Kaleido-Datura, and tips on machine-sewing buttons

Datura

In anticipation of springlike weather, I scooped up the Deer & Doe Datura pattern from Ray Stitch recently. It had been on my to-buy list for a while but seemed an extravagant price for a tank – but I was swayed by how well D&D patterns fit me and the snazzy triangle cutout neckline.

Datura

I used 1m of this lovely Liberty lawn from Shaukat, a digital collage print called Matt Maddison: the kaleidoscope triangle pattern seemed just too perfect a pairing with the Datura’s neckline. I toyed with the idea of blocking the yoke in black but decided to just insert a bit of flat piping into the seam instead.

Datura

The Datura is labelled as advanced and there are indeed a few techniques in there to make things satisfyingly challenging. The language and diagrams in the instruction book weren’t always super clear either – I got a bit confused when attaching the shoulders, but luckily found this sewalong tutorial which cleared things up. Attaching the bias along the neckline with the correct gaps between the triangles took a bit of trial and error too. Size-wise I cut a 38 at the top blended to 42 at the hip, and cut the hem length of the largest size.

Datura

I’m really happy with the fit and wouldn’t change anything, but something is still making me feel a bit unsure about the finished garment. I think it’s perhaps a bit too fussy in design for my day to day wear, and I also don’t find the shape very flattering on me – it seems to enhance pear proportions. We’ll see if it grows on me or languishes unworn once spring comes along.

Sew on buttons by machine

But how about a buttony bonus? I thought I would share how I sew on buttons by machine, in case anyone is doing this tedious chore by hand and wondering how I can sew so many without going crazy. You’ll need a button foot (I have this cheap generic one for my Janome) and some clear sticky tape. If you don’t have a button foot, you can remove the presser foot entirely and just use the ‘stump’ to hold the button in place, though it’s trickier.

Attaching buttons

1. Mark your button positions per the buttonholes.

Attaching buttons

2. Place the buttons and tape them down. You can tape each separately or use one long bit of tape.

Attaching buttons

3. Measure the distance between the holes of your button. Mine’s about 3mm here. (For four hole buttons you can either measure and sew the holes in pairs parallel to each other, or diagonally across from each other. Or a jaunty arrow!)

Attaching buttons

4. Set up your machine: go for a zig-zag stitch with the width set to the distance you measured between the holes and the length at the shortest your machine will go (mine’s 0.2mm). And best to set your machine’s speed to the slowest it will go, to negate needle-slamming-into-button situations (heed the voice of experience).

Attaching buttons

5. Fit the button foot to your machine. As you can see, it’s like a little clamp with a gap in the middle, which holds the button nicely in place for you.

Attaching buttons

6. Slide the button under, aligning centrally under the foot and making sure the holes are horizontally parallel. At this point I usually lower the needle manually to check it’s going to hit the left-hand hole in the right place, then go ahead and run the machine on slow speed. I go for about 5 or 6 passes of the zigzag between the holes. For 4-hole buttons you’ll then need to re-align to the second pair of holes. My machine has an auto locking stitch which anchors my stitches at the start and end, but if yours doesn’t you will probably want to leave a tail and secure by hand.

Attaching buttons

8. Pull off the tape and cut your thread tails (if you need to secure your ends, thread the tails onto a needle, bring to the wrong side and knot to secure.). Voila, fast and secure buttons – I’ve never had one fall off yet. Hope it was helpful!

48 thoughts on “Kaleido-Datura, and tips on machine-sewing buttons

  1. Veronica Darling

    WOW thanks for the button sewing photos! I hadn’t thought to get them in place with tape, let alone sew them in with the tape… do you do buttons first and then button holes, or the other way around? I’m never very good at making my buttons/holes look professional… so have been giving them the flick lately…

    The top is very intricate… it’s a lovely neckline on you… maybe cap sleeves would suit you overall?

    1. Katie Post author

      I always do buttonholes first then use those to position the buttons. I think cap sleeves is a great shout, might try adding some black ones.

  2. Melissa

    I was just thinking about making myself some summery tops beyond the ‘tank’. This would fit the bill. It looks wonderful on you. I’m glad you mentioned the Liberty print name. I’ve been looking for the name as I would like to get some of this print. Thanks for the tips about the buttons!

  3. barbara r

    yes on the pear-shape thing, a problem i share.

    i thought slightly extended shoulders, but it could be as veronica said: cap sleeves. try pinning out fitting darts at the waist as well. try the front , back and sides and compare. sometimes getting rid of excess mass, even if it isn’t where you expect, changes the entire look.

    1. Katie Post author

      Good ideas, I think it would be more flattering if slimmer in the body but I do like ease in my woven tops. Think cut-on or little cap sleeves will definitely help.

  4. Katie

    Oddly enough, I literally just finished machine sewing buttons on a new shirt right before reading this!! And I do it the same way – I have no idea why I used to hand sew buttons – so tedious!

    I love your Datura! I think this shirt looks flattering on you – and it’s super cool! I bought a chevron voile that I was going to mimic with the triangle cut out neckline too… and I didn’t think I would do a contrast yoke either – but I might steal your piping idea to break up the print a bit (and to get out of too much pattern matching between the yoke and body).

