• Sew Retro

Tops tips for creating the perfect button hole !

Do sewing buttonholes make you dance with joy or fill you with dread ? If it's the later, this blog post is filled with so many tips and hints on sewing the perfect buttonhole, you will soon be singing your new found love of buttonhole making from the roof tops.


Included in the post are links to tools to aid with the placing of the buttons and opening the button holes.

But as always I show you how to use a basic sewing machine and sewing kit to produce professional buttonholes.


The second episode, series 7 of the British sewing Bee 2021, challenged the sewers to make a sun dress with a front button opening. You will find links to the dresses they made and similar sun dress patterns with front button openings.


How to make the perfect button hole - time and time again.






  1. If you are using a commercial pattern the button hole positions will be marked on the pattern, transfer the button hole positions, from the pattern onto your garment using tailor tacks or chalk. I would advise against pins as when you come to the sewing the buttonhole the pins make it difficult to make the button hole with out stabbing yourself with the pins.



  1. YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE BUTTON HOLE OVER THE FULLEST PART OF THE BUST, to avoided gaping, and a button hole at the waist. Check that you are happy with the position of the buttonholes by trying on your garment.

  2. If your pattern doesn't include the buttonhole positions. Lay your garment on a flat surface and spread the buttons over the button hole band. One button needs to be at the bust and one at the waist ( and if you have a collar one on the collar), place the remaining buttons equally spaced on the button band. Check with a tape measure.Using pins mark the top and bottom of each button, Check your measurements again and if you are happy , mark where each pin is, with chalk or a tailors tack and then remove the pin.

  3. Women's buttons are on the left side, while men's are on the right.

  4. On shirts and blouses the buttonholes traditionally go in a vertical placement. If there is a front placket, such as the one found on a classic button-up shirt with a collar stand or a sun dress, the buttonholes run vertically down the placket, yet the buttonhole on the collar stand is sewn in the horizontal direction

This tool called a button hole gauge does the measuring for you.


Tips for sewing button holes.




Always make a test button hole using the fabric you are sewing with, including the interfacing and the correct amount of layers.

2. If your fabric is very thick and you don't want to interface the whole button band, still use interfacing, but cut the interfacing into small squares and just place a square of interfacing where you are going to make a button hole.

When you have made the button hole trim away the excess interfacing.

  • Grade your seams so the buttonhole is on as few layers as possible. Trim any corners that may be causing a bulky button band


3. If your fabric is very sheer, you can use a piece of your main fabric as interfacing, again cut it into small squares and place it in between the layers, when you have made the button hole trim away the excess fabric.



4. If you have tricky or bulky fabric, which you may struggle to make a buttonhole on, when selecting the button hole stitch length, pick a looser stitch (closer to Number 1) and make one buttonhole, then make another buttonhole on top of the first button hole, to get the perfect finish. If your stitch is small and tight it will make, sewing a button hole harder and possibly cause the sewing machine to jam, therefore I advise the larger stitch, and a second buttonhole on top.

5. Before you stitch the buttonholes on your garment, cut the practice buttonhole open and check the button fits. Buttonholes do stretch with use, so you will need one that you can get the button through but with a gentle push.In general, it should be the length of your button plus 1/8″ on either end for wiggle room.

Adjust the length of your buttonhole if needed and test again.


To open your button hole, (my tried a tested method !) use the un-picker to make a small hole in the middle of your buttonhole, now use your scissors to open the buttonhole. This way you have much more control over the cutting.



If you use the un-picker to open the button hole you should insert a pin at the end of the button hole to stop you accidentally cutting to far the ruining your garment.


This cute buttonhole chisel made by Bernina will also open your button holes for you.



If you do make a mistake, don't panic, unpick, slide the un-picker under the stitches as shown and you will easily be able to remove the buttonhole.


Instructions for a 4 step button hole




Measure the button against the red marks on the buttonhole foot. I count from the front of the buttonhole foot back, this button needs to start and finish on the 5th red line.



Select the button hole stitch length, Sew Retro recommends selecting the middle of the button hole image.


Stitch down the length of the button hole on No.1, starting at the 5th red mark on the buttonhole foot.



With the needle up move to No.2 and make a bar tack.


With the needle up change to No.3, the machine will automatically reverse to make the other side of the button hole


Select No 4 to finish the buttonhole with a bar tack. To make sure you do not reverse back to far

The red marking on the buttonhole foot , will need to be aligned.


In this image the sewing was started on the fifth red mark counting back from the start of the buttonhole foot, you will need to count and finish at the same position, then make the final bar tack using no 4 stitch.

With a little practice this become very easy.


  • Don’t let your fear of buttonholes stop you from making the garments you want to make, or prevent you from putting the finishing touches on that project you’ve been working on. A little practice makes perfect.

This blog post has tips for sewing on buttons.



A round up of the sun dress sewing patterns from week 2 series 7 British Sewing Bee


The Ariana strappy sun dress from Style Arc the shirring elastic back makes for a great fit.


Such a fab shirt dress



A stunning Retro style sun dress



Ticking all the boxes and it has POCKETS !!












The vintage vibe










How cute is this sun dress from Tilly and the Button



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