The Magical World of Singer attachments: The buttonholer!

The time had finally come where I’m showing you my Singer buttonholer in action! I have been meaning to do this for so long, way too long!

As you may have understood from my Zigzagger piece, I am mesmerised by the ingenuity of the Singer attachments. The way they operate is fascinating!

The Singer automatic buttonholer

At the risk of repeating myself, let me first explain again that Singer attachments are metal bits that are usually mounted in place of the regular presser foot of the machine, to perform various tasks. The buttonholer like the zigzagger are amongst the active attachments. Yes, there are many sorts of other fascinating attachments and you can check out a full list here.

Why am I fascinated by such attachments? Because vintage sewing machine are only able to do straight stitches and this can be a problem but these attachments brilliantly solve it!

How do they solve this issue? …. We should add drum rolls here, shouldn’t we?! …. By moving the fabric! It’s genius.

Yes yes, I said all of this before but I just can’t help myself!

Anyway, my buttonholer is a Singer Simanco 121795, well actually that’s for the set with the cover plate, the buttonholer itself is 121908. It seems to date from the 1940’s.

If you recall, I had a bit of a conundrum with it when I got it and had to take it appart entirely! It was absolutely disgusting inside and just wouldn’t work. You can see how disastrous it was in this piece which will also show you the inside of the beast!

Buttonholer ready! (my cover plate is not the original one for this attachment)

How the buttonholer operates?

Similarly to the zigzagger, the concept is that the attachment moves the fabric. Contrary to the zigzagger, the buttonholer requires a cover plate to operate, because the fabric needs to move front and back, as well as side ways.

The buttonholer not only zigzags to create the whip stitches but also turns around at a certain length and move sideways, at a define distance, to create the buttonhole. You’ve got to be impressed at this point, right?!

The spacing of the stitches, the width of stitches and the amount of cutting space in the middle are for you to define.

In normal operation, the buttonholes created can be between 3/8″ to 1″ long but there is a way to make longer buttonholes.

The operating manual for this particular buttonholer is available on the ISMACS website.

Here you can see the mouvement for a short buttonhole
and here the mouvement for a long one

How to use the Singer buttonholer?

Well, once more I should say that I feel like I need training! Lots of training!!

Some expert seamstresses seems to have truly magical powers because, just like with the zigzagger, I’m not anywhere close to producing their neat buttonholes! Mine are kind of ok… sometimes. Other times, they are a disaster!

To be fair, I had to take my buttonholer apart again. All I was getting when I go it out recently, was a S shape and I knew something was misaligned, again. After that it was better, but still not perfect.

And it takes a lot of adjustments to make perfect buttonholes. The tread tension, the bobin tension, the numerous adjustments on the buttonholer itself are giving me headaches! The user manual makes all sorts of suggestions to have well proportioned buttonholes and I can’t even to begin to stress how much it stresses me out!

But it’s ok! I’m learning, I’m happy!!

Let’s see it in action! a short buttonhole
and a longer one

OK so you mustn’t do like me! Buttonholes shouldn’t be started in the middle for a start! I left the thread between the two, I probably didn’t set the tension right… Well, these were just for demonstrations but I still should add that every single button hole I try to make is a bit of a struggle anyway!

Yet, I’m not entirely displeased with the result. The small one is a little too wide, the longer one is uneven but would have been kind of ok if I had gone over it twice I think.

I know I won’t win a competition for best looking buttonhole and I’m absolutely not ready to make them for a garment where they are seen because they are on display front and center. For places where they are not so visible, then I think I’m ok!

Test button holes

I still don’t get why the ends are not so round. I must work on that because I’m sure it has to do with the settings I use.

Magic in progress!

Yes, it takes magical powers to operate a vintage sewing machine and you’ve got to be a witch to use these vintage attachments!

Despite the difficulties, it is so satisfying to do so! A little stressing at first, but also so relaxing to hear the steady pace of your machine, to admire a garment coming to life, to try on your creation…

I’m just a baby witch and yet there are very few activities that I consider more gratifying than sewing in winter!

And so I’ve tested my buttonholer on a much heavier fabric, a fabric I’ve been using for something special. It kind of turned out ok! I think I’m ready for the next step in the project I’m working on….

Pssss… Don’t worry, I have more magical attachments to show you… 😉

But for now, I will be sewing some buttonholes…

Sewing in progress
Vinitage Singer Buttonholer demonstration

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