  5. Nathalie

    I used to always leave my projects unfinished and think ‘I will add the buttons later’ until I discovered I could sew them on with the machine.

  6. Bella

    I must be the only person out there who doesn’t really mind sewing on buttons. Shank buttons are a different story though!

    I really love that print and have been trying to find out what it’s called, so thanks for that info. I think the tank looks lovely on you, but I would also find it too intricate for every day wear, I think. I hope it gets some outings though, how about under a Morris blazer?

  7. Jodie

    I have the same machine as you and have actually had good success using the normal satin stitch foot and lowering the feed dogs. Lowering the dogs also makes it easier to hold the button in place – I do mine without tape (though the tape helps to position them correctly in the first place I suppose?)

    1. Katie Post author

      Good call on dropping the feed dogs, definitely helps when sewing on the spot. I find the button foot grips the button better, a normal foot sometimes slips especially if the button is domed.

  8. Sarah

    It’s a great fit on you – I don’t think it’s too peary for what it’s worth! I must say I’ve never been a huge fan of the cut out detail in this pattern but I like the rest of the style very much. Hope it grows on you!

    1. Katie Post author

      I think l use the basic pattern for a few mods as the fit is nice – lose the cut outs and try extending the shoulder into kimono sleeves maybe.

  9. Vairë Gwîr

    Thanks for this tutorial! The button foot is going straight to my wishlist. I quite like your Datura, I really hope if grows on you. Maybe you could try wearing it tucked in to see if you like the effect a bit more?

    1. Katie Post author

      I did try but it looks terrible tucked in – it clashes with the empire seam and blouses badly since it’s flared towards the hem.

  10. Kieran

    This looks great! I have had my eye on this pattern for a while too, but I am finding it hard to pull the trigger.

    How on earth do you sew four hole buttons on to make an arrow? I am dying of curiosity!

  11. Cara

    Katie, I love that top you’ve made! I wear tanks like this with a cardigan to balance out my shape ?

    Thank you for the tip with placing tape over the buttons! When I was attaching buttons last week on my alder using the above method I was getting an awful amount of bird nesting on the back, you wouldn’t happen to know why this happens? I used every tension going… and spent nearly an hour on one hole that in the end I gave up and did them all by hand!

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks! I wore it with a cardigan too and thought it looked pretty good.

      I’m not sure what you mean by bird nesting I’m afraid!

      1. Cara

        you know that horrible thing that happens when you find about a hundred loops of thread on the underside of your fabric!

        1. Katie Post author

          Aha. Are you interfacing or stabilising the area around the button hole a bit, and using an appropriate needle size?

  12. Lorna

    I didn’t even know there was a button foot! I also have the same machine as you and love sewing buttons on with the machine – very satisfying! I also lower the feed dog as that’s what the manual says (I am a bit of a to the book girl!) but I do find the button does slip slightly so does get a little tricky. Love these tips thank you.

  13. Sara

    Coming out of hiding to post – I really like the neckline and it looks fab contrasting the fabric with black! I learnt to sew buttons by machine in a class last year, so much simpler! Definitely worth trying :)

  14. sallie

    I think this is a lovely top! I love how the triangle cutouts and that slim bias binding almost act like a bit of jewelry – no necklaces required! And the print you chose is such a nice compliment to the cutouts.

    Thanks for the button sewing tutorial! I’ve always wondered how other people sewed their buttons on with their machines. I don’t think my machine has quite as many nifty features as yours (you can really set the speed?!? That would be so helpful! I think the only speed my machine knows is “Like a Bat out of Hell”!) so I’ll probably continue to tediously sew my buttons by hand, but someday…. sigh… someday.

  15. Astrid

    Hi Katie, I just started sewing about a month ago and so I am looking around at blogs and reading a lot.
    I am dutch and a bit lost in all the terminology. I was just wondering if you could maybe name a few types of fabric that go really well for summery blouses. Not too stiff, but not too plastic either. Thanks!

    1. Katie Post author

      Hi Astrid. I would go for cotton lawn or voile, or rayon/viscose crepe de chine. Or silk! This top is a cotton lawn. :)

  16. Linda

    If you use the overcast stitch instead of the zigzag stitch, the button will never fall off! The overcast stitch takes three single stitches in the left hole, then zags over to the right hole, so it is “lock stitching ” itself!

  17. Linda

    To Cara- the only reason you ever get loops on the underside of the the fabric is when you have not properly threaded through the tension unit. Always thread with your pressure foot raised, which releases the tension discs. After you pass through the tension unit, lower the pressure foot while pulling on the thread. You will distinctly feel the tension, confirming you are properly threaded!!
    Even if you have been properly threaded, thread can slip out of the tension discs for no reason at all except to make you crazy lol!!

  18. Kyema

    Awesome shirt! I’ve been eyeing this one for awhile but haven’t bit the bullet. I have piles of other patterns that I have yet to sew, but it’s on my list :) Also, thanks for the great tip about the buttons! Mine always slide around, i love the idea of tape to keep them in place. You’re a genius!

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