Woman's hand holding blue fabric with a buttonhole over a sewing machine - credit to sewessential.com

How to Sew A Buttonhole: Your Step By Step Guide to Professional Looking Buttonholes

If you’ve ever wondered how to sew a buttonhole, I completely understand why. A well-sewn buttonhole is a testament to meticulous craftsmanship.

It’s characterized by even, tight stitches that frame the slit seamlessly, ensuring durability while exuding elegance.

You can’t spend all of your time learning to sew a button and ignore learning to sew buttonhole stitches.

Button holes are rarely noticed when done right. The edges are smooth, free from any fraying or loose threads, and the buttonhole’s length and width are precisely measured to accommodate its corresponding button with just the right amount of snugness.

When done wrong? They’re an eyesore.

Remember that it not only serves its functional purpose but also stands as a subtle hallmark of quality, enhancing the overall aesthetics of the garment.

Today we’re diving deep into the world of sewing to bring you a detailed guide on how to sew buttonholes.

Whether you’re upcycling an old garment or crafting something new, mastering the art of sewing buttonholes is essential. So, let’s get started!

Love this beginner tutorial by Glory Allen

Why Buttonholes Matter

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Buttonholes can elevate the look of your garment, making it appear professionally tailored.
  • Functionality: They secure buttons in place, ensuring your clothes fit perfectly.
  • Versatility: From delicate fabrics to heavy weight fabrics, buttonholes can be added to a variety of materials.

Materials For Sewing Buttonholes

Step-by-Step Guide to Sew Buttonholes

  1. Prepare Your Sewing Machine:
    • Attach the buttonhole foot to your sewing machine.
    • Select the buttonhole stitch on your machine. If unsure, refer to your machine’s manual.
    • Adjust the stitch length and width according to your fabric.
  2. Mark the Buttonhole Placement:
    • Use tailor’s chalk to mark where you want the buttonhole.
    • Measure the button’s diameter and add a little extra for the buttonhole length.
  3. Start Sewing:
    • Place the fabric under the presser foot, aligning the markings with the needle.
    • Begin sewing, ensuring you follow the machine’s method (one step buttonhole or manual).
    • Sew the entire width of the buttonhole, then turn your fabric and sew the other side.
  4. Cutting the Buttonhole:
    • Once sewn, use a seam ripper or buttonhole cutter to carefully cut open the buttonhole slit. Be cautious not to cut the stitches.
  5. Finishing Touches:
    • For a professional finish, you can use a satin stitch or buttonhole edge stitch to reinforce the buttonhole.
    • For added durability, especially on stretch fabrics, consider adding a stretch buttonhole stitch.

Tips for Perfect Buttonholes

  • Always practice on scrap fabric before sewing on your main garment.
  • For delicate fabrics, use interfacing to provide stability.
  • Ensure your sewing machine is well-maintained and the needle is sharp.
  • For hand sewing, use the buttonhole stitch to create beautiful hand-sewn buttonholes.
  • Remember, the key to perfect buttonholes is patience and practice!
Blueprint DIY has a great tutorial on sewing the perfect buttonholes


What are the holes on a button called?

The holes on a button are typically referred to as “buttonholes.” These are openings or perforations in the fabric through which the button is inserted to fasten the garment. Buttonholes are created during the sewing process to accommodate the button and allow it to pass through, securing the garment in place. They are an essential component of shirts, blouses, jackets, and other clothing items that use buttons for closure. Buttonholes can vary in size and style depending on the design of the garment and the size and type of button being used.

Is it a buttonhole or boutonniere?

The term “buttonhole” refers to the opening or hole in fabric through which a button is inserted to fasten a garment. It is used for practical purposes to secure clothing.

A “boutonnière” refers to a decorative floral adornment typically worn by men on the lapel of a suit jacket, especially for special occasions like weddings or formal events. It’s a small, often single flower or a small cluster of flowers that adds a touch of elegance to a suit or jacket.

While both terms have “button” in their names, they serve entirely different purposes in the context of clothing. “Buttonhole” relates to the functional aspect of fastening, while “boutonnière” pertains to a decorative accessory.

How to do a button hole stitch?

A buttonhole stitch is a hand-sewing technique used to create a secure and decorative edge around a buttonhole or a slit in fabric. Here’s how to do a basic buttonhole stitch:

  1. Mark the Buttonhole: Begin by marking the buttonhole or slit on your fabric if it’s not already marked. You can use chalk or a fabric marker to create a guideline.

  2. Thread the Needle: Thread your needle with a length of thread, usually about 18-24 inches long. Knot one end of the thread.

  3. Start at the Base: Bring the threaded needle up from the backside of the fabric at the base of the buttonhole or slit. Your knot should stay on the underside of the fabric.

  4. Anchor the Stitch: Insert the needle back into the fabric just a short distance away from where you brought it up, creating a small straight stitch.

  5. Create a Loop: Bring the needle back up through the fabric, but this time pass it under the thread between the fabric and the last stitch you made. This creates a loop around the edge of the buttonhole.

