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How to sew better buttonholes: 9 tips for success

Buttonholes are usually the last step in garment making process and if they don't turn out well - it can ruin the entire look and mood. Luckily, there are quite a few things that we can do, to create more beautiful buttonholes. In this post, we will discuss 9 ways how you can sew better buttonholes on your sewing machine.

This post is created in partnership with Organ Needles - needle industry experts.

Organ Needles are one of the leading brands in needle industry, with over 100 years of expertise in needle making. Organ Needles have a wide range of products and you can find a right needle for any type of project that you have on hand - even for tricky materials like super stretch fabrics. I've been using Organ Needles for several years in all of my machines - industrial sewing machine, domestic sewing machine, embroidery machine and serger. It's easy to recommend them as I use them regularly and their needle quality speaks for itself!

Click below to watch video and scroll down to read 9 tips on sewing better buttonholes. Let's begin our road to beautiful buttonholes!



Using fusible interfacing to stabilize fabric is one of the most important elements of making a beautiful buttonhole. It will create a sturdier surface for stitching and buttonhole will be shaped correctly. Not only that, but interfacing will also ensure that buttonhole will last longer, as it won't be as prone to stretching out or fraying.

If you're placing buttons on button plackets or collar, the entire pattern piece needs to be interfaced on the wrong side of the garment; if you're adding buttonhole on different part, you should add a piece of interfacing that is slightly larger than the buttonhole. For sewing knit fabrics, match it with stretch interfacing.

Left - buttonhole without interfacing; right - buttonhole with interfacing and double top thread


Along with fusible interfacing, some fabrics - especially more delicate fabric or knits - may need extra support and this is where adding stabilizer (water soluble or tear-away) will become very handy. Add a tiny piece of stabilizer (the piece should be slightly larger than buttonhole) and slip it under buttonhole presser foot, under the fabric. Sew buttonhole and remove stabilizer once finished. This step will help create correct form of buttonhole, even on tricky fabrics.


Most popular sewing thread is polyester all-purpose thread. While it works great for sewing, you can try different threads to get different effects on buttonholes. For example, cotton thread is a bit more 'hairy' than polyester thread, thus it will create a more fuller buttonhole; embroidery thread has more gloss compared to sewing thread, so it will result in more luxurious buttonhole.

Left - polyester thread; right - embroidery thread

One of my favourite threads for buttonholes is using heavy-weight topstitching thread, which creates a filled, thicker buttonhole.

Buttonhole made using topstitching thread

To use this thread, you'll need a topstitching needle (I use Organ Needles Top-Stitch needle). Compared to standard Universal needle size 90, Top-Stitch needle has a much larger hole ('eye' of the needle).

Organ Needles Top-Stitch and Universal needles
Eye of Top-stitch needle (left) compared to Universal needle (right). Both needles are size 90

Thanks to the larger eye, Top-stitch needle is not only easier to thread, but it also makes it possible to sew with thicker thread or use multiple threads at the same time. Topstitching needles are often used for quilting with topstitching thread, decorative stitches, embroidery or sewing buttonholes.

Buttonhole made using thick thread and Organ Needles Top-stitch needle

If you do not have a heavy weight thread in needed color, and alternative is to use 2 threads at the top and thread them through Top-stitch needle, thus creating a more full buttonhole effect.

Buttonholes made using single top thread (left) and double top thread (right)


Even if your sewing machine has a pre-set buttonhole stitch, you want to make minor stitch adjustments, depending on your fabric, thread and garment design. For that, I recommend doing test buttonhole on same fabric as your garment, using same amount of layers, facing same grain direction and check if any adjustments are needed. Even small adjustments may lead to huge difference!

Buttonhole made using pre-set adjustments (left) and reduced stitch length (right)

TIP #5: try different shapes of buttonholes.

Depending on your sewing machine, it may have different shapes of buttonholes available, for example rounded buttonhole. These buttonholes are elevate your garment to the next level.

Rounded buttonhole

If you have an embroidery machine, you may want to try embroidered buttonholes. These buttonholes are stunningly beautiful and can easily become a center of your design.

Embroidered buttonhole

Embroidered buttonholes look beautiful paired with metallic thread. Metallic thread, however, is quite a tricky thread and likes to break when making lots of stitching (which is exactly what embroidery machine does). To solve this issue, pair metallic thread with special metal needle (I'm using Organ Needles Metal needle). Same as topstitching needle, Metal needle has a much larger eye, giving less stress to thread when feeding it through the fabric. Because of that, metallic thread does not break and embroidery process becomes way smoother.

Embroidered buttonhole made using Organ Needles Metal needle

TIP #6: try corded buttonholes.

Corded buttonholes are created by using thick thread or cord on buttonhole presser foot. When sewing buttonhole, one part of the corded is locked in one side of the buttonhole, and the other part of the cord in another side of buttonhole.

Buttonhole threaded with cord

Cord reinforces the strength of the buttonhole and also create a nice 3D texture, making it perfect for heavier weight fabrics, especially when sewing coats or jackets. Using thicker thread for cording with help prevent elastic buttonholes from stretching out, without making them too bulky.

Corded buttonhole samples

TIP #6: cutting buttonholes.

When the buttonhole is made, it's time to cut through it to open. Most popular ways how to do it are: using seam ripper, using a buttonhole cutter or embroidery scissors. My current favourite method is using buttonhole cutter set, which comes with tiny mat and eyelet puncher (which is handy for keyhole buttonholes). You can find similar set here.

Buttonhole cutting set with mat and eyelet puncher

Method I used prior to getting buttonhole cutting set was using embroidery scissors. These scissors are very sharp and are able to neatly cut through even sharpest corners. I use these embroidery scissors.

Embroidery scissors

TIP #8: calculating size of the buttonhole.

Calculating length of the buttonhole for flat buttons is very simple: open the end of the buttonhole presser foot, insert button and tighten it - the machine will automatically stop sewing when it reaches needed button length.

However, calculating length for shank buttons can be a bit tricky, so for this you need to take measuring gauge (like this one), measure button length and button cap height - add these two measurements together and you get a correct size of the buttonhole length.

Use measuring gauge to calculate buttonhole length for shank button

TIP #9: spacing buttonholes.

Even a small different in spacing between buttonholes can be very noticeable, so making sure the buttonholes are equally spaced is something you want to pay extra attention to. I like to use expandable button gauge (like this one) to calculate distance between buttons and then measure distance between buttonholes with standard measuring gauge for extra accuracy.

Expandable sewing gauge

Here are all 9 tips for sewing better buttonholes. I used these tips to create buttonholes on my latest creation - removable shirt collar. I'll be sharing tutorials on how I created this design on Instagram, so make sure to check it out if you would like to see how to sew buttonhole, tucks, wavy tucks or embroidery with beads, along with how to make pattern for this design. You can find my Instagram here.

DIY removable shirt collar
My DIY shirt collar paired with dress


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