crafts · Sewing


I’ve sewn a lot of buttonholes and buttons into knitwear.  I’ve repaired my share of coats with missing buttons.  But it never before occurred to me how you make the actual hole the button goes into.  My machine has an automatic buttonholer, which is great – program the length and it does all the work!    However, it isn’t as easy as that sounds.  First I ran out of thread, so I bought a spool of matching machine embroidery thread – I love the pretty sheen it gives the buttonholes.  Then I realized my buttons were slightly too big, so I had to adjust the size and spacing.  Finally I faced the biggest problem… opening the holes.  I don’t have embroidery scissors sharp enough, so I started with a seam ripper.  I made 6 test holes, and didn’t manage a single one without grabbing a thread I didn’t mean to on the sides.  I searched online, not wanting to screw up my skirt, and found my solution!

This is a plain 1/2 inch wood chisel, bought new today at the hardware store down the street.  You can actually get buttonhole chisels, but this was both cheaper and half a block away (and Joanns informed me they don’t exist…  I hate Joanns.)

See that perfectly cut hole?  Here’s how you do it.  Lay the fabric on a block of wood (I’m using a tiny cutting board that I don’t find useful otherwise.)  Position the chisel pointing down, with the blade exactly where you want the slit to be cut.  Whack it with a hammer or mallet.  Move down a little, repeat until you have a perfect buttonhole!

Seriously, this looks so much better than the cut holes (I won’t show them… I are embarrassed.)  It’s so easy, but apparently not widespread anymore, so there you go… a sewing tip!

Now I need to sew on the buttons (below) tack down the beltloops, and possibly redo the hem by hand.   I used my blind hem foot, and it didn’t catch the skirt as often as it should have.

I love finding tools at weird stores – I also buy my makeup brushes at the art supply store!

21 thoughts on “Buttonholes

  1. That is so cool! I have done the seam ripper thing before too, never with good results but I don’t often make button holes so I’ve never tried to find a better solution.
    I’m loving the look of that yellow. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  2. That’s an awesome idea!! I generally use my seam ripper to make a tiny hole and the my scissors to make the hole! Might have to steal this idea and claim it as my own! lol I’m sure my husband won’t know the difference!

  3. I use a chisel for my buttonholes, too! I found the tip on a blog that I read at: It really does look much nicer using the chisel instead of a seam ripper. Can’t wait to see the finished skirt.

  4. Love the skirt. Can I ask where you got the fabric & buttons?
    I’m going to have to try the wood chisel on buttonholes the next time I sew. Great tip

  5. I have buttonhole scissors that you can adjust for the size of the buttonhole and gap between what needs to be cut and what doesn’t. Of course, they are ancient, so I don’t know if they even make them anymore.

  6. OK you seriously have to stop making me want a sewing machine! I am really interested to see how the skirt looks on you. I would not have chosen something with a high waist like that. However, I always love your styling, even when I first thought a pattern was “meh,” so I’m sure this will be no exception.

    Did you (or would you?) say anywhere how much your new sewing machine cost? I am planning to get one this summer but I have no idea where to start looking. I’m a total beginner and want something that I can grow into, so to speak, and not have to trade up as soon as I get to an intermediate level.

  7. My sewing machine actually *came* with a chisel… decades ago, when my grandmother bought it. (The chisel is mentioned in the manual, so I know it’s not something she added herself.)

    I guess it went out of fashion, but I don’t understand why – it works so well!

  8. Wow! Thanks for the chisel tip. I am getting ready to make a coat and this will work so much better than trying to cut or rip through the thicker outer fabric and thinner lining fabric.

    Your sewing looks amazing! I can’t believe you only just started up again. =]

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