How to Sew Buttonholes on a Mechanical Sewing Machine (Necchi 3537) With Pictures

I once overheard a woman in a fabric talk saying that she’d never buy one of those books for ‘complete idiots’ because that’s a horrible thing to say about yourself. Initially, I laughed (silently) at her sincerity about the perceived self-destructive nature of idiots guides. Now I think she may have had a point. I won’t call this ‘buttonholes for idiots or dummies, or any other derogatory name. I’m thinking ‘buttonholes for the sophisticated sewist who can’t quite figure them out.’ Cheesy? Why not?

My first buttonholes were sewn on a computerized sewing machine in a sewing class. They turned out beautifully if I do say so myself.

Buttonholes on Bernina

The Archer Buttonup Shirt that I made in a sewing class. These buttonholes were sewn on a Bernina.

At home, I sew on a well loved manual Necchi 3537. I knew there must be some way to make buttonholes but the instruction manual was less than helpful. They skipped a few important details like selecting the correct stitch size and choosing a zig-zag stitch.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has had to puzzle my way through making buttonholes on a mechanical machine. So, here’s a little help for all you sophisticated sewists. These instructions work for sewing buttonholes on a Necchi 3537 but I imagine other mechanical machines are similar.

What You’ll need:

*buttonhole foot

*fabric pen for marking the hole

*seam ripper

*Sewing machine, thread (the usual)

Step 1: Set Up the Machine

Put the stitch length to zero (or as small as it will go).

Set the zigzag width dial to a ‘medium’ width

Put the Stitch Selection Dial on ‘C’ (the first step in the button hole. Don’t ask me why ‘C’ goes first and ‘A’ goes last).

Necchi - Buttonholes

Insert the buttonhole foot (You might be able to do this without a buttonhole foot but mine turned out better when I used that foot).

Step 2: Mark Your Button Hole on the Fabric

Use a fabric pen to mark the buttonhole. I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence but the buttonhole should be the size of the button. A 1/2’’ button should have a 1/2’’ hole. (I specify this because it took me a few minutes to figure that out myself. I’m still holding to the idea that I’m sophisticated).

I used a fabric pen with disappearing ink. I think there are better pens out there. A pen with a finer tip would get a more accurate measurement.

I used a fabric pen with disappearing ink. I think there are better pens out there. A pen with a finer tip would get a more accurate measurement.

Step 4. Get Ready to Stitch

Put the buttonhole foot on the fabric and set it to the size of the hole. The buttonhole foot will have markings so you can use it as a guide to make sure your hole is the right size. Even thought the buttonhole foot has a guide for measuring the hole, I still use a pen to mark the length of the hole. Measure twice; cut once.


Step 5: Sew the Buttonhole.

Stitch Selection Dial on ‘C’ sews the right side of the hole. Use both the notches on the buttonhole foot and the markings on your fabric to get the right size.

Stitch Selection Dial on ‘B’ sews the end stop. On a machine that doesn’t have different stitch types, you could probably just increase the length of the zig-zag to create an end stop.

Stitch Selection Dial on ‘A’ sews the left side of the hole.

Stitch Selection Dial on ‘B’ (again) sews the final end stop.

Final Step: Cut the hole. I used a seam ripper.

I sewed a bunch of practice buttonholes before sewing them on my Archer shirt. As you can see, the practice was important:

practice buttonholesI’ll admit the buttonholes I sewed on my Necchi 3537 are not as precise and professional looking as those sewn on a nicer machine. However, I found the challenge of sewing buttonhole on my Necchi more satisfying than sewing buttonholes on a computerized machine. On the nicer machines, all you have to do is program the size you want and the machine does the rest. Someday, I might appreciate that convenience.

Any tips for buttonholes on mechanical sewing machines?

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