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My Buttonholer is an A-hole

2012 November 26
by elizabeth_admin

Yes, I just wrote that as my post title.  And I’m sticking with it.  I am supremely peeved with my buttonholer.  It’s the one that came with my Husqvarna Emerald 138.  It looks like this…



(Yes, I know that I have it attached incorrectly in the photo.  It’s just so I could position it for the photo without having to hold it in place.)

Looks pretty innocent, doesn’t it?  With it’s white and chrome finish.  Yeah well, this little accessory comes from the Devil himself.  Why do I think that you ask?  Well, it plays pretty well when you make sample buttonholes.  It lulls you into a sense of confidence that you can actually make all 12 buttonholes in a New York minute (or San Diego minute).  And then it hits you with the great start/miserable end  trick.  Oldest one in the book.  The buttonholer suddenly will stop advancing the fabric right in the middle of the button hole and then make a ginormous thread ball that’s almost impossible to rip off without damaging the button placket fabric underneath.  I ripped out three attempts each on two separate buttonholes before giving up.  (Yes, I am that stubborn.)  I kept thinking that it must be user error.  But I have come to the conclusion that it is definitely the buttonholer’s fault, spawn of the devil that it is.  I have had this same exact problem with this buttonholer each and every time I have used it.  Sorry, I have no pictures of the crappy button holes; I was too mad to take any.  Just picture a thread ball.

Luckily, Peter came to my rescue.  I was trying to find a Singer buttonholer set for my Featherweight since I have heard that they make fine button holes with little difficulty.  I found some sets on Etsy, but they seemed pricey.  Peter found a set on Ebay for me in a matter of seconds that were cheap and complete.  Win/Win!  I snapped them up right away.


But they won’t arrive until the end of the week.  So I took my precious almost a muslin shirt to my local dry cleaners to see if they could put in the button holes and buttons for me.  I hope they don’t ruin my shirt.  I am so nervous.  It was like I was handing over my baby for surgery.  *crossing my fingers and toes*

Long story long… I don’t have any finished pictures yet because I want to wait until the button holes are done and I can model it properly.

18 Responses leave one →
  1. November 26, 2012

    Ok, that may be the most awesome blog post title ever. And I totally feel you. My buttonhole foot on my fancy computerized machine does the same thing. If there is even a hint of unevenness underneath the buttonhole foot, its stops in it’s tracks and makes a knot. I have a cheap $75 Kmart sewing machine (non-computerized) that does a 4 step buttonhole and I have no issues with it. None. I’m convinced it’s the 1 step function that malfunctions so easily.

  2. November 26, 2012

    I love, love my vintage buttonholer. And I always hated the one on my computerized machine. Actually, I hated everything about my computerized machine. Then I blew out the power supply in London. Yeah! Good luck with your new buttonholer!

  3. November 26, 2012

    oh nooooo! i love my buttonholer! it came with my machine and it’s been working just fine. but maybe it’s still just toying with me only to crush me later on when i’m in the middle of something more important. and you tried switching to a new needle too? hope your new one comes soon!

  4. annie permalink
    November 26, 2012

    I bought a Viking based on a buttonhole demonstration given by none other than Sandra Betzina who was giving a class in my local shop on making slacks. She put the fabric under the buttonholer and essentially walked away while the buttonhole was made. I had a Pfaff and it made awful buttonholes. So I bit the bait. Vikings make the WORST buttonholes. You are exactly right. Samples are great. One gets lulled into a sense of security, to borrow a phrase, and recklessly puts the real thing under the presser foot. And then disaster strikes. It makes no difference if I turn the machine completely off and restart, on the theory that the first sample was beautiful and maybe it has something to do with being first. Crazy, I know. In fact, I have three Vikings, a Lily, a Quilt Designer and a serger. I have just been through hell to get the Quilt Designer fixed and I have sworn to sell them all. After reading a post by Barbara at Sewing on the Edge, I bought an old Bernina 802. It apparently was designed to be used in Home Ec classes. And I love it. I have downloaded the directions from the net and hope to get a little box of “accessories” for Christmas. I had forgotten how much I loved my old 1970 Kenmore and wonder why on earth I got rid of it. I guess I’m ranting! Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

  5. November 26, 2012

    Did I ever tell you, I lived in San Diego for 3 months in 2004? Redondo Court in Mission Beach. A San Diego minute is a LOT longer than a New York minute, that’s for sure.

    I am also wishing you good luck with your new buttonholer!!

