Simple Closures Buttonholes

Hi Everyone! I'm sure many of us have a fear of sewing buttonholes. That moment when you've sewn up your entire garment, hours of meticulous attention to detail, it looks perfect, you're so excited, then you realize the final step could literally destroy your entire piece! What to do, do you dare try to sew those buttonholes by machine, should you just go with snaps? Oh, the torture! Haha, just kidding(well a little bit!)...

This week we have a fun treat! Shari Fuller, the designer behind the Thimbles and Acorns brand, is going to share her amazingly cool buttonhole sewing tip with us! After trying this, I'm pretty sure you'll never go back to your old method - seriously!  I also have a few tips and techniques from some other talented seamstresses. My hope is that you will walk away with the confidence to sew professional looking buttonholes with confidence!

But first... If you're new to sewing buttonholes with an automatic buttonhole foot attachment on your sewing machine, be sure to check out my Simple Closures Video 3.3 from the Sewing Academy series (password: PixieFaire), it includes a full tutorial showing how to install and use a button hole foot beginning at 8:45. I also demonstrate how to open up the buttonhole successfully without accidently cutting through the threads beginning at 14:29



Now on to the tutorial from Shari Fuller!  Watch the Freezer Paper Buttonhole video below. 


Or follow along with the full tutorial here:

For many sewers, the thought of adding buttonholes to a finished outfit is enough to send chills down their spine… it does for me.  The thing is, it isn’t terribly difficult to make buttonholes, especially if your machine has a one-step buttonhole feature.  The problem is more about placement.  A slightly crooked or offset buttonhole can ruin the finished look of an otherwise masterfully sewn outfit… and it is nearly impossible to remove a buttonhole without damaging the fabric.

The key to beautiful buttonholes is to carefully mark all your placement lines so you can get them right the first time.  Transferring markings directly onto fabric, however, isn’t always as easy as it seems… which is probably why we are tempted to take shortcuts we inevitably regret.  Markings can be difficult see on dark or printed fabrics, and it can be difficult to remove markings from lighter fabrics.  This is where the freezer paper comes in, the white paper is easy to write on and easy to see, and when you are finished, you just peel it off without a trace!

To begin, gather your project, freezer paper, buttonhole foot, pen, ruler, scissors, rotary cutter (optional), and an iron.

1. Measure the width of your buttonhole foot.

2. Cut a strip of freezer paper the same width as your buttonhole foot.

3. Draw a line down the center of the strip of freezer paper.

4. On a scrap piece of fabric, make a sample buttonhole that fits the buttons you will be using in your project.

5. Measure the length of your sample buttonhole.

6. Using the measurement of your sample buttonhole, determine the buttonhole placement on your project and transfer the placement marking to the center line on your strip of freezer paper. The top of the strip should line up with the top edge of your project. Don’t forget to figure in the seam allowance when determining the placement of the first buttonhole. For doll clothes, I like the top button to be 1/4-inch from the finished edge, so the marking for the top buttonhole should be 1/2-inch from the top of the freezer paper to allow for the 1/4-inch seam allowance.

7. Fold the freezer paper strip in half along the center line. Trim the excess length of the bottom, leaving about 3-inches to help center the template under the buttonhole foot.

8. Snip the ends of each buttonhole marking 1/8-inch in from the folded edge…

… then snip out the center of each buttonhole.

Your finished template will look like this.

9. With the plastic side down, position the freezer paper template on you project. The top edge of the template should match the top edge of the project. Use the center line of the freezer paper to help with the alignment. Press the freezer paper so that it adheres to your project.

If you are unsatisfied with the alignment, simply peel the freezer paper up, reposition it, and press it in place again.

10. Starting with the bottom buttonhole, position the template so that the needle lands at the bottom edge of the buttonhole opening. Adjust the template so that the side edges are aligned with your buttonhole foot and the center line runs down the center of the buttonhole foot. Stitch your buttonhole. Repeat this process for the rest of the buttonhole, working from the bottom up.

When you are finished, peel the freezer paper template from your project. If you are careful not to tear it, you can reuse this template several times.

