How to sew a buttonhole

Have you ever wondered how to sew a buttonhole? Learn just how easy it is! When it comes to the perfect buttonhole, practice really does make perfect. While most people know how to sew a button, the buttonhole seems to be one of the more scary things a beginner can tackle. I’ve even known experienced sewists who will do anything to not have to sew a buttonhole.

How to sew a buttonhole

For this tutorial, I am using the Faith, Hope, & Love collection from Riley Blake Designs. Faith, Hope, & Love is a gorgeous collection by Sue Daley and features a stunning palette of florals and equally gorgeous coordinates.


  • First things first, grab your sewing machine manual. If you got your machine second-hand, you may not have a manual. Try searching on Google for the manual, most brands have their manuals available for PDF download online.
  • Second, grab yourself some scrap fabric. Ideally, you will want to practice on the same type of fabric that you’re using for the finished garment. This will ensure that whatever settings that you use on the practice run gives you the exact same results on the finished piece.
  • Third, you will need your seam ripper, a fabric marking pen, and fusible interfacing. My favorite type of interfacing is HeatnBond light or medium weight fusible interfacing.


The very first thing that we recommend when it comes to perfect buttonholes is applying interfacing. You may not need this step if you are using a heavier weight fabric, if you decide not to use it, try it out on your scrap fabric first.

How to sew a buttonhole

Interfacing acts as a reinforcement under the buttonhole, and even if the tutorial does not state to use it, adding interfacing is a very helpful step to achieving a professional looking buttonhole.

Press the interfacing onto the wrong side of your fabric, right where the buttonholes will be placed.

For the best results, this step should be done before you even begin sewing your garment. Once your garment is sewn, come back here for the next step.

buttonhole size and placement

Now, we will measure where you will place the buttonholes. How many buttonholes you need will vary depending on the size of the buttons that you use as well as the size of the garment you are sewing. Larger buttons means you will be able to fit less buttons, smaller buttons will result in more buttonholes needed.

An easy way to determine how many buttonholes you need to make is to place the buttons you intend to use evenly along the garment and see what looks best to you.

How to sew a buttonhole

Horizontal or vertical buttonholes? That is the golden question.

Traditionally, buttonholes on the front of a shirt or dress will be placed vertically, with the exception of the collar. If the last button extends into the collar stand, this button is typically placed horizontally.

Buttonholes placed on the back of a dress or shirt OR on the front of a heavier weight garment (jackets or coats) are typically placed horizontally.

Using a ruler and your fabric pen, draw in lines where your buttonholes will be placed. The size of the buttonhole should equal approximately half of the circumference plus 1/8″ (3mm). Some machines have a foot that will automatically determine the size for you depending on the size of the button you insert into the foot.

How to sew a buttonhole


Attach the buttonhole foot to your machine (or a zig zag foot if your machine did not come with one).

Because every machine is different, at this point you should check your manual to ensure that you have the settings set up properly on your machine before starting to sew.

How to sew a buttonhole

There are 4 basic steps that sewing machines follow when sewing a buttonhole: first side, top, second side, and bottom. The order of these steps can vary by machine so it is very important to read your manual to know which order your machine goes in.

Automatic, or one step, buttonholes are created in one step. Your machine will do all of the steps for you. Make sure that you determine whether your machine starts at the top or the bottom of your buttonhole. This is important in knowing which side of the buttonhole marking to start at.

As the machine is doing it’s thing, be sure that you do not pull on your fabric at all or try to force it through. This can cause uneven buttonholes and tension issues.

If your machine pulls the threads through to the back side and secures them for you then you are done! If not, pull your threads to the wrong side of the fabric and tie them in a knot.

How to sew a buttonhole

cutting open THE BUTTONHOLE

How to sew a buttonhole

Place a straight pin at the top of your buttonhole, right below the stitching, and at the bottom of the buttonhole, right above the stitching. Placing the pins here helps ensure that when you are cutting open the buttonhole with your seam ripper that you do not accidentally cut through the other end of the buttonhole stitching.

How to sew a buttonhole

An optional tip is to use a little bit of Fray Check on your buttonhole before you cut into it. Place a small amount of the Fray Check onto your buttonhole, let it dry, and then cut it open.

Tah dah! You now know how to sew a buttonhole! Stand back and admire your beautiful, professional looking, buttonhole.

View our other sewing-101 blog posts here.

xoxo Gail

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