Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Singer Buttonholer

If you have a vintage, straight stitch Singer, chances are you have a buttonholer attachment.  If you don't, then I suggest you SPRINT on over to eBay and get you one....hurry!  Don't pay more than $10, and be sure you get the right one for your machine.  The oval aqua case (above) and green treasure chest type case (below) are for low shank machines like the Featherweight, 201, 15-91, etc.   The oval pink case (above) and the red treasure chest (below) are for your slant shank machine like the 500/503, 401/403/404, 301 etc.  

(NOTE:  even with a zigzag machine like the Slant-O-Matics, you still set the machine on straight stitch for this attachment.)

The one below is much older, I think dates back to the 1930's or 1940's - for low shank.  It does not take cams, the size of the buttonhole is made by adjusting a screw.

So why do you want one of these if you have a machine with a built in buttonhole stitch?  This is why:

Perfect buttonholes!  Even keyholes. 

Then there is the "fun factor."  I love using the big, clunky, mechanical attachments. They aren't electronic so there is no computer chip telling it what size to make the buttonhole.  It's just good old fashioned mechanical ingenuity that is FAIL PROOF.  Insert the template and get the exact same buttonhole every time - 10 years later, 30 years later, 50 years later....

Here is the slant shank version of the buttonholer on my Singer 503.  Note that this is a zigzag machine but it is set on straight stitch to use this attachment and you must use a feed cover plate or disengage the feed dogs.

Here it is on another machine, this one is low shank

So this concludes today's Fun With Buttonholers.  Five metal templates are included with the attachment itself, and a set of four more are available, as well as an eyelet cam sold separately (ten sizes in all.)  I have all the templates for any size buttonhole I've ever wanted to make.  


  1. I had an old Singer 501 and I had a country store. I used to sit in the back and sew my daughter's clothes as well as crafts for the store.
    My friends all had zig-zag machines, I felt deprived until I found the zig-zag attachment in the case and went to town.
    But oh, those button holes, I loved making buttonholes with that machine. I especially loved the keyhole.
    Visit my site and read a story about when my father brought the machine home to my mother, who never used it!

  2. Thanks, Susan, I checked out your site. Love it! I'll be back... :)

  3. I have a 501A and the red box above with 8 templates. Do I need to make any changes to the machine setting (i.e., AK3) to make this work?

  4. The machine's stitch length setting doesn't matter because you disengage the feed dogs to use this attachment. The stitch width is adjusted on the attachment itself. Your machine must be set to STRAIGHT stitch for this to work. Any adustments in presser foot pressure or tension are a "try and see" kind of thing. You might not need to change it at all, or you might need to increase your upper tension a bit.

  5. Thank you for this posting! I own a couple of the green treasure chest (love this description!) buttonholers as a longtime FW sewer but had no idea they could be used as n my 15-91 or, what was needed for my 301. Good night no for me!