After receiving such a wonderful reception from her last post, we are happy to share a new post by Janome Educator Amy Meek!

In this Blog Post, Amy shares her tips on the different types of buttonholes that can be achieved by Janome machines.

Take it away, Amy!   

I know, I know, you won’t ever use all those decorative stitches (we’ll address this another time) or make buttonholes. Buttons and buttonholes aren’t just for garments, though!

Many Janome machines have a variety of built-in automatic buttonholes from which to choose.

But wait…… let’s just say for some crazy wild unpredicted moment you need to make a buttonhole. Wouldn’t it be nice to just set your machine up and go? Let me say something my mother always told me “Fore warned is fore armed!” (I believe this was always referenced with Paul Revere) In other words learn it and if you don’t ever use it, it’s okay. In the case of a buttonhole emergency, you are prepared!

Let’s talk about the different kinds of buttonholes that are made by machine; a Four-Step buttonhole and a One-Step buttonhole.

The parts of a buttonhole are a tiny zig-zag stitch running up each side of a bar tack stitch, which is a wider satin stitch made at the top and bottom of a buttonhole to keep it from ripping.

The Four-Step buttonhole is made on a purely mechanical machine. The machine will need you to adjust the stitch selector knobs for it to sew and bar tack at each step. You control the length of the buttonhole stitch on each side and turn the selector knobs to complete the second bar tack. 

Janome Sewist 709

You will be in charge of measuring and marking the buttonhole placement and length. It may sound tricky, but it’s really quite simple with a little practice.

One-Step buttonholes are just that.

  • Select the buttonhole on your machine menu.
  • Place the button in the back of your Automatic Buttonhole foot (R) – this is done by pulling the back of the foot up, then dropping the button in the space and snuggling the back of the foot up to hold the button.
  • Snap the foot on your machine.
  • Be sure to pull down the Buttonhole Lever, which is behind the needle threader, all the way. This will size the buttonhole correctly for the button placed in the back of the foot. The Automatic Buttonhole foot can accommodate buttons up to 1″.
Janome Automatic Buttonhole Foot R

When making either type of buttonhole, be sure the garment or item you’re putting the buttonhole in is as flat as possible and remember that the machine will be stitching in reverse to complete the buttonhole. Make sure nothing is in the way to obstruct your project’s movement.

Make a few test buttonholes with some extra fabric, including any stabilizers and interfacings used in the project so you can make the necessary adjustments as necessary. Always be sure you have interfacing or stabilizer to keep your buttonholes from stretching or becoming misshapen in wearing and future washings.

Marking your item for the buttonhole can be tricky. Will the buttonhole run vertically, up and down or horizontally, side to side? This is determined by the garment type and can also be determined by the button type. When making a garment, they usually have a buttonhole guide included for a specific size button recommended by the designer. A dress shirt, for example, will have a horizonal buttonhole across the collar stand and vertical buttonholes down the center front placket.

There are also tools designed to help you with placement. Check with your Janome Dealer or sewing supply store to see what they may have available.

On a Four-Step buttonhole, it will be up to you to draw the size buttonhole you need for the button. You will then follow those lines you’ve drawn on your item to create the buttonhole. Follow the steps on the machine stitch selector knobs, and as detailed in your instruction manual.

Janome HD1000 with 4-step buttonhole

On a One-Step buttonhole, you will mark one dot on your item to line up with the needle drop of the buttonhole you’ve selected, then start sewing. The buttonhole will be created and repeated exactly for each buttonhole on the item. Be aware of the Buttonhole Lever and be sure you don’t accidentally hit it with any part of your item. 

On most automatic one-step buttonhole sewing machines there might be several types of buttonholes to choose from. There might be a square end; round end (on both sides); different types of keyhole shapes and knit types. The square and rounded are generally for flat-four or two-hole buttons. The keyhole buttonholes are for thicker buttons and buttons with a built-in shank. Knit buttonholes are for well-stabilized knit items which do not distort or stretch the fabric.

Remember these important steps when making buttonholes:

  • Measuring both the size of the button and the placement. 
  • Keep the buttonhole area as level and flat as possible. 
  • Stabilize the area to keep the buttonhole from stretching.
  • Pull down the Buttonhole Lever when using the Automatic Buttonhole Foot (R)

One last word of wisdom when cutting your buttonhole open – use great caution! Use a small pair of scissors or a buttonhole chisel to avoid cutting any stitches! Lots of people say, and even some instruction manuals suggest using a seam ripper. It works, but it can lead to disaster – like one big buttonhole down the front or back of a garment, so proceed with caution.

Happy Sewing!

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11 Responses to Buttonholes

  1. Bonnie says:

    Placing a regular sewing pin horizontally across the end of the buttonhole where you want the stitch ripper to stop works well to prevent accidents! Think of it as a finish line you don’t want to cross. Start ripping at the opposite end from the pin and gently work toward the pin. You won’t cut through the pin or too much of your button hole. This gives a nice straight cut and keeps your nerves from fraying.


    • janomeman says:

      Thank you for your tips, Bonnie. I think we can appreciate any tips and techniques which reduce our nerves from fraying, especially with a seam ripper in hand, lol! Happy Sewing!


  2. Maryann Womack says:

    The best way to cut the buttonhole is to slide a pin right before the end of it to prevent an accident, and then use your seam ripper. It works every time for me.

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. fmjfrazier says:

    Could you show how to make a buttonhole for an extra large button that does not fit in the buttonhole attachment.Virginia


    • janomeman says:

      Excellent idea for a future blog post and our ASK Janome HQ Instagram Live segment! Thank you for the suggestion!


  4. Thanks for this helpful post! I do have a question….

    I try to avoid garments with buttonholes as it is always a disaster. When I got my skyline 7 things improved and I was encouraged but this problem still happens frequently

    I’ve tested the buttonhole several time and looks beautiful. Then proceed to do the garment where first and second attempts are perfect then on the next one the automation stops 3/4 of the way around! I have to finish off with zigzagging or by hand. I try to rest things by turning the machine off and on but it wii still happen. Suggestions welcomed!


    • janomeman says:

      HI Carolyn, I find I get best results when using the Stop/Start button as opposed to the foot control so there’s an even and consistent delivery of power throughout the buttonhole. Please give that a try to see if that helps improve your results. Happy Sewing!


      • Thanks Michael for getting back. I have never used the foot control since getting a machine with the on/off start button…any idea what else it could be?
        Thanks so much


      • janomeman says:

        Hello again, Since the buttonhole is stitching correctly the first few times, nothing seems mechanically wrong with the machine. Some other troubleshooting tips; be sure the buttonhole lever is pulled all the way down before starting the buttonhole and that nothing touches it while it’s stitching. Make sure there’s ample room for the fabric to move to the side and backwards so nothing is obstructing it’s movement. Keep the fabric flat and smooth under the foot, in between the stabilizer plate. Happy Sewing!


      • Thanks…I’m going to try that out


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