Vintage buttonholes


Are you a person who likes sewing buttonholes?  If you do, I bet you have a machine that makes Really Great ones.  If your machine makes so-so buttonholes or you’ve had problems with it, it’s hard to get enthusiastic.

My “everyday” sewing machine is a 1964 Singer that doesn’t make buttonholes.  Instead, I select different zig zags and turn the fabric around as I make the buttonhole.  I’m quite quick at making them now, but I must have made thousands; I’ve owned this machine for nearly twenty years.

My husband found some Singer buttonhole attachments in a second hand shop, and I thought I’d try them out.



By the way, here’s my everyday drive.



These are the two sets.



The buttonhole attachment in the green box looked older and very well used.



It’s missing the screw to attach it and the throat plate that covers the feed dogs.  The previous owner bought some extra cams; there’s only spots for four in the box.  The cam on the far left makes a keyhole buttonhole and the one on the far right makes a very small buttonhole.





To install the buttonhole attachment, first there’s a throat plate that screws in to cover the feed dogs of the machine.  The other set had one so I used that.



Then you open the back of the attachment to insert the cam.



When the cam is in place, the back is closed.



The presser foot and its screw are removed from the sewing machine, and the attachment is installed.  The machine is threaded as normal.  It turns out this buttonhole attachment doesn’t fit my machine.  I think it’s for a machine with a regular shank; mine’s a Slant-o-matic, and the attachment sits at the wrong angle.  The presser foot won’t go down.



Onto the one in the pink plastic space-aged box.  It could almost be used as a space ship in a budget sci-fi movie!



After I took this photo, I noticed the word SLANT engraved on the attachment (top right of picture) -this certainly must be for my machine.



Everything is present in this set, including the manual.



Like the other set, the cams sit in little slots.



I don’t think it’s been used much; it all looks new.



It’s pretty noisy!  It makes an alarming clackety-clackety sound.  The attachment shakes fast from side to side as the buttonhole is stitched.  Here’s the first buttonhole.



I tried out several of each buttonhole, including the keyhole.  There’s a lever to change the width of the stitching, so I experimented with that too.  I found the zigzag a little inconsistent, and far too open.  Going over each buttonhole again fixes it, so it’s not really a problem (I stitch over my buttonholes twice when I make them normally on my machine -it makes a better buttonhole).



It makes a very neat buttonhole, on both sides of the fabric.  There’s not much the space in the centre of the buttonhole, so I’m going to have to be very careful when I cut the slit.  The buttonhole on the left is my first one, and I accidentally cut some of the stitching.


And the verdict is…

It’s fast.  It’s neat.  It’s easy to use.  It looks lovely.  I already feel an attachment to this attachment.  I think I will use it on my next shirt.






  1. Kay on November 14, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Liz, I stumbled onto a YouTube that showed a bloke doing machine embroidery, with out the foot and the feed dogs down. He did a button hole just using zig zag up and down and then larger zig zag at the ends. he had to go over it twice, but it look good, and easy.
    He also did free embroidery, couching and I can’t remember the rest.
    I have an idea for you. I have lost a little bit of weight, and some of my clothes swim on me.
    I have a long sleeve Tshirt that is too big, and I would love some ideas that I could do with it.
    Thanks Liz.

    • lizhaywood on November 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Kay, that is very interesting to treat buttonholes as free-motion embroidery. I never thought of buttonholes as embroidery but that is really what they are. We don’t so much think of embroidery being functional.
      Well done on the weight loss! I don’t really have any ideas for the long sleeved t-shirt apart from running it in at the sides, but maybe someone else will comment on it.
      Cheers, Liz

  2. Chiggy Schiller on November 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Liz,

    Sewing buttonholes is a bit difficult for me. I mean honestly, I haven’t done much practices. So I am not that enthusiastic about it. But you use zigzag to make buttonholes and that’s fantastic! Also you are such an explorer to try using the vintage buttonhole attachment. I am glad that one of them worked and you’ll use it for your next shirt. I am looking forward to seeing it.

    Cheers, Chiggy

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