Look, beautiful, straight, and even buttonholes! (…though, I wouldn’t suggest using white thread on read fabric)

While this tutorial demonstrates how to make a template for simple vertical buttonholes, the concept can also be used for horizontal and arbitrarily placed buttonholes as well.   Instead of cutting a strip the same width as your buttonhole foot, cut a wider strip or template that will accommodate the buttonhole placement and draw guidelines on the freezer paper for your buttonhole foot.

 Thanks, Shari! This is a fantastic resource!

More Tips & Tricks for Sewing Buttonholes:

Here's another great tip from Jessica over at the Running With Scissors blog. "When sewing a bunch of buttonholes, I've started using masking tape... The tape makes the start and stop markers, and then it's really easy to just draw a top and bottom buttonhole, then figure out the equidistant other buttonholes in between."

Many of you may know this already, but the secret to flat smooth buttonholes is interfacing! This post from the We All Sew Blog has some great tips and instruction for sewing buttonholes on cotton, silk, and even knit fabrics! Be sure to bookmark this one too! "Tip: Use an interfacing that compliments the weight of your fabric! The difference when sewn with the proper interfacing, stabilizer of backing is like night and day." (See example pics below)

Interested in sewing butonholes by hand? This may sound daunting, but this could be a great alternative to using a automatic buttonhole foot. This technique will allow you to have tiny buttonholes for 1/4" buttons, on a narrow placket or clost to the edge of the opening!

The buttonhole stitch is a great one to master and have in your book of secrets! This tutorial is by Tasha from the By Gum, By Golly vintage sewing blog and it's pretty amazing! Check it out here -




Pattern Overview: For this topic, you can choose to sew with any pattern you already have that is designed to use functional buttonholes. Below you'll find a list of the Liberty Jane that use buttonholes. Shari is demonstrating her technique on the Civil War Boy Shirt (tutorial) and Union Suit (video).

Week Two Assignment: Time to practice what you've learned! After you watch the video, try to technique shown. Post your projects in the Facebook Group - we'd love to see what you've made!


  • Freezer Paper - pretty much anywhere :)
  • Buttonhole foot  - gather your machine type and model and search online. If you have trouble, just let me know. I can check with our friends at Quality Sewing (they can pretty much get any part for any machine).
  • A good steam iron and pressing board.

    Next Tuesday  - Week 4: Eyelets and lace up closures - tips and tricks for success!




    May 29, 2017

    I thought the freezer paper idea for buttonholes would work great for snaps. You could make one template. Use it to sew on the snaps on one side, then pull it off and use it to position your snaps for the other side. Then they will always line up!


    May 24, 2017

    I have feared buttonholes for a long time. Seems I always mess up my otherwise finished project. This class has helped a lot especially the freezer paper method but I have come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with my buttonhole foot. It works great on one buttonhole but then sits in one spot and continues to build up thread but won’t move. I was able to put buttons in a crop top but when I went to put them in a Shinjuku jacket it just sat there and messed up. It’s very hard to pick out a black buttonhole from black fabric when you have bad eye sight! I’m going to use buttons over snaps because this material was so hard to work with that I can’t afford to mess it up. Anybody else ever have a problem like this?


    May 17, 2017

    Wonders may they never cease! Once again Shari has taught me something new. How to make it easier with her method of freezer tape. Gee I can’t wait, always took the path of least resistance, which though not a bad idea, wasn’t the best looking for many of my coat and dress projects. Thank you sooooooooooooooo much! Going to try this. This is the best school!!!!!!!!!


    May 16, 2017

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you….now just figuring out the right interfacing for the fabric. My Bernina did a fairly decent job but now it will be able to do a fabulous job. Operator error!!!


    May 16, 2017

    Do you have any tips on making buttonholes with a machine that does 4-step button holes? My Elna does not do automatic buttonholes.


    May 16, 2017

    Freezer paper! Duh! All the years I avoided buttonholes, because I was never happy with the results! I never managed to get them evenly spaced, or in a straight line, and it used to drive me mad. Your tips are well worth the cost of the course because everything I’ve learned so far has enabled me to upgrade the professional look of my garments. You break everything into easy, manageable steps that are simple to follow.

    Judy Klep
    Judy Klep

    May 16, 2017

    I love the freezer paper idea. This would also work in garment sewing for children and adults.

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