Sewing,  Vintage/Retro

Buttonholes, and More Buttonholes

I don’t know why, but I love to make buttonholes. I think it’s because I was afraid of them for so long, and never used them. I would use grommets, snaps – anything to avoid making buttonholes on garments, but since I got over that fear, all I want to do is make buttonholes. And I have discovered that this is something certain machines do much better than others.

My modern Kenmore has the built-in automatic style – with the big long foot that you place the button into to control the size, and then it automatically makes the buttonhole you choose from it’s several built-in styles. It works fine, but it doesn’t always come out the right size, in my opinion. So it takes a bit of trial and error to get the foot set to the size of buttonhole I actually want. This is probably operator error, but it’s annoying.

It’s much easier with my vintage Kenmore, to simply choose a template in the size appropriate for the button you want to use. Of course, the disadvantage of this machine is that the buttonholer is an attachment with several parts that you need to keep track of. This machine was made before Kenmore started including buttonholes in the stitches the machines would make automatically.

I made a video using the (very beautiful) metal buttonholer that came with my machine, which you can watch here:

Making buttonholes on a vintage Kenmore 1802.

Now, interestingly enough, because my machine didn’t come with the correct manual, I downloaded a copy from the internet (by the way, thanks to those good people making resources like this available to people, it’s truly invaluable), and on that copy, the original owner of that manual notes their serial number and model number. They indicate that it is the manual from a 158.18024. My machine is a 158.18022. You wouldn’t think there would be many differences between models of the same machine, and there aren’t. The main difference I found is that there was a completely different buttonholer attachment pictured. Instead of the attachment that I have, with its removable templates, there was this one:

Buttonholer attachment depicted in the 158.18024 manual

So of course I started Googling. There’s a part number in the manual (32736), so I was able to see what it should look like. It is a cool-looking thing, in a decade-appropriate harvest gold case. My machine was made in 1969, so I expect the 18044 was made in the early to mid ’70s, and this attachment couldn’t be more ’70s if it tried, could it?

The buttonholer attachment included with the 158.18024

All the templates are included around the large circular part, and you rotate it to select which one you want. That’s kind of neat. Prevents templates wandering off, as they could easily do with the other style. There are still 9 buttonholes included. I suspect cost of manufacturing was a driving force in switching out the older style for this one, as it is made of plastic, not the beautiful metal and flocked velvet like my machine’s version had, but it is also possible consumers were asking for a version without templates that can go missing. I will say the templates don’t always sit quite right in the other version, which can also be a little annoying. Anyway, regardless of why they changed styles, I wanted to try this one out. I was able to find one on eBay – within Canada, which is always nice – and it was in my hot little hands about a week later.

I made a video showing how to use it. It works great. I won’t say there’s a world of difference between the two versions I have, given that they both work the same way, but if you have this machine and are looking for a buttonholer, this one does the job and looks cool doing it:

Making MORE buttonholes on the Kenmore 158.1802

Now I’m off to put buttonholes on EVERYTHING!

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