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My fire is put out.... why do I sew again??

I was really chugging along with my sewing and my shirt, McCall's 8053 modified, was looking good. I was am really pleased with how it has turned out so far, up until I tried to do button holes. That's when my fire was put out.

A bit of history... my first machine had a 4 step button hole, which I think makes it more fiddly to make exact size button holes. When I bought my current daily machine (Elna Elina 40, Aldi branded machine which I am very happy with), all the upgrade I really wanted was a 1 step button hole. Put the button on the button hole foot and it does the exact size to match the button. PERFECT! I've made a few things the last few years with one button hole here or there, but the last time I made something with lots of button holes was about 1994 maybe; a dress, red swiss cotton with 5cm white polka dots and tiny buttons all down the front - about 20 from memory. I need 12 button holes for this shirt. 

The photo is a bit blurry but you get the idea. 
Good seamstress that I am not, I even did a few tests. I tested if I liked the oval end or the standard button hole and tensions and decided the standard one was a much sharper finish. I started with the collar stand button hole.... went well. (oh there is a reason for the pink button holes - I'll tell you when I show the shirt later today I hope).

Then I made the next hole down..... for no apparent reason, it started not getting fed along properly and then it started making a wider row! I checked there was no bunching underneath, I cleaned out the bobbin area, changed bobbin thread. I unpicked it, did another one and it started doing the same thing (there was a lot of bad words at this stage... no, I mean a lot!).  The fabric is getting a bit worn now. Should I change the needle... I haven't done that.

Then I did another one and ended up with one that was perfect but overall too small! Why it did this I have no idea. Instead of unpicking that one, I just moved to the next button hole and it did a small row of tight, very short stitches. To say I was annoyed is really an understatement.

I thought the automatic button hole was supposed to help me along but boy is it frustrating. Anyone else have this problem? I think maybe the machine was unhappy with me for going for a swim instead of doing the button holes during the day. Anyone else anthropomorphise machines? I mean, think if your overlocker doesn't want to play. That's when I normally have trouble. Then you can go back after you give it (the machine and/or the trying) a rest and everything ticks like a clock.

Any tips anyone? Anyone.....


  1. I always thought it was just me that this happened to! My old Janome had a one step buttonhole that sounds like it would do something similar. Putting something underneath the fabric used to help (I used baking paper because it would tear away easily, but light interfacing would work too). Don't know if it will help, but it's worth a try. Good luck :)

    1. Thank you Robyn, I will try it. I haven't been game all day!

  2. I haven't done a button hole yet. I am thinking if I get to that I might try the button hole man that Sharon from Petite and Sewing takes some of her tricky stuff to.

    1. Oh to have a button hole maker in Brisbane! It isn't hard to do so don't be put off... just some machines play with us I think.

  3. I have a machine that will do one step buttonholes but still do not trust it, so can't advise. I revert to four step buttonholes because I know what to expect. Hopefully the problem will resolve - I would clean out the bobbin area, then rewind the bobbin, rethread and start again.

    1. Thanks. Yes, I cleaned out the bobbin area but will rewind a new bobbin and I'll change the needle to make it happy. Look for the update.

  4. When my machine does this, I put some light interfacing behind it as Robyn suggested (I might try the baking paper idea). The top collar band would've worked because of the thickness of the fabric (and I'm assuming interfacing). Good luck with it!

  5. Thanks Alice. I will try with the paper. I have interfaced the collar stand and the button/button hole facing with the same interfacing but maybe it's not heavy enough. The inside collar stand is of a different fabric so maybe that's why. Going to brave it after the dishes are done.

  6. I have a similar issue with my Pfaff. Not sure how your machine works but mine has a programme number for buttonholes. I do one buttonhole, change the programme number while i tidy the buttonhole I've just done and then set the programme number again ready for the next buttonhole. Moving the programme number between buttonholes works for me. Sometimes I forget and end up with the start of a pretty embroidery design which I have to unpick, but at least all my buttonholes end up the same. Des x

    1. Oh yes, I turn it on and off but same result. I'm sure they have a mind of their own.

  7. I have an Elna with a 1 step buttonhole. It is wonderful, usually! It will sometimes do what you are describing, and I also have cussed the damn machine. I reset everything for each new buttonhole, and that seems to be the key. You must start over from the beginning each time, making sure to clear the mistake on the previous buttonhole. Good luck with your shirt!


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