Hi, I'm Shelley and I go by the pseudonym Lightning McStitch on social media and blog about my sewing over at Bartacks and Singletrack. Today I'm coming out from under my rock to share a tip for sewing on buttons using your machine as well as some pictures of my husband and his lovely new shirt.
When Maaike mentioned a blog post with some sewing tips I immediately knew I wanted some of that beautiful Atelier Brunette Graphite Blue double gauze for a summer, short-sleeved shirt for the bloke, and wanted to show you how to sew on buttons quickly, neatly and very, very securely using your sewing machine. (just don't look to me for manicure tips - I hadn't figured on my finger nail close ups being quite that close!)
Over on my blog I go on and on about how beautiful this fabric is, and praise the great All Day Shirt pattern by Liesl + Co, but here, let's dive straight in to finishing off that shirt quickly and getting the buttons sewn on.
After marking and making all your buttonholes, overlap the shirt plackets and mark through the upper opening of each buttonhole. When the buttons are sewn on in the upper part of the buttonhole, as the shirt is done up, a little tug at the bottom of the plackets gets everything lined up perfectly.
A little aside - Maiike asked me about my fabric marking pencil. This is a Sewline mechanical pencil that uses "leads" of various colours. I have white marking lead for dark fabrics and green marking lead for light fabrics. It makes perfect, neat, small marks that don't rub off like tailor's chalk does, but washes out perfectly every time. I've been burned before by the "washable" texta markers and won't ever use them again.
Back to the button sewing...
To set up your sewing machine for sewing on the buttons we need to stop the machine from moving forward at all. One way to do that is to lower the feed dogs. On my machine, that's a little lever positioned under the back of the machine.
Another way, of course, is to set the stitch length to zero. I'm going to confess to making a habit of always doing both. It only takes one time of breaking the last, precious matching button by stitching into it to become extra cautious. Just sayin'.
With the stitch length set to zero, choose a zig zag stitch, and then use your clear plastic button sewing foot if you have one. It's not absolutely necessary but it helps to see how the button lines up underneath the presser foot.
To get the buttons to sit nicely on their marked spots as you slide them under the presser foot my magic tip is double sided sticky tape. A little piece of double sided tape holds the button in place perfectly and is easily peeled off later. On a very delicate fabric with nap such as fine wale corduroy or velvet the tape might not be a great idea. But on every other fabric I've sewn buttons onto it has worked a charm and caused no damage at all.
With the button stuck in place, position it under the presser foot and without lowering the presser foot use the hand wheel to check where the needle enters.
Adjust the stitch width to check that the needle goes neatly through one hole in the button on the right side:
And then neatly through the other hole in the button on the left side:
When you're confident the button is positioned correctly under the presser foot and the stitch width is correct it's time to lower the presser foot. At this point I insert a pin down the centre of the presser foot. This acts as a shank and prevents the button from being sewn on too tightly.
Now you can floor it and sew 10 or so stitches with the foot pedal. If you're sewing a four hole button like the ones I'm using here, you can then raise the presser foot, rotate the shirt and button by 90 degrees, check your positioning and then lower the presser foot and zoom off another ten stitches in the perpendicular direction.
Remove the shirt from under the presser foot leaving long tail ends on the finishing threads. Trim the starting threads, both needle and bobbin threads, close to the button.
Lift the button away from the shirt fabric and tear the double sided tape. You'll find it rips quite readily where the stitches have perforated it and will come away as one piece on each side of the attached button.
Use a pin or stitch unpicker tool to tease the long finishing needle thread out between the shirt and the button
Pull gently on this thread to bring the long, finishing bobbin thread up into the gap between shirt and button as well.
Taking one thread in each hand, wrap one thread half a dozen times around the base of the button in a clockwise direction. Do the same with the other thread but in a counter-clockwise direction.
Then tie the threads off with a solid square knot and trim the ends short.
There you have it; a very secure, super neatly sewn button. One of the fun things about using the sewing machine is the ability to use different coloured threads for the needle and bobbin threads.
The reverse side can be nearly invisible
And then the front side can have a contrast colour. I like adding this pop of colour for the bottom buttonhole and button in an otherwise pretty sensible straight-up kind of shirt.
Sewing this Atelier Brunette double gauze was a delight. It pressed and behaved like a perfect cotton and so was ideal for shirt sewing. Being a double layered fabric it also takes to iron-on interfacing really nicely. Where interfacing can sometimes bubble or cause puckering of fine fabrics, the double layer nature of the gauze means that the fabric seems to float over the interfacing. Invisibly stabilised!
The weight is perfect for shirts or dresses. It's breezy and light, deliciously soft but not see through like a single gauze would be. An additional bonus is the width - many designer double gauze fabrics come in alarmingly narrow widths, whereas the Atelier Brunette is a more standard 140cm wide. I was pleased to note that even if I had chosen long sleeves I still could have cut this size L shirt from only a 2m length of fabric.
He may not have cracked a big smile for the blog photos but I'm sure you can imagine how delighted he is with his new summer shirt. :)
Thanks for having me Maaike, and happy sewing everyone.