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Make the Most of Your Machine
No matter what sort of buttonholes your machine creates, there are several ways you can help or hinder the process:
The foot used can make a huge difference in the buttonhole's quality. Always use a buttonhole foot- preferably the one that came with the machine. The grooves along the bottom guide the fabric and make it unnecessary to tug the fabric as you sew. (Tugging causes puckering and uneven stitches.) If the machine didn't come with an adequate buttonhole foot, consider investing in a "sliding" buttonhole foot, which will make beautiful buttonholes even on bulky seam allowances.
It's also an excellent idea to review your sewing machine manual for tips on making buttonholes. Each sewing machine is unique-some machines may sew a better buttonhole if you loosen the upper tension; others may do a better job if the upper tension is tightened. Your machine manual often has valuable but overlooked information on the best settings for your machine. One of the surest ways to sew better buttonholes is to change the needle. Simple as it may sound, it makes a world of difference. Often, by the time you get ready to stitch buttonholes, you've used the same needle to construct an entire garment-long enough to dull the needle. Changing to a fresh needle helps prevent tangles and missed stitches.
Commercial patterns are designed with an overlap for a specific button diameter that creates a proportional appearance when the garment is buttoned. If you change the button/buttonhole size (see "Buttonhole Length"), it may be necessary to adjust the overlap. The finished overlap (and underlap) should extend half the button width plus 1/4" beyond the center line. The distance from the neckline to the center of the first buttonhole should also equal half the button width plus 1/4" (2). For traditional closures, the center lines should align when the garment is buttoned.
Buttonholes are usually placed on the right bodice front for women's garments and the left front for men's. Locate one buttonhole near the point of the greatest strain to prevent gapping (for women, the fullest point of the bustline), then space the remaining buttonholes evenly along the length of the garment, stopping about 4" from the lower edge.
On the center front of a garment, horizontal buttonholes are the most secure and help prevent the opening from gaping. However, vertical buttonholes must be used when there is a center front band or placket.
Horizontal buttonholes begin 1/8" beyond the center line toward the garment edge to accommodate the shank. Vertical buttonholes are placed directly on the center line, and should begin 1/8" above the center of the corresponding button (3). Once the button is attached to the garment, the extra 1/8" is taken up by the shank so the center lines of the two garments match.
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Edited 11/12/2015 by Debbie Colgrove