The Sewing Place

Machine Talk => Machine Accessories => Topic started by: Sheilago on May 31, 2019, 23:10:59 PM

Title: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Sheilago on May 31, 2019, 23:10:59 PM
I’m mainly a patchworker so not much call for buttonholes, but today I was trying to make a posh apron for my baby granddaughter to wear at a wedding. All went well until I tried to use the automatic buttonhole foot on my Janome. I did everything as per instruction book, tried it twice with scrap fabric, but as soon as I used it on the real thing, it went wrong 3 times, stitching big lumps of thread that were awful to unpick  :o
 At that point I remembered having this problem before and reverted to the old method taught many moons ago at school, using pencil drawn guidelines and good old zig zag- perfect😁. Think it’s time to throw the buttonhole foot away!
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Radiofan on June 01, 2019, 07:16:01 AM
Sounds like the fabric was not feeding properly. Maybe the apron is thicker/heavier than the sample piece. It perhaps needed more pressure on the presser foot.

Finding the right settings is the sort of thing one figures out over time. Don't throw the foot away, it's part of the machine, should you want to sell it in the future.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Ploshkin on June 01, 2019, 07:24:40 AM
I discovered, through much grief, that it is crucial for those long buttonhole feet to stay absolutely level.  They will always work ok on a sample because that is a flat piece of fabric but as soon as it has to contend one end or the other going over edges or seams it will misbehave.  You need to use a hump jumper or piece of folded fabric or card to keep the foot level.

There have been other threads about this and I think it was Morgan who posted some useful tips.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: sewingj on June 01, 2019, 07:50:24 AM
My rather basic janome is also unreliable for buttonholes. It will sometimes do a couple absolutely fine and then stall on the next - doing a lump of stitches as you describe. On my machine it has to be reset for each buttonhole and you have to be careful that action has worked . Using  tear-away stabiliser on the back helps. I also now watch very carefully and stop as soon as it stops moving forward rather than hoping it will get going - at least I have less to unpick then!
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: wrenkins on June 01, 2019, 07:57:58 AM
I had never heard of a hump jumper until it was mentioned on here and now I can't live without it.   >< I'll try to remember that tip Plosh if I ever come to do buttonholes using the 'tachment on my 130. My old Singer did them no probs with a bit of faffing and zig-zagging.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Sheilago on June 01, 2019, 09:17:13 AM
Thanks @Ploshkin , @Radiofan , @sewingj . Those are good tips. I’ll look for the Morgan tips too, but to be honest for the small number of buttonholes I do in a year, I think I’ll stick to the manual zig zag. ( My old sewing teacher would be amazed I still remember: I suspect not many of the class even kept sewing)
If I’m ever going to do a lot, I’ll have to practice with the stabiliser etc. Don’t worry Rafiofan, I won’t actually throw it away- I’ll just put it at the bottom of my sewing box, so that I don’t forget and try to use it again for the occasional buttonhole.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: maliw on June 01, 2019, 10:49:01 AM
Yes @Sheilago you aren't on your own, I'm another one who has the same problem and has resoretd to the 'old' method out of sheer frustration.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Morgan on June 01, 2019, 11:45:52 AM

Sighs . . .  How helpful would it be for sewing machine manuals to include the full information about how to prepare the sewn item and how to use the buttonhole foot properly to get decent buttonholes.  It is rarely the equipment at fault and making decent buttonholes is more about understanding what happens and doing the preparation.

Even with a machine that is precision engineered and programmed to stitch beautiful buttonholes, in order to produce decent quality buttonholes, it is still essential to

- stabilise the area;

- control the layers, thickness of the fabric;


- use an appropriate thickness/thinness of thread (sew all thread is often too thick for buttonholes on lightweight fabrics); and,


- (really important) ensure that the buttonhole foot remains absolutely level so that the fabric is correctly in contact with the traction of the feed dogs all the time so that the fabric feeds evenly and properly.  It must be level front to back and from side to side.  If the foot tips even slightly, the pressure that clamps the fabric to the feed dogs changes and the feed dogs cannot get the correct grip on the fabric to move it consistently and evenly.    When you get uneven stitching and stitch pileups that cause the foot to stop moving altogether, that's usually because the foot was not kept level throughout.


This next bit is really, really important and the key to all machine made buttonholes. 
Often we test the layers on a flat sample and the machine does the test stitch out perfectly however when working on a garment even the teeniest bump of a bit of seam allowance throws things off because the foot isn't completely level, especially at the top of button bands and on collar stands. 


Remember when you do the test
samples ensure that you must replicate the seam allowances and stitching (ie. all the lumps and bumps) that will be on the actual item to check how to keep the foot level for that section.


