own a 6600P and find using the buttonhole stabilizer attachment so helpful as well. This attachment is worth it’s weight in gold and should be advertised more.


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