Even though it is much faster with a sewing machine, buttonholes can also be made by hand. Using a sewing machine will result in a more professional look, but with practice you can also do a fabulous job by hand.
Buttonholes can be sewn into the fabric vertically or horizontally as long as they are on the fabric grain and align with the buttons.
Vertical buttonholes are generally used on shirts where smaller buttons are used.
Horizontal buttonholes are more secure because the buttons are unable to slip out. The only thing to remember is to position the horizontal buttonhole far enough from the edge of the garment in order to keep the button from sticking over the edge. These buttonholes are perfect for coats and other items that need a good closure.
Buttonholes are generally made 1/8″ longer than the button in order to ensure that the button will slide through easily. Also, keep in mind not to make them too large as that will result in a poor closure.
To sew a buttonhole, simply set your machine to the buttonhole stitch. Most modern machines have this stitch setting to make it easier. Once the machine is set, begin sewing at one end, then along the side to the other end, and finally back down the second side. Depending on your machine, you might have to manually turn the dial each time you finish a side. I have an old machine and have to turn it after each side, but many newer machines have an automatic setting.
The stitches along the sides should be close together, however, they should also be far enough apart in order to make a clean cut in the center. The last thing you want is to cut into the thread, which can ruin the buttonhole. Believe me, I’ve done that many times. And sewing the buttonhole the second time isn’t quite as nice as for the first time around. A seam ripper is a nifty tool that can help to make a clean cut.
If the buttonhole is situated in a stressed area, a reinforcement might be necessary. Any type of interfacing, or another layer of fabric can be used to strengthen the buttonhole. The reinforcement can be hidden in the overlapped fabric before making the buttonhole. That way no one will know it’s there.