Ramblings...

Welcome to my blog! I hope to make your visit worthwhile and reward you with some new inspirations, sewing and recycling, crafts tutorials and recipes. Please add yourself as a follower, so that you will automatically be updated when I post something new! Please comment, I appreciate sharing mutual interests, like sewing, crafting, cooking and of course eating well! I am a former Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher, I sub in 3 school systems and moonlight at a retail ladies clothing store. I also am a licensed realtor with my hubby's company, which sometimes allows me to indulge my creative energies. A wife, a mom through adoption, Christian, boomer and a member of the sandwich generation I hope to share my unique perspectives and help you with some of yours!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sew Mama Sew Blog's Guest Tutorial, Bar Tack Buttonholes

Ta da!!!
I am guest teaching how to make a Bar Tack Buttonhole, make sure you visit SewMamaSew soon to learn all about sewing machines. They have had a whole month of great stuff, I always am learning something new! I taught sewing at the high school level, (former Home Ec Teacher) and have had to deal with the facts that most traditional work horse type machines have no fancy gadgets or features. And I have resigned myself to owning the very same machine all of my career. My sewing machine is just a mere 10 years younger than myself; Elna SP from the 60's.

My mom gave it a good workout in those days, sewing all of my sister's and my clothes, most of which we were dressed as twins or at least with a color variation. We were so stylish in those days, here you can see we are happy to also act like siamese twins. (I am the taller one on the right, but my sis is the taller one now!)







Making Bar Tack Buttonholes, (or low tech bar tacks if you have an older machine with no fancy buttonhole maker like I do)
You’ll need: scrap of fabric, thread, machine, seam ripper, and buttonhole friendly foot, I have one that has a picture of a buttonhole on its one side, (see first pic) but it cruelly suggests that the buttonhole makes itself with the foot. Contrare...it merely guides you as you plow ahead with zag zag/satin stitches. There is a subtle groove on it's underside that can help you go in a straight line. But there are no guarantees, you can easily wander, or go crooked, if you are not firmly in control. That said, most of you can handle this easily with any type of machine that does a zig zag.

My machine has very basic stitches, including a variety of zig zag which this buttonhole is merely a tight zig zag stitch, or also known as “satin stitch” in two widths. I refer to both in case you are more familiar with one or the other term.

Always begin by making a sample using the fabric you will be making the buttonholes on. I machine baste two lines, for the width of the buttonholes to act as a guide to starting and stopping.
My machine stitch length regulator has the numbers 1-4, and through trial and error, I find that 1.5 is the right satin stitch width to create a decent stitch. The fat lever to the left of the dial controls thespace of the zig zag, from 0-4, the higher the number the wider apart the zigs are created. I alternate from 2 for the sides of the buttonhole to the 4 for the fat, bar part.
(If your buttons are fatter or rounded, always add a bit of length to the buttonhole sides so that the buttons can slip easily in and out. )
Begin by lowering the presser foot and starting down one side just past the basting stitches. Hard to see here is that I have gone from one line of basting to the other, zigzag/satin stitch to the next basting line.

Using the flywheel, bring your sewing needle down on the right side. Lift the presser foot, turning the sample all the way around with the needle still in the down position in the fabric. Turn your stitch length dial to the largest stitch (4 for my Elna) and hold the sample firmly as you take 5 or 8 stitches in place, creating a fatter bar, (thus the name bar tack). Leave the needle in the sample, but be sure you are starting down on the other side of the bar. Turn your dial back to the smaller width, 1.5, and stitch back to the other basting line.
Go slow, and keep the other edge you created apart from the side you are working on. Make another bar tack at the end of this row of stitching, turning the dial again to the larger stitch width; without turning, just firmly holding on so it makes a nice fat bar to finish off.
If you like what you did, simply take a seam ripper and carefully rip open the slot you created. If the sides seem a little too narrow, repeat all the steps with the slot opened up, I often go over my stitching more than once to create a nice firm edge.
If it looks ok, you can proceed to working with your garment or project. If not, go back and practice, practice, practice, till you are satisfied. One important note, for you perfectionists out there, your buttons will be covering most of your buttonhole, so perfection is not necessary! Be sure to trim any excess threads on both sides, and remove basting. Sew your buttons on the opposite opening, if any holes are too tight, simply make them bigger with your seam ripper. If you break any threads, go back and repeat the steps to finish them off.

Pictured here are some vintage buttons, that are here for show. These buttons would need a longer hole, at least 1/8 to 1/4 inch longer to compensate for their cirumference.
Making buttonholes are easy, and a necessary skill. With practice, you'll be a pro, and if you already know what you are doing, and this is review, hug a Home Ec Teacher. Skills that are important for life are taught by the fearless Family and Consumer Science Teachers, (as they are now called). Thanks for reading, and stop by my The4Rs.Etsy.com site for some examples of simple loop and button closure hanging towels.

7 comments:

Happy Together said...

Yay! Congrats on the special guest blogging at Sew Mama Sew! Great tutorial too.

Me said...

Great! Here is your virtual hug. I actually never learned button holes in home ec but recently figured it out with my sewing machine instruction book for satin stitches and playing around. Bar tack is the easiest way in my opinion. My automatic button hole foot was a pain when I tried it. I'm glad to see I wasn't too far off course.

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Tricia said...

I spent at least 2 hours the other night, trying to get my automatic buttonhole feature to work on my newish machine. The machine-specific link on Sew Mama Sew got me a little closer, but it was still failing. I finally gave up on that and used your tutorial and voila! 30 minutes later I finally had my 10 buttonholes. The reminders about where to leave the needle at each stage were especially helpful. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I have a few sewing machines and recently pulled out my Elna Star machine exactly like your machine. I am the original owner of this machine. Thanks for the tutorial. I'd forgotten how wonderful this machine and its buttonhole function are.
-Phyllis in Iowa

The4Rs said...

Thank YOU, sometimes I know I am a little outdated, but I am from the school that you don't throw out what works! My mom bequeathed the machine to me, I still have my Elna Lotus too, hoping my teen daughter will take up the cause next. Glad you liked that tut, I get so many visitors from that one little post! God bless! and thanks for stopping by!

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