I have a confession to make. I’ve always looked at the button foot my machine came with and thought “this thing is more trouble than it’s worth, I’ll just sew on buttons by hand”. I finished a blouse recently, and didn’t feel like sewing the buttons on by hand. It is one of those finishing things that I detest. Hand sewing is a big pain, even though I enjoy cross stitching. Go figure.
Anyway, I decided to write up a little tutorial, considering that I know people who have the same opinion on button feet that I did.
First, mark your button placement. I like to make sure that my chalk lines extend past the edges of the button so that I can make adjustments to the position and still be able to see my markings. I don’t like to mark button placement with a pin, because it creates a bump under the button that makes getting the button in the right position really frustrating.
Attach your button foot to your machine, lower the feed dogs, and select the button setting. Make sure that you have about 3″ of thread tail, because you’ll need it later. Place your button on the location you marked, lower the foot, then use the hand wheel on your machine to lower the needle into the hole.
It turns out that on this button, I set it a touch too wide. Fortunately I didn’t bend or break my needle, but I did break the button. Oops. This is why it’s best to do the first few stitches using the hand wheel instead of running the machine. You can make further adjustments if needed, without doing damage.
I adjusted the stitch width to 5.5, which was perfect. My machine has an automatic setting for sewing on buttons, which takes eight stitches to sew on the button. I just press the pedal until the machine stops automatically, but if your machine doesn’t have an automatic stop, make sure that you use about 6-8 stitches. Cut the thread tails at about 3″.
After your buttons are all sewn on, pull the thread tails on the top of your work (where the button is visible) to the back. Tie the tails in a knot, including the tails on the back of the button, and snip off the excess thread.
Using a button foot makes sewing on buttons go much faster. Rather than hand sewing them and cursing at tangled thread for twenty minutes, I got seven buttons sewn on in about seven minutes, so I have no excuse to let a project sit because I don’t want to sew on buttons.
You can use this technique with buttons with four holes as well, just sew the first two holes, then move the work to line up the needle for the second set of holes. Easy!
If you’re using very large buttons that your machine can’t accommodate, obviously you will have to sew on your buttons by hand. The button foot doesn’t work for buttons with a shank, either. If you have really expensive or delicate buttons, you might want to sew them on by hand, just in case you mess up like I did above.