Thursday, February 13, 2020

More Shirtmaking Info.

I've been sewing shirts consistently for three years now.  The one thing about making a garment over and over again is you refine your techniques. Your collar edges get sharper, the way you apply the overlap for the cuff goes on quicker & easier and you know how it fits.

Tools I use when making buttonholes and sewing buttons on

My shirt journey has become about the fabric choices, the buttons and any embellishments. Y'know the fun stuff! Lately I've changed up the way I sew buttons on my shirts. After doing it a certain way for awhile, listening to other sewists and just repeating the process, I knew I needed to change it up.

I've never been a precise marker. I have to work at that because so much of what I do is instinctive or learned response. However, I'm changing up the way I'm sewing buttons onto my shirts.

First I do machine sew buttons on when they're flat 2 or 4 hole buttons. As evidenced by this video I posted to Instagram.

o I always use a hat pin to create a shank so the machine sews the thread over it.

o I use to mark the opened buttonholes with a pin after slicing them open with my buttonhole cutter. Lately, I've been using my Frixon pen and marking the center of the buttonhole.

o It makes sewing the button on so much easier because I just place the button over the marking. I'm also more accurate with button placement now.

o My machine finishes sewing the buttons on with the needle in the up position. This allows me to cut a really long thread tail

o Then I use a regular needle, thread the tail through and pull it to the backside of the shirt

o The thread tails are tied off in the back 

o A drop of fray check is applied to the knot on the back to secure the button threads.

After talking with another sewist, I'm also going to buy some silimide to sew on shank buttons. I presently double thread a needle with coordinating thread which means that I'm using four threads. I then run it through some thread heaven and make 3-4 passes through the shank.  My sewing friend said that the silimide will allow me to make just three passes and it's just as strong. Anything that speeds up the button sewing process is something I want to pursue.

One additional thing to note - I use 11 buttons at least on my shirts. One for each cuff, one on the collar stand, nine down the front. I know I use more buttons than most pattern companies suggest but I like my shirts buttoned all the way down the front. Pattern companies leave a longer/larger amount of space on the front of the shirt. That front flaps open on me and I just don't like it which is why I change it.

Just wanted to update how I'm sewing buttons onto my shirts now. always more later!


  1. Nice tutorial! I love this fabric!

  2. Do you think a button-hole chisel makes a difference? I love a gadget, but often find that I don't use them after the buzz of acquisition wears off!

    1. Louise - I've used a buttonhole chisel for at least 20 years! I think they make the cleanest and best cuts without cutting through you buttonhole. I highly recommend them!

    2. I agree regarding the buttonhole chisel. I too have used mine for decades.

  3. I found this post so interesting as I sew my buttons differently. Thanks for sharing your technique, I would have never thought of using a drop of Fray Check. I'll have to give it a try.

  4. I've never been able to get my machine to cooperate with sewing on buttons. It takes me more time to do by machine than it does to do by hand. I reserve button sewing for the times I'm sitting down watching TV. Thanks for the tip on the Frixion pen, I will have to try that. I've been using pins. Louise, I have a buttonhole chisel. For me, it makes a difference as it cuts cleanly. I also have the hole punch for keyhole buttonholes.
    Theresa in Tucson

    1. theresa - it did take me some time to make it work but I was determined. I don't sew every button on by machine but I'm trying to do the majority of them that way.

  5. Thank you for sharing your expertise! I've been doing some of these things for years (buttonhole chisel is a life changer!) but other things I've nver thought of. I use beeswax on my thread for buttons, but applying it is a time-consuming PITA and you never know if a spot of random wax is going to show up somewhere. I'll check out the silamide.

  6. Another use for Fray Check is to apply it to a finished buttonhole before its opened with a chisel blade. Let it dry for about an hour, open the hole and never have frayed button holes. I always use this technique with flannels and other cotton woven fabrics.

  7. Lovely details for shirtmaking! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks Carolyn for more useful tips. I'm getting a chisel.

  9. I also use the Simplex button/buttonhole marker. All that marking done in about two minutes! Another thing. I use the Simplex to mark the buttonholes first then move the the button placket, both sides are carefully placed in position first, move the Simplex up to the middle of the buttonholes and then mark the button placement on the button placket. Then I use a glue stick to glue the buttons in place. Sew the buttonholes, and dab with Fray Check, use the sewing machine's button setting and a pin or my special button sew-on foot and zip along up the front of the shirt stitching one button after the other. Boom! All I then have to do is chisel open the buttonholes.

  10. I needed some shirts in a hurry last fall and I was consumed by costume sewing and Lands' End had some good I purchased about 4 shirts. And, while they are nice shirts other wise, the button placement on me stinks. I always put a button at the full bust level and at the top , then space the rest evenly. That almost always ends up needing at least one, if not two, extra buttons but there is NO GAPING. The purchased shirts literally all are set so that my full bust is just about exactly in the middle of two buttons. Ugh. Gonna hafta invest in some ResQ tape, I think. Super annoying...and I am about to be done purchasing button up shirts.


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