Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tutorial on using a Singer buttonholer

This little mechanism allows you to make some wonderful button holes with a low shank straight stitch machine.  However nothing about is "plug and play".  
In this post I will include a lot of photos and try to make this gremlin not so intimidating.
Before I begin practice makes perfect with any craft and this is no exception.

Before you buy one of these lets make sure it is in working order, and you have every thing you need to make it work.

Here is what you should find in the box:
5 cams or plates or at least one ..
a feed dog cover
the buttonholer 
the attachment screw
Two of these are imperative...the screw and the feed dog cover.  If you own a singer zig zag attachment with these same items with it you can use them.
Now to make sure that your buttonholer is in good shape and will work, you will need to open the bottom cover and look inside.

You do this by pushing it slightly toward the back  so that it will slide off the tab that holds it shut.  Then with your thumb pop it open. 

If there is a cam in it remove it you will need to make sure that the gear it sits on has all of its teeth.

This is the mechanism that moves along the inside of each cam to mimic the shape and size of the button hole. If this is not in tact then the buttonholer will not work correctly.  Now to make sure that the back gear is working..you need to turn the  white knob with the "S" on it counter clock wise (while holding the buttonholer upside down).  It will have resistance and you will see the gear move.  If all the teeth are there and you see or hear the spring hitting them you are in good shape. 

 Next lets make sure that everything is on the front end that you need.  

Since your straight stitch machine is only capable of making a straight stitch , this attachment actually moves the fabric under the needle and if you do not see this black flat base ,it will not work.  It has a diamond shape pattern on it and each one of those raised diamonds is an edge that will "grip" the fabric.   What sits above it is an indicator (see photo below). It has a finger on it that will "trace" where your stitches are going to fall.  You will  need this to determine the starting point on your button hole.

You will need to check out the mounting bracket to make sure it is complete and not broken .  Note how thick this is hence why you need to larger screw to attach it to your machine.  And finally the arm.  Make sure that it has the arm with slot on it.  This goes around the screw that holds the needle in your machine.  This is what drives and makes the gears move in the attachment.  Make sure that  when you lift and lower it the white button on the top  moves back and forth.  This is a good indicator that it is engaging the gears.  

If everything checks out and you are pleased with the cosmetic look of the attachment then you are good to go!  Choose the size button hole and shape from the cams that came with it.

On the back of each cam  is engraved  the size and shape of the button hole it will make.
Once you select the size, then you will need to load it into your buttonholer.  Once you install it on your machine you will not be able to load a cam with out taking it off.
Open the bottom up and drop your cam in the slot.  It will only fit one way.  With the larger end pointing to the back.  It helps if the gear is sitting in the middle.You can slide  the front foot to move where the cam falls in the slot.  The cam should fit tight  with no wiggle...  Close the flap...

Also this is the perfect opportunity to determine what size satin stitch you want to form your button hole with.  On the side of your attachment there are numbers between a "W" and "N"  Wide to narrow....if you push down on this lever you can slide between the letters and choose your stitch width.   Below is the difference between narrow and wide....

Now lets attach it and give it a spin.

The first thing you need to do is remove your existing foot and put the feed dog cover on.

The easiest way to make sure you are lined up and the needle will not hit the cover is to lay the cover on the machine bed and drop your needle so that it goes in the slot on the cover.  Leave the needle in the down position and screw it into the first hole on the right of the needle on the bed of your machine.  Now raise and lower your needle making sure it is not rubbing or bumping the cover...You do not hear metal on metal!

Now continue that revolution on your wheel and pull the bobbin thread up .  Your installed feed dog  cover should look something like above......

Now you are ready to attach the buttonholer....

Now as my Nana used to say "Hold your mouth right and be patient"

You will need to accomplish two steps one to get the Hole lined up on the bracket that attaches it to the presser foot and get the arm over the needle screw.

I lower my needle to half way and raise the presser foot.  Bring the attachment in from the back and angle it away from the machine so that I can "wrap" the bracket around the presser foot.  Now I either raise or lower the arm so that is will slide on to the needle screw. when I have this done then I lower the presser foot, screw the attachment on making sure that it is tight.. This attachment will vibrate you will need to check this screw, off and on, to make sure it is tight.
 Take your time and  breath deep...
This is easier said than done..You may find it easier another way just make sure your end results look like the above photos.  
Now you will need to find a starting point for your button hole.  If you notice the opening in the black foot it has a slight key hole shape.  If you are using a key hole template then the key hole will be up.  Ie... at the top of the bottom hole .  And you want to start at the top when stitching your button hole.  

By turning the white know clockwise you can set the start position.  The above button holes were started at the top and to the right of the center.  Once you set your start you will want to slide your fabric under the presser foot.  You may need to raise it to its  highest position by using the lever so that the fabric does not catch.  Once you have determined the position that your fabric needs to be in drop your presser foot.

Turn your needle on revolution holding the top thread.  
Start your machine gently...not wide open...I have gotten the best results with low to med. low speed.  You will guide that thread tail so that it is caught under the satin stitch.

I just let it run out of the bottom of the button hole and clip it later or you can as you get to the bottom clip your thread so that it is concealed under the stitching.

It is recommended that you make two rounds letting the second end at your start place. 

Here is the back.  I did two things wrong that effected the quality.  1.  I have the wrong size needle for this fabric..it is to big hence the sloppy look around the stitches and 2.  I have two different threads on the bobbin and spool.  I got lazy and choose the same weight however this particular machine preforms better when the bobbin thread is off the spool that I am using.  
My stitch length was the longest setting and if your tension is perfect with a straight stitch on the fabric you are using then normally you will not need to adjust it.  If you want closer satin stitches then choose a shorter stitch width.  
This was a lot of fun to learn and I hope that you will break out that vintage Singer attachment and give it a try.  The mechanical aptitude that went in to designing it is what made Singer a house hold name in its day.
  Next tut will be the zig zag attachment.  Hope to see ya here!

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  1. thank you for a very interesting read. I believe I have a button hole contraption with my great Aunts old singer. I am not sure it is complete, but you have inspired me to get it out and have a look see.

    1. I hope you find it in working order...they are neat contraptions... Thank you for stopping by. I hope you come back for the zig zag attachment tutorial. Have a eoderful day! Sheryl

  2. Replies
    1. You are welcome Joy. So glad that you stopped by!