Wednesday 18 February 2015

How to Use the Mystery Buttonholer

A sample buttonhole which took only 30 seconds to stitch...

... using the wonderful mystery buttonholer, which I bought from a charity shop a couple of years ago.  

It has five cams (or are they half cams?), each marked with the size of button they are for, ranging from three to seven eighths of an inch, and including two cams for round ended buttonholes.  The other half is permanently set inside the buttonholer.

This marvellous gadget has turned out to be one of my best purchases ever.  It sews excellent buttonholes, it is easy to use, and I prefer it to my other vintage buttonholer, which is a Greist.  

Last year I posted a video showing the buttonholer in action.  In this post I shall show how to use it. 

This is the front of the buttonholer, showing the lever which fits over the screw of the needle clamp. When the needle moves up and down, so does the lever, thus operating the mechanism.  

At the centre of the photo is the hole for the fixing screw. 

The fixing screw attaches the buttonholer to the presser bar of the machine in place of the regular presser foot.

The red knob on the top overrides the lever mechanism.  When it is turned clockwise you can adjust the position of the parts shown below.

The prong protruding at the front remains static, whereas the metal piece underneath moves as the buttonhole is being sewn.  

In this photograph the lower piece is as far back as possible, and this is the position it needs to be in when inserting or removing a cam.

The cam fits into the back of the buttonholer.  You just push it in, and it clicks into place.

Once the cam is in, turn the red knob so that the lower part comes forward.  It has two arms, with little lugs on the side.

Now you can attach the rectangular plastic attachment...

... by fitting it over the little lugs.

Now it is time to get the machine ready.  This is my Singer 201K treadle.  I have lowered the feed dogs, removed the foot and its fixing screw, and threaded the machine top and bottom.

To attach the buttonholer to the machine, slide it into place from the back so that the end of the lever fits over the screw of the needle clamp...

... and then insert the fixing screw through to the presser bar and tighten it. 

The red knob needs to be turned again so that the plastic rectangle is pulled back as far as possible, as shown in this photo.

If you look at the reflections in the needle plate, you can see that the underneath of the plastic has rows of tiny sharp pyramid shapes, designed to grip the fabric.

The material is now in position, and the presser bar lever is down, ready for the buttonhole to be stitched.  I have brought the tails of the top and bottom threads forward so they don't get tangled up in the stitching.  Usually I just keep hold of them while I am stitching, but this time I made sure that the top thread was held down underneath the plastic rectangle because my hands weren't going to be free...

... because they were holding the camera!  

Watch how this wonderful contraption works - half a minute of pure magic.  The fabric is moved from side to side to give the zigzag stitch, and also backwards and forwards around the whole buttonhole.  I always go round twice to get a nice firm layer of stitching.

Making the video was a bit of a circus trick - feet treadling, both hands firmly holding the camera, and eyes watching the action through the camera.  It took three attempts.  On the first go I was holding the camera too low and the machine (or was it the buttonholer?) bumped it upwards with the first stitch.  The next time I tried I didn't press the shutter hard enough and didn't catch the beginning of the action.  Thrills and spills.

Finally, time to put the buttonholer away, and put this nifty metal tab to use.  First, make sure to turn the red knob to get the mechanism in the right position for removing the cam (see text in bold and photo above).  Also, make sure the tab is the right way up, with the little metal flap facing upwards.

Slide the tab into the back of the buttonholer under the cam...

... as far as it will go, and the little flap will click into a notch on the underneath of the cam...

... so you can pull it out.

The next bit of excitement will be to do samples of buttonholes with each cam, which will be very handy to refer to rather than doing a fresh test for every project.  Also, it will be great way of using this very photogenic cheerful turquoise cotton, which is otherwise useless because the dye runs like water. I am so glad I didn't chuck it out. 

Linking up with Connie's blog Freemotion by the River for Linky Tuesday


  1. Love this, and am going to have to try it. When I was a child I used either a Singer or Greist attachment to make buttonholes. I have two that came with vintage Singers, and I need to get them out and try them (although I almost never make clothes any more). I need to see if my memory for using them come back! Thanks for posting this.

    1. I've toyed with the idea of using the buttonholer to embroider petals of a flower, so even if you are not making clothes it might be worth experimenting.

  2. Thanks for this really useful post! I've never used the buttonholer, and was a bit intimidated by all the bits and pieces. It's great to see such a clear explanation and photos of how it works.

    1. Thanks Vireya! Buttonholers can seem a bit scary at first; in fact, I found the Greist more terrifying than this one. Once you have used them a few times they turn into an absolute pleasure.

  3. I have several buttonholers, but, I've never used any of them (yet).

    1. Sounds as though you have some fun in store trying them out, Cheryl!

  4. What an awesome little contraption! I have just acquired a singer buttonholer and am working up the courage to give it a go...contraption is definitely the right word.

    1. Just jump in. It is exactly the sort of thing little boys love watching in action.

  5. This is a unique one isn't it? How clever to save the back loop in the machine because the templates only need half the button hole to be different! I was wondering when I saw those half templates!

  6. I found you via your YouTube channel. Watched a great little video. I am looking for help re my 201K. Trying to clean it up and service it. The slide plate over the bobbin case is very stiff and I have to push hard to open it, then, instead of just opening, it pops off and I can`t seem to get it back on. Wonder if there is a trick to it? If you can`t help, could you kindly direct me to some other website. Thanks.

    1. Hello Mo,

      If you can get some penetrating oil to lubricate the slide plate this should make it easier to open. If it comes off you will need to take off the needle plate and slide it back on from the right, as with the 99K machine shown on this video:-

      Hope this helps!

      Love, Muv

    2. Thanks for this, I have the same BH attachment, but I can't get it to work atm. It's missing the little gizmo for removing the templates, but I think something else is also amiss....

      After seeing the quality of the buttonholes, I will keep on looking for another one.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...