In deciding where to place the buttonholes, try on another shirt that doesn’t gape at the widest part of your chest. You will see that there is a button right at the widest part. If there isn’t a button there, the shirt will pull open at that point and you will never be happy with it. On a looser shirt, it doesn’t matter so much but this shirt fits quite closely so you need to be sure that a button is going to be at this main “stress point” along the front.
Mark this critical point on the front band and then start measuring up and down the front from there, to determine where the other buttons will go. If the buttons are too far apart, the front will also gape. On this shirt pattern, I place the buttons three inches apart. On a looser shirt, I may go up to three and a half inches apart. On Peter’s shirts, I place the buttons about three and a half inches apart. You have to get a little experience before you get comfortable with this process. If in doubt, place buttons closer together rather than farther apart. Obviously, I like them closer together.
I have made this shirt before so I place the right side of the front of the shirt on the ironing board and use an existing shirt in the same pattern as a template. Another thing to note is that many women’s home made shirts or blouses tend to have the buttonholes sewed horizontally, so that the buttons do not come undone easily. I often do make horizontal buttonholes but on this pattern, because it has front bands that are quite narrow, horizontal buttonholes wouldn’t work. Also, since it is a fairly “tailored” looking shirt, I want it to look more like a purchased man’s shirt than a home made blouse, so I make vertical buttonholes.
Once in a while, glance down and ensure that your sewing helper is being good.
Don’t forget to mark the buttonholes on the cuffs as well and don’t make the mistake of making them fit too tightly. Put the buttonhole close to the one edge and you can always move the button on the other edge to make the cuffs tighter if you want.
I use a Singer sewing machine that has an automatic buttonholer. It works pretty well although it does NOT like bulky fabric and will skip stitches under those circumstances. Even on something like this shirt, it skips stitches at the neck where there are layers of fabric. I trimmed down all the seams but they still hold the buttonhole attachment up too far and it doesn’t like that. I have learned to press down on the attachment as I am sewing with it but even that is not foolproof.
I like to start with one buttonhole and then, without clipping threads in between, move from one to the next until they are all done, including the cuffs. If you don’t clip the threads in between making buttonholes, the tension is maintained on the thread and you don’t have to worry about loose ends getting sucked into the bobbin (as is one of the banes of my existence).
In the next photo, you can see where the stitches skipped on the topmost buttonhole I made after doing the collar. I didn’t lean on the attachment as much as I should have and now I will have to fix this with some hand sewing. (In fact, when I cut the holes open, I did a terrible job and clipped threads all over the place and now I have an entire evening’s worth of hand sewing to do.)
Before I got this machine, I made buttonholes by hand. To do a nice job (especially on a small, lightweight buttonhole) you really have to be patient and picky. The next photo is a buttonhole I made on a vest, to show how that works. Not flawless but pretty good.
Once you have the buttonholes made and cut open, lay the shirt on the ironing board and line up the two fronts and, using the buttonholes as a guide, mark where the buttons will go.
Now you can sew on the buttons while watching tv and your shirt will be finished!