I've noticed many BurdaStyle members are making their creations with old-school straight-stitch-only machines they've inherited or thrifted. You can make gorgeous buttonholes on these machines by using a clever attachment... and even if you have a newer zigzag machine, you may want to try the attachment if you don't like your built-in buttonholes.
Check out the video here.
A manual in pdf form for the buttonholer shown in the video is available here

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    Mar 21, 2012, 11.29 AMby klutzy

    Umm…..where is the video?? Adobe can’t open the pdf, either. :-(

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    Feb 3, 2011, 10.02 PMby Baysew

    Thank you! I have a Singer 401, also the buttonholer, but was unsure what settings to use on the 401. Very nice video! Now to try out the buttonholer!

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    Jun 11, 2009, 09.23 AMby ralarkins

    Gosh! Seeing this brings back memories of the machine I grew up learning to sew on. My sister still uses the same machine. They just don’t make them like that any more. LOL

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    Jun 2, 2009, 01.23 PMby hippieloveflower

    emily kate, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!!!!! for this “how-to” video you made. this is exactly what i was looking to find & see on the computer!!! i inherited a beautiful “singer” sewing machine ( i think it’s exactly like the one you have here in this video {15-91}). it has the tension knob to the left of the machine, in the back just like your’s. but mine doens’t have the fancy designs on the chrome sideplate like your’s. mine is just ribbed straight up & down. anyways, to get to the point, i have boughten patterns that require “buttonholes”. i didn’t know how to use the buttonhole attachment & just bought snaps. i figured that would be easier than trying to figure out how to use the buttonhole attachment. but thanks to this video of your’s, now i am soooo excited and curious to try to use my buttonhole attachment!!! thank you “sew” much for posting this video. i am gonna try mine out as soon as i send this off. thank you again emily kate. THIS IS REALLY GREAT!!! i was scared & intimidated by the stapler-looking attachment. but thanks to this video, i am gonna pull it out right now and “experiment” with it ;o) i can’t say it enough, THANK YOU. sincerely, christina :o) peace & love………….

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    Apr 7, 2009, 05.17 AMby ukiri

    This is absolutely fantastic! I have one that is older than the one you have here, and I’m really excited about this! I’ll have to shop around ebay for one! I have a few attachments for my machine, but nothing like this.

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    Feb 15, 2009, 06.11 PMby fragiledolly

    Omdz! Iv got one of these sewing machines passed down to me from my dad =] Iv just started machine stitching things such as alterations and now im interested in making my own clothes… but since this just does straight stitching im thinking of getting a newer one but im not sure, will this sewing machine just do me fine?

    (sorry this comment hasn’t got anything to do with your video, just got abit excited tht u got the same sewing machine as me) =]

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    Feb 1, 2009, 04.52 PMby fancyclothing

    Amazing! Thank you so so much! I know that I have one of those button holers around somewhere… I’ve just always been afraid of it, and never bothered to explore. What a great tutorial! Thank you!

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    Dec 3, 2008, 04.05 PMby miss

    Both your machine and attachment are GORGEOUS. I just might have to pick up an attachment like that if I can find a matching shank type! Too bad they don’t make Singers like they used to…

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    Sep 19, 2008, 08.10 PMby motozulli

    Thank you for this well-made and informative little video. I’ve always loathed doing buttonholes, so when I watched it I promptly went on Ebay, bought a vintage Singer foot, and voila! Fantastic!

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    Aug 13, 2008, 04.48 PMby whitsar

    You’re right—those buttonhole made with a buttonhole attachment can’t be beat. I learned to sew on my Mother’s Singer machine she bought used when I was a young child back in the ‘50s. I learned to use her buttonholer but was so pleased when in the late 70s I bought a new machine and it boasted of having an automatic buttonholer—I couldn’t get the buttonholes the same size and was never satisfied with them and went back to the Singer store and bought an attachment that fit the new machine. It was worth every penny I spent and still works as well today as it did 30 years ago. Thanks so much for the great tutorial. I really enjoyed it.

