Earlier this year I finally stopped using my seam ripper for opening buttonholes and instead invested in a proper buttonhole cutter. The event that triggered that switch was listening to Sewing Out Loud’s episode about buttonholes, where the hosts Zede and Mallory were adamant that a buttonhole cutter was superior. I’ve heard others say the same thing before, but this time it really hit home with me.
So I bought a Clover 12 mm buttonhole cutter from Amazon and began experimenting. The first attempt was kinda silly because I didn’t understand how to push the blade through the fabric, instead, I rubbed it back and forth which barely did a dent in the fabric. Then I watched Zede’s and Mallory’s video tutorial on how to use the buttonhole cutter and it all made sense.
All you really need is to press down the chisel a few times to make a neat cut.
The finished buttonhole up close. I’m pulling it apart in the photo so that you can really see the opening properly, it is not gaping like this in real life. In fact, my vintage Bernina sews really tight automatic buttonholes with very little fabric in between the stitch rows, sometimes it is a little too narrow for my liking.
As you can see, there is no fraying, apart from a tad bit at right bar tack. I have never used fray-check, but I know that some of you swear by this when cutting up buttonholes to avoid loose thread strands. When I’m using the seam ripper I get more thread strands, that I have to cut away with a pair of scissors, so this alone makes the buttonhole cutter a better choice.
Less risk for mishaps
The second reason for using this tool would be eliminating the risk of accidentally cutting through the bars at the end. Personally, I don’t have had this happen much with a seam ripper, I just start from the edge and open the buttonhole half way and then do the same on the other side. Also placing a pin at the bar can help prevent this from happening. That said, I feel less nervous when I’m using the buttonhole cutter, compared to old seam ripper.
As for buttonholes that are smaller than 12 mm (circa 1/2 in) you just slant the chisel slightly when cutting to make the cut smaller. So far I have not had to do this, in fact, I seldom use buttons that are smaller than 12 mm apparently.
I have the buttonhole cutter from Clover (Amazon Affiliate link) and it is great and inexpensive, but there are tons more brands out there, including some luxe Japanese ones!
Want to know my best tips for sewing buttonholes?
Then watch this video tutorial about how to succeed with buttonholes, where I also show both the seam ripper and buttonhole cutter method for opening buttonholes.
So are you a buttonhole cutter convert just like me or do you still use the seam ripper?
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