Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vintage Sewing Mysteries: buttonholer attachment

One of the things you hear when you say you use a vintage sewing machine is how there are so many things you are missing out on like instant buttonholes. Well, let me tell you about the secret weapon of the bottonholer attachment. This enables a straight stitch sewing machine to create a buttonhole.
They usually come in cases or boxes at least that ones I have seen have come in them. Inside the box you will find a smooth plate with a small screw, a larger screw, the buttonholer and some metal templates. Some earlier ones don't come with templates at all but the have other settings. You need to make sure you get the right one for your machine. There are ones for short shank, high shank, and slant shank machines.

The smooth plate is for covering the feed dogs of the machine if the feed dogs do not drop down on your machine. You will place this into place and make sure you needle is lined up. I like to place my needle down before screwing the plate into place. I find this the easiest method to make sure the needle and opening are lined up correctly. Now you know what those little screw holes are for on the bed of your vintage sewing machine because you get to use one of them.

The next step is to select the template you wish to use. These come in a variety of sizes from eyelet to 15/16 and from straight to keyhole shapes. Place the template inside the buttonholer. To do this flip it over and unlatch the metal door. Insert the template with the cog in the center.

If you flip over the buttonholer you will see and feel texture to it. This is the magical part of how this works. The buttonholer attachment works by moving the fabric instead of the needle. So the needle stays right where it is as it can't go anywhere on a straight stitch machine anyway. If you have a vintage machine that can zig-zag, like the Singer 500a, you leave it in the straight stitch mode when using a buttonhole attachment.
Although there were a few attachments made for some zig-zag machines where you need to use the zig-zag because it only moves the fabric around in the shape of the button hole as opposed to this one which moves it in the buttonhole shape while also moving it in a tight zig-zag.

The next step is to attach to buttonholer to the machine. You completely remove the sewing foot currently on the machine and it's screw. In it's place you put the buttonholer and it's screw. There is a part of the buttonholer that also needs to slip on to the needle bar.At first it might be tricky to get on but trust me it does go on an it gets easier every time.

Now you can do the final selection which is selecting how wide or narrow you want your zig-zag for your buttonhole to be. This particular one has settings 1- 6. One cool thing you can do is set it at wide setting for one go around and then set it at a narrow one for the second go around. This will give the look of a hand bound buttonhole. I usually go around the buttonhole twice anyway because once usually looks a little ragged.
The knob on the top is so you can adjust where the buttonhole starts. You need to be consistent with where you start.
Set the presser down and start the buttonhole. I like to draw up the bobbin thread to the top and then hold both by bobbin and top thread while sewing the buttonhole. If you are the type of sewist that likes to push or pull your fabric through the machine, stop just stop. You don't want to do that here and actually you really need to break that habit anyway. With this you want that attachment to do all the movement.

This final steps once it is all done is to clip the threads and open the buttonhole. I like to use a seam ripper or extremely sharp tiny scissors. I usually add a bit of fray check to the buttonholes once they are open.