Avoid the trap of test stitching buttonholes onto flat fabric scraps - replicate the seam allowances, bumps and edges.



It is worth repeating - to get a good buttonhole on a collar stand and at the top of a placket you must do the test samples on the same sort of seam allowances, lumps, bumps and edges. 

Ways to keep the foot level - the simplest is to use folded pads of fabric butted up to the edges of the section of the fabric where you are stitching the buttonhole.
Another is to plan ahead and reduce the bulk from seam allowances by trimming or on buttonhole bands, adjust the pattern to use cut-on/fold facings rather than separate pieces that involve seam allowances.


Most problems with the quality and consistency of buttonholes can be associated with the the feed of the fabric because the long buttonhole foot is not completely level at all times. Even a slight bump from stitching or a piece of seam allowance can tilt the foot and reduce the traction of the feed dogs. This can be the case with even the most high end machine that costs thousands.It's not necessarily the make or model of sewing machine or whether it's computerised or mechanical that makes a great buttonhole, however the advantage with computerised is that the programme doesn't change so everything else about making the buttonhole is controlled by the user.

Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Sheilago on June 02, 2019, 23:46:35 PM
Thanks @Morgan , I will save all that useful advice and information.  :flower:
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: b15erk on June 03, 2019, 09:22:07 AM
@Sheilago I stopped using all of the buttonhole programmes on my machines because I couldn't get a consistently good buttonhole.

I now have a couple of buttonhole attachments which fit on my Vintage machines, and find they suit me far better.

I will however go and have a look at the information @Morgan  has provided, as it may mean I can try again with the Pfaff.

Jessie
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: WildAtlanticWay on June 27, 2019, 13:04:43 PM
This may be my naivety but here’s my thinking as a newbie to garment sewing...

I think I understood the explanation about fabric thickness variation and consistency required for the length of the buttonhole foot attachment.

However, if you sew the buttonhole by drawing a line and using a short normal foot with a tight zigzag stitch and manually moving your fabric around to sew the 2 lengths and the bar tack ends, the issue of managing the variable fabric thickness presumably goes away?





Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Morgan on June 27, 2019, 13:57:26 PM
@WildAtlanticWay 
Yes that's so.
The issue with using the standard zigzag foot, and manually controlling the stitching, is consistency and accuracy so that when making more than one that they look similar.  It takes a bit of practice.
It's also how some 'shaped' buttonholes are made.


When stitching buttonholes this way, it's useful to stitch a runline of very short straight stitches in a narrow box around the line.  Very short is 0.5-1mm stitch lenth.  The runline acts as an underlay down the centre of the zigzag/satin stitches.  If making a wide zigzag buttonhole, place two underlay runlines at either side of the zigzag (like tramlines).  It helps the zigzag to form clean and even edges and prevent the zigzag/satin stitches from pulling in.

For a decent result it's still necessary to do the test stitching to decide which stabilising technique to use, what size thread and needles to use and which stitch widths and lengths to choose.
 

Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Ploshkin on June 27, 2019, 15:18:50 PM
With my Pfaff Ambition, that I had previously, I could not find a way to make a buttonhole using the zig zag stitch (and believe me I tried).  The issue was that the needle position could only be changed when straight stitching not when using a zig zag and I found it impossible to get the buttonhole components lined up - perhaps I should have tried harder but I gave up and got an old machine with a 4 step buttonhole function as a back up.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: b15erk on June 27, 2019, 15:24:21 PM
This has explained why I couldn't always get a decent buttonhole with the Pfaff, although on the test piece it was perfect.  It also explains why, with the different layers, the standard foot gave better results than the buttonhole foot.

Since reading this, I have used my 'Jiggy' thing a lot more often, but often a small piece of leather behind the foot has been enough to equalise the 'bump'.

Jessie
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Morgan on June 27, 2019, 17:03:19 PM
Jessie, lovely to hear that you've found a way to make things work for you.

Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: BrendaP on June 27, 2019, 18:58:01 PM
Most problems with the quality and consistency of buttonholes can be associated with the the feed of the fabric because the long buttonhole foot is not completely level at all times. Even a slight bump from stitching or a piece of seam allowance can tilt the foot and reduce the traction of the feed dogs.

That's why the vintage buttonholers work well.  Lower the foot lever with a snap and the whole of the fabric is held securely and moves with the attachment rather than the foot moving over the fabric.
Title: Re: Buttonhole foot - hate it!
Post by: Sheilago on June 29, 2019, 08:58:27 AM
Yes @WildAtlanticWay, that’s what I resorted to doing: which was how I was taught at school,back in the days when boys did woodwork and girls did fabric and fashion  :o

Pleased to see that this discussion has helped others with this problem too.