For many sewers, the thought of adding buttonholes to a finished outfit is enough to send chills down their spine… it does for me. The thing is, it isn’t terribly difficult to make buttonholes, especially if your machine has a one-step buttonhole feature. The problem is more about placement. A slightly crooked or offset buttonhole can ruin the finished look of an otherwise masterfully sewn outfit… and it is nearly impossible to remove a buttonhole without damaging the fabric.
The key to beautiful buttonholes is to carefully mark all your placement lines so you can get them right the first time. Transferring markings directly onto fabric, however, isn’t always as easy as it seems… which is probably why we are tempted to take shortcuts we inevitably regret. Markings can be difficult see on dark or printed fabrics, and it can be difficult to remove markings from lighter fabrics. This is where the freezer paper comes in, the white paper is easy to write on and easy to see, and when you are finished, you just peel it off without a trace!
To begin, gather your project, freezer paper, buttonhole foot, pen, ruler, scissors, rotary cutter (optional), and an iron.
Measure the width of your buttonhole foot.
Cut a strip of freezer paper the same width as your buttonhole foot.
Draw a line down the center of the strip of freezer paper.
On a scrap piece of fabric, make a sample buttonhole that fits the buttons you will be using in your project.
Measure the length of your sample buttonhole.
Using the measurement of your sample buttonhole, determine the buttonhole placement on your project and transfer the placement marking to the center line on your strip of freezer paper. The top of the strip should line up with the top edge of your project. Don’t forget to figure in the seam allowance when determining the placement of the first buttonhole. For doll clothes, I like the top button to be 1/4-inch from the finished edge, so the marking for the top buttonhole should be 1/2-inch from the top of the freezer paper to allow for the 1/4-inch seam allowance.
Fold the freezer paper strip in half along the center line. Trim the excess length of the bottom, leaving about 3-inches to help center the template under the buttonhole foot.
Snip the ends of each buttonhole marking 1/8-inch in from the folded edge…
… then snip out the center of each buttonhole.
Your finished template will look like this.
With the plastic side down, position the freezer paper template on you project. The top edge of the template should match the top edge of the project. Use the center line of the freezer paper to help with the alignment. Press the freezer paper so that it adheres to your project.
If you are unsatisfied with the alignment, simply peel the freezer paper up, reposition it, and press it in place again.
Starting with the bottom buttonhole, position the template so that the needle lands at the bottom edge of the buttonhole opening. Adjust the template so that the side edges are aligned with your buttonhole foot and the center line runs down the center of the buttonhole foot. Stitch your buttonhole. Repeat this process for the rest of the buttonhole, working from the bottom up.
When you are finished, peel the freezer paper template from your project. If you are careful not to tear it, you can reuse this template several times.
Look, beautiful, straight, and even buttonholes! (…though, I wouldn’t suggest using white thread on read fabric)
While this tutorial demonstrates how to make a template for simple vertical buttonholes, the concept can also be used for horizontal and arbitrarily placed buttonholes as well. Instead of cutting a strip the same width as your buttonhole foot, cut a wider strip or template that will accommodate the buttonhole placement and draw guidelines on the freezer paper for your buttonhole foot.
Buttonhole template for the Civil War Shirt Bib.