  6. November 26, 2012

    I too can totally sympathize! When I bought my Husqvarna Scandanavia just about the only thing I really tested was the buttonholer – worked great in the store – terrible at home. It gives me the same exact problem. Then I went on a mission to find a vintage buttonholer. Found the buttonholer but didn’t have a machine to fit it. Eventually I posted an entire flowchart ( to track my buttonhole mission! I now have three buttonholers, one beautiful vintage Necchi, and still no match. Hope yours fixes the frustration!

  7. Cindy permalink
    November 26, 2012

    I can totally relate to your buttonhole issues, I have a Pfaff which also falls short in the buttonhole department! My solution is I do not use the buttonhole foot any longer I only use the sensor that goes in the back, and last week I made a Buttonhole and I forgot to put this in and I did get a decent buttonhole anyway. I just use my open toe foot, but most recently I purchased a Teflon foot which has become my multipurpose foot now and I will use that when I have to make my next set of buttonholes-:) I still have to take out the occasional buttonhole but it is better than it was and this is the only machine I have so I have to make it work!

  8. November 26, 2012

    I have a similar foot on my Pfaff. It works great on two layers of even fabric with no bumps or edges. (Aren’t buttonholes usually near edges?). I also have an old Bernina 1130 that has a 5 step buttonhole stitch. You have to measure and mark carefully to get the same size buttonholes, but it is sewn nicely when it is done. Another trick that I have been using when I want the buttonholes to be perfect is to embroider them with the embroidery machine. As long as you line them up correctly, they come out perfect every time. When I bought the Pfaff, I was really hoping for a better solution for perfect buttonholes, but I guess we will have to wait a bit longer for that.

  9. November 27, 2012

    Mine does that too! Perfect samples and practice ones but, put the real live fabric in, and I too get the stationary sewing with the hard as nails ball of thread on the backside. Are our buttonholers related or just on cohoots? My machine is a Janome though.

  10. November 27, 2012

    A couple years ago I gave up on the buttonhole function on my Bernina and got a vintage Singer 501a that I keep set up with a Singer buttonhole attachment permanently set up on it. It’s made my sewing life a lot easier!

  11. November 27, 2012

    Button holes are the work of Satan. I can see why the Amish are smitten with hooks and eyes… Yes! There’s the solution to your problem: you need to become Amish. xos

  12. Shams permalink
    November 27, 2012

    I think sending it to the dry cleaners is a *perfect* solution! I hope you are happy with their work!

  13. Teresa permalink
    November 27, 2012

    Button holes are such pain. When I test a sewing machine for purchase the button hole is the first thing I test. If it can’t make a button hole it’s no good to me. I have a Pfaff 7570 that makes good button holes. I have a newer Viking that can sew a better looking button hole on sample pieces but really needs a lot of assistance on plackets. One tip I could give you (if you want to torture yourself some more :)) is to put some tracing paper or tear away stabilizer under the fabric you are sewing the button hole on to. I’ve had to use paper for some fabrics that don’t like to move with the button hole maker.

  14. November 27, 2012

    Oh no! I haven’t tried making buttonholes on my Featherweight, but maybe I should.

  15. Diane permalink
    November 27, 2012

    GRRRRR!!! I am right there with you girlfriend!! My Pfaff has a buttonholer that looks just like that and it is AWFUL! I had to go out and buy a cheap-o Brother machine and it makes lovely buttonholes. WTH?!

  16. November 27, 2012

    Hmm… I have the Janome cousin of this buttonholer… yes same genetic fault… perfect samples, dud on the real garment! VERY frustrating and best not to use in front of young children in case of extending their vocabulary in a way you don’t really want it to go.

  17. Barbara permalink
    November 27, 2012

    Learn from my fail: when your new Singer buttonholer arrives, don’t be in such a hurry to try it out that you just fingerscrew the piece that fits over the needle plate. It will move. Your needle will hit it, making a horrific noise and breaking the needle. Use a screwdriver to attach it to the machine properly. These old buttonholes make such work of it, and the keyhole shapes are great. Hope it works great for you!

  18. Sarah permalink
    January 7, 2017

    I hope you had better luck than I have with vintage buttonholer attachments. Almost every mention I find online says how great these gadgets are, but that hasn’t been my experience.

    The first one I bought, admittedly a model from the bad “made in Japan” days, I couldn’t get to work at all. I showed it to a local sewing machine collector/boffin who said it was so cheaply made that he doubted it ever worked properly, even when new.

    The next one, an older Singer, is metal and certainly looks the part. However, after hours of fiddling and miles of thread I only got one semi-reasonable buttonhole. Sigh.

    My dad got me another model to try, but I was too disheartened to connect it up at the time. Maybe I should get it out and give it a go.

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