Sewing on buttons by machine

I hate sewing on buttons. It’s probably my least favourite sewing task. I rarely make anything which needs them so I can usually avoid it. But the other week something possessed me with the urge to make a shirt dress. It didn’t occur to me until the very end that this would mean sewing on lots and lots of fiddly little buttons.

When I got my first sewing machine it had instructions for sewing buttons on by machine. You drop the feed dogs, set the machine on a zero length zig zag, and position the button between the fabric and presser foot so that you sew into the holes. I think I tried this once and couldn’t get the button to sit in the right position under the regular presser foot, which is made of metal and has a smooth flat underside. Almost certainly operator error, but anyway I gave up on the idea of machining buttons onto anything. That would have been about four years ago.

When I bought my backup sewing machine earlier this year it came with this funny little foot which is specifically for sewing on buttons. Faced with the prospect of the shirt dress buttons I gave it a try.

It has an extension at the back that points down and acts like a hinge when the foot is lowered.

The blue stuff at the front is rubbery and has grips on the underside (below). When you lower the foot the front dips down and the front grips hold the button in place. And the groove down the centre is perfect for putting a pin into to sew over to make a shank.

It works really well! It was a bit of a fiddle to position the buttons, but very easy to sew them on once they were lined up. They have survived trips through the washing machine so they must be fairly firmly attached.

So glad I finally figured this out. Especially as I have a second shirt dress in progress!

20 thoughts on “Sewing on buttons by machine

  1. Oh I hate sewing then too so I must try those and I cannot wait for your skirt dress because I really want to make one

  2. Here is a little tip that I learn about using one of these. Once you put your button in place and needle down in the first hole, take a toothpick and hold in place with your hand when the little end will be over the middle part of the button. Then just sew on the button while holding the toothpick in place. The idea is that having the thread go over the middle of the button and the thickness of the toothpick end will create a little shank for the button.

    I also like to leave my thread tails long and use a hand needle to bring them all to the back where I can tie them off.

    1. I tie my thread tails off too, it says in my manual you don’t need to but I don’t trust loose threads šŸ˜‰

      A fast way to get all the threads to the back is to just pull the bobbin thread (at the back) to one side and it pulls a loop out of the top thread then flick it out with the unpicker – hope that makes sense!

  3. I am happy to hear of your success. I tried this a few months ago but my button kept flying out of place, so I gave up. I’m going to go and see what my attachment looks like, and compare with yours.

    Although there are certainly times when I would like to sew my buttons on fast, I must be weird, because I usually don’t mind sewing them on at all. I think it’s because it’s the last step in finishing, before wearing! Which reminds me, I have four cuff buttons to sew on a blouse I have made. I sewed the other seven on yesterday, and enjoyed it. Oh, and I have just sewn another four on to a Liberty shirt for my little boy. But now I’m just showing off!

  4. I position my buttons with scotch tape. Stitch with the machine, tear away the tape and that’s that.

  5. I have one of these, too, and have occasionally used it. The thing that really annoys me about machine-stitched buttons is that they eventually fall off or become loose. *pet peeve* I also find success depends on the fabric and the type of button. I’ve definitely had more success with shirt-type buttons and fabric combinations. Looking forward to seeing your new shirt dress!

  6. I really need to try this. I am about to sew somewhere near 40 buttons on a dress I just made. Thank you for the information.

  7. Hey I recognise that kind of foot – so that’s what it’s for! This is excellent news :-). I wish my machine could do the buttons and button holes at the same time though, perfectly aligned all the way down – so hard!

  8. Welcome to the “buttons by machine” club šŸ˜‰ that’s the first foot I added to my collection when I bought my first machine. LOVE IT! My only advice is always do the first couple of stitches my hand-turning the wheel just to check your width is right, I’ve snapped my fair share of needles and split a few buttons too, haha!

  9. I just recently started using my button foot as well. I have an old school Singer 401 with metal feet, but the button foot works the same as yours. BTW, it looks like yours has a groove (as does mine), which is where you put the toothpick mentioned above – or a large pin, which is what I use. I found the toothpick to add too much slack, but a pin is perfect.

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