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    Aug 8, 2008, 08.49 PMby snowdrop23jane

    This is great, I have just inherited a vintage singer 221k and it has loads of attachments with it, But when I read the manual its hard to understand, Hopefully more people will do how to’s with the beautiful vintage machines that are out there

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    Jul 15, 2008, 03.53 PMby ivernamac

    Thank You! A picture is worth 1000 words, a video must be worth 1,000,000! I’ve loved the buttonholes my mom’s buttonholer attachment made, but she’d never show me how to use it. I now have a collection of vintage sewing machines and buttonhole attachments, but have still been a little afraid to go ahead and try it. I even have one rare old Greist attachment that makes a multistep sorta zig zag stitch that would work well as an edge finish. My favorite old machines are the lovely curvy ones like your Singer; I own a Brother treadle and a 30’s Juki, as well as some old clunky boxes from the 50’s. But even when they’re not so easy on the eyes, and only do straight and sometimes zigzag stitches, the old mechanical girls are a lot like the Energizer Bunny: they just keep going, and going, and going. I’ve found both machines and buttonhole attachments at thrift stores (especially senior center and hospice stores), yard sales, and auctions in rural areas. Be careful – make sure all the parts are there, and beware of attachments made for Singer slant needles unless you happen to have one of the machines.

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    Jul 2, 2008, 01.27 AMby emilykate

    Wow thanks for the link meta! I actually have that other type of buttonholer too – I went a bit nuts, I was so tickled by the ingeniousness of them that I bought both types on ebay!

  • Missing

    Jun 29, 2008, 03.50 PMby meta-bro


    You can download a manual for your machine from

    My buttonholer works fine without the cover plate, in fact it doesn’t really seem like there is room to fit the plate while the buttonholer is on the machine. But it is a different type than yours – it’s a Singer that does not require cams. It makes a very nice dense satin stitch (once around is plenty) but not the elegant keyhole shape that yours does.


  • Emilykate_large

    Jun 25, 2008, 10.50 PMby emilykate

    Hi janetzplace, I read that too and what they’re referring to with the embroidery is that you can kida do monograms with it. KINDA. What they mean is, because it basically does a line of close zigzag stitches, it can do a sort of satin stitch. maybe a maximum of an inch long. you could POSSIBLY stop-and-start this line and move the fabric around underneath it to kind of make it to doo lines that would form letters. But you would have many grey hairs before you finished :o)

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    Jun 25, 2008, 10.41 AMby mirela

    Thank you so much for posting this! Even though I sew with a computerized machine, I’ve heard about such an attachment for straight stitch machines, I always wanted to see one working. Very pretty old gal you have there!

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    Jun 24, 2008, 10.04 PMby janetzplace

    Very nice tutorial.

    I have heard that there is a way to embroidery with this attatchment? Not sure, but I know that I will be trying to use a buttonholer off of my 221.

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    Jun 24, 2008, 09.43 PMby emilykate

    Meta, I had no idea my machine could drop its feed dogs! I will have to try it, although I think that the plate cover, because it sorta sits up higher than the bed of the machine, kinda pushes the fabric up against the buttonholers foot-thing… I’ll have to try both ways when I get home!! Fiddling with that plate cover is a pain in the neck…

  • Missing

    Jun 23, 2008, 07.33 PMby meta-bro

    Your lovely machine looks just like my lovely machine, a Singer 15-91. You can lower the feed dogs on these – tilt the machine back and there is a large screw that turns to move them up or down. With the feed dogs lowered, it isn’t necessary to use the plate to cover them up.

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    Jun 11, 2008, 07.08 AMby angeldust


  • Emilykate_large

    Jun 6, 2008, 04.59 PMby emilykate

    I’m glad you guys liked it! Now don’t all go bid against eachother on the same ones on ebay, you’ll drive the price up :o)

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    Jun 6, 2008, 10.44 AMby antigone

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    Jun 5, 2008, 01.56 AMby naughtylittlepony

    Yey, this is just what I needed. I really didn’t like the idea of replacing one of my babies. (I am in the stupid position of having 3 machines, none of which do more that a straight stitch!). I have my eye on a button hole attachment on eBay at the moment. I would rather not have to sew all the button holes on my JJ blouse by hand.

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    Jun 4, 2008, 08.58 PMby amarie

    EmilyKate, what a great how-to. You covered all the bases including strategies for ebay. So useful. I’ve been debating whether I should get a new machine that has more features and I could not justify it since I mostly sew for fun and really only need the upgrade for sewing buttons. A great and commendable howto

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