  6. Repeat: Continue making small straight stitches and looping the thread under the edge of the buttonhole as you go. Make sure to keep the stitches close together for a neat and secure finish.

  7. Finish the Buttonhole: When you reach the end of the buttonhole or slit, create a few extra stitches to secure the thread. You can also make a small knot on the underside of the fabric to reinforce the end.

  8. Cut the Thread: Trim any excess thread close to the fabric.

  9. Test the Buttonhole: Gently pull the fabric on either side of the buttonhole to ensure that it opens and closes smoothly.

This buttonhole stitch not only reinforces the edge of the buttonhole but also adds a decorative finish. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can experiment with different thread colors and spacing between stitches. With practice, you can create beautifully finished buttonholes for your sewing projects.

What stitch is best for buttonhole?

The best stitch for creating buttonholes on a sewing machine is the “buttonhole stitch” function that comes built into most modern sewing machines. This specialized stitch is designed specifically for making buttonholes and provides a clean, precise finish. To use it, select the buttonhole stitch setting on your machine, attach the buttonhole foot, adjust the stitch length to match your button’s size, and position your fabric. The machine will automatically sew both sides of the buttonhole, ensuring a secure and neatly finished result. Using the buttonhole stitch on a sewing machine is highly efficient and recommended for creating professional-looking buttonholes on a variety of garments and projects.

What are the different types of buttonhole stitches?

There are several types of buttonhole stitches, each with its own unique appearance and application. Here are some common types of buttonhole stitches:

  1. Blanket Stitch: This is a basic and versatile buttonhole stitch. It consists of closely spaced, straight stitches with a diagonal slant. It is often used for finishing raw edges, creating buttonholes, and adding decorative borders.

  2. Whipped Buttonhole Stitch: In this variation of the blanket stitch, a contrasting thread is wrapped around the straight stitches to create a decorative effect.

  3. Tailor’s Buttonhole Stitch: Also known as the “closed buttonhole stitch,” this method creates a dense, closed edge around a buttonhole. It’s commonly used in tailoring and high-end garment construction.

  4. Open Buttonhole Stitch: In contrast to the closed buttonhole stitch, the open buttonhole stitch leaves a gap between the stitches, resulting in a more open, airy look. It’s often used for decorative purposes.

  5. Knotted Buttonhole Stitch: This stitch incorporates small knots at regular intervals along the buttonhole edge, creating a textured and decorative effect.

  6. Rounded Buttonhole Stitch: Similar to the blanket stitch but with a more rounded appearance. It’s often used for decorative borders and edges.

  7. Crossed Buttonhole Stitch: This stitch involves a series of crossed or “X” shaped stitches, creating a distinctive pattern around the buttonhole.

  8. Barred Buttonhole Stitch: In this variation, horizontal bars are added between the buttonhole stitches, creating a solid and decorative edge.

  9. Scalloped Buttonhole Stitch: This stitch creates a scalloped or wavy edge along the buttonhole. It’s often used for decorative borders on fabric or embroidery.

  10. Wheatear Stitch: Named for its resemblance to a wheatear or sheaf of wheat, this stitch creates a unique and textured buttonhole edge.

  11. Picot Buttonhole Stitch: This stitch features small picot loops along the buttonhole edge, adding a delicate and decorative touch.

  12. Thread-Wrapped Buttonhole Stitch: This technique involves wrapping the buttonhole stitches with a contrasting thread, creating a visually appealing border.

The choice of buttonhole stitch depends on the desired look and purpose of the buttonhole or edge finish. Different stitches offer varying levels of durability, functionality, and decorative appeal, making them suitable for a wide range of sewing and embroidery projects.

What stitch length for buttonholes?

The appropriate stitch length for buttonholes depends on several factors. For most woven fabrics, a standard stitch length of around 2.0 to 2.5 mm is commonly used and is often available as a preset on sewing machines.

However, the fabric’s weight and thickness should also be considered. When working with heavier materials like denim or canvas, a slightly longer stitch length, around 3.0 mm, may be suitable to accommodate the fabric’s thickness.

Conversely, for delicate or lightweight fabrics, using a shorter stitch length, typically around 1.5 to 2.0 mm, is recommended to create smaller and neater buttonholes that are less likely to fray. Additionally, when dealing with stretch fabrics, a shorter stitch length helps maintain the buttonhole’s shape while allowing for fabric stretch.

Can sewing machines sew button holes?

Yes, many modern sewing machines are equipped with a buttonhole function that allows them to sew buttonholes automatically. This function simplifies the buttonhole-making process by measuring the button’s size and determining the appropriate length for the buttonhole. With the specialized buttonhole foot and the selection of the buttonhole stitch on the machine, you can easily create precise and neatly finished buttonholes with minimal manual intervention.


I know, I know… I really emphasized the importance of a well-crafted buttonhole. And, sewing buttonholes might seem daunting at first, but with the right tools and techniques, you can master this skill in no time. Worry about functionality first. Then work toward making them an intricate part of your garment.

Remember, every sewing project offers a chance to learn and grow. So, grab your sewing machine, gather your materials, and start sewing those perfect buttonholes!

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As always, thank you so much for reading, and happy sewing!

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