How to Sew Button Holes

by Trisha Dawe

Creating a garment may require the use of buttons, especially in pants, dress shirts and blouses. Buttonholes are constructed by sewing a tight zigzag stitch into a rectangular shape, which prevents the fabric around it from stretching or ripping and allows the button to remain securely through the hole when the garment is worn. These buttonholes can be constructed by hand but are often created using a sewing machine. Check your sewing machine user manual for specific instructions and any buttonhole tools that came with your machine.

Items you will need

  • Button
  • Marking pencil
  • Fabric
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Seam ripper
what is a fallback
Step 1

Lay the garment onto your work surface, and line up the edges where the buttons and buttonholes are positioned. Position the actual button to be used over the area where the buttonhole will be positioned, and use a fabric marking pencil to mark 1/4-inch above and below the button.

Step 2

Connect the center of the two markings with a straight line, forming a capital letter "I." Lift the machine presser foot and position the letter "I" under the machine so the needle is over the connecting point between the horizontal line and vertical line at the top of the letter.

Step 3

Set your machine to the buttonhole setting, or position the needle as far right as possible and use a thin, tight zigzag stitch. Sew from the top of the letter "I" to the bottom of the letter "I" with the stitch to the right of the vertical marking.

Step 4

Switch your needle positioning to a wide, center zigzag stitch, and sew approximately 5 or 6 stitches to cover the lower line of the letter "I." Switch the needle back to the tight, thin zigzag stitch but this time to the left of the vertical marking.

Step 5

Sew backwards up the left side of the line using the buttonhole setting on your machine. Alternatively, lift the presser foot back to the top of the "I," and sew the wide stitch to cover the top of the letter using the same setting as you did for the bottom before sewing the zigzag stitch down to the left side of the vertical marking.

Step 6

Inspect the stitches to ensure they are evenly spaced and appear like a thin rectangle. Cut the thread using a seam ripper close to the fabric on both the front and back of the garment's buttonhole.

Step 7

Insert the sharp point of your seam ripper into the fabric between the left and right vertical thread sections, and carefully press upward to cut the fabric between the threads. This cut creates a hole for the button, but be careful not to cut the thread at the top or bottom.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice this technique on a scrap piece of the same fabric before attempting it on your finished product.
  • Many sewing machines come with a buttonhole maker that automatically guides the needle to the necessary areas to create the buttonhole.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images