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Mar 17, 2012

My Buttonhole Attachment Attachment



Readers, do you like vintage buttonholers?  I do! 
I received my latest just this week -- only $11 (with shipping) on eBay, which is SO much cheaper than a sewing machine, friends.





This buttonholer predates the kind with the templates, and you can do a few things with it you can't do with the later kind (more about that below).  It came complete with instructions as well as a plate to cover the feed dogs (if your feed dogs don't drop).



The buttonhole attachment I use most frequently is this one, probably Singer's most popular, and very easy to find on sites like eBay and Etsy. 



This buttonholer was originally sold with four templates and many people purchased an additional set of four separately, so if you're in the market for one of these, try to find one with as many templates as possible.  The rare eyelet template, a perfect circle, is hard to find and goes for quite a chunk of change.

The attachment makes very nice buttonholes and you gotta love that space-age plastic box.





One of my Singer Featherweights came with this earlier all-metal buttonholer, which I've yet to use but I think is mechanically pretty much identical to my plastic one, just heavier.  You can use either version on a Featherweight.  You'll want to use the feed dog cover plate since Featherweight feed dogs don't drop (I don't think).





I wanted to try an even older buttonholer that predated the template kind.  A long time ago I bought this "Famous" buttonholer, but it needed a lot of oiling, so I never used it.  I love the look and feel of it;  they built these things to last forever.   I actually think this was built for an industrial machine since it doesn't fit the shank of my black Singers, though I could have sworn it fit some machine I owned once...maybe not.





I also own a Kenmore buttonholer that's only for zigzag machines.  You control the stitch width or "bight" of the buttonhole by adjusting the zigzag function on the sewing machine itself.  These are also easy to find; don't pay a lot for one.





The Singer I just bought is similar to the "Famous" kind.  There are no templates, and with various screws you can adjust not only the length of the hole and width of the stitching (bight), but also the width of the hole itself.  Isn't that fantastic?







I love this buttonhole attachment but have only just begun to experiment with it.  I'll report back when I've have more to tell.

You can read more about the "Famous" Buttonholer at Yarndiva's excellent Sew Old-Sew New blog.

Brian at BrianSews made a very informative YouTube video demonstrating the use of a few different template buttonhole attachments.  Take a look.

I know that many home sewers, even those who own modern machines with built-in buttonhole features, still love the old attachments and the quality of the buttonholes they make.  Some keep an old straight stitch Singer on hand solely for the purpose of making buttonholes!  These old attachments are super-dependable, can handle many different kinds of fabric with ease (more fragile fabrics may benefit from stabilizer, of course), and last forever.

How do you like to make your buttonholes?

(If you have more buttonhole attachment lore to share, please do.)

Happy Saturday, everybody!

65 comments:

  1. Well, I LIKE to make my buttonholes on my Topaz30 with the auto attachment. But I usually make mine with a Singer 201 and the "famous" buttonholer - complete with green Jetson box. Oh, and I have the eyelet template.

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  2. Oh, I love it---now I want one! I have one of the basic template kind (a Greist, not a Simplicity), and it's great as the buttonhole function on my modern machine is not really up for anything heavier than shirt fabric. Though I don't find it works well with my Featherweight---the foot-dropping lever on the Featherweight collides with the buttonholer and so the foot doesn't always go down all the way and doesn't always grip the fabric as tightly as it should.

    Now I'm all curious about your "Famous" buttonholer... off to look at the pictures. :)

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  3. Thank you for showing us these treasures!

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  4. Okay, I must first say that my machine is a vintage machine. It was state-of-the-art in 1965. But it makes lovely buttonholes. Gorgeous ones, in fact. So I haven't gone looking for a buttonhole attachment.

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  5. I'm just excited to learn that there in value in the eyelet template I own and use with my Singer 401. Thanks for the background information on all the buttonholers!

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  6. OK, you know how I wrecked my jeans (from the sew along) at the very last minute when I tried to make the buttonhole. And you know I am so freaked by buttons I just use snaps - or I don't make the garment. And you know I have that freakin' green Singer buttonholer to go along with the straight stitch machine my MIL gave me. Why am I so afraid to look at the instructions and try the Singer button hole gizmo? What's the worst that can happen? It works?! I have to reconsider this.

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    Replies
    1. be brave and at very least have a play on some sturdy scrap fabric; i have an inkling you'll be converted :)

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    2. Buttonholes make me freak, too. Let us grab a piece of scrap fabric and a glass of wine, hold hands and give this a try.

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    3. Ladies, I did it! Check out my post if you'd like the deets...http://line4line.blogspot.ca/2012/03/fear-factor.html

      And thank you for your support :-)

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  7. Hmmm... I've been wondering about how to find a button-holer for my industrial straight-stitch. That Famous is beautiful! Any ideas how to tell what would fit mine? Give a holler if you are looking to sell it!

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  8. What a neat new (old) toy! I've never seen a buttonholer like that. It's neat that you can make the exact buttonhole you want rather than relying on the closest template. It does not look like it does keyhole though. Does it?

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  9. I thought I was the only person who bought up these things. I haven't actually USED any yet. My grandmother used to.

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  10. Both of my singer professional buttonholers for slant shank machines, the ones with the plastic templates came with an eyelet template; I think only the metal eyelet templates are rare.

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  11. Damn, I just bought two buttonholers, one Singer and one Greist. Without templates. I didn`t know they were needed. Oh well. I only paid $4. Thank you for the great info.

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  12. My mom had these for her machine and I learned to do buttonholes on them. I still struggle with making buttonholes on my newfangled Pfaff!

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  13. I've never used one of these. I bought my most recent sewing machine because it has a variety of buttonholes (I really wanted a keyhole), but I believe these buttonholers make a much neater buttonhole than my electronic machine. I may be tempted to try these one day ...

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  14. I hope you do a tutorial using one. I have that exact same mint green one. The lady had two -one was in the pink box. Upon inspection we found they had initials engraved for whether they fit a slant or regular type machine. I was told the templates fit either but don't know. Mine is in the box unused also and I have been wondering if it was made for later models that zig zagged so I am happy you say it is ok for ones like a 66, 201 or featherweight.Like another poster I am going to get brave and try it out-strange how even old technology is scary to some of us. mssewcrazy

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  15. I have several vintage buttonholer attachments, and I too most often use the Singer in the aqua case. It makes very nice buttonholes and is reliable. I also have the one in the green case, a Kenmore that is for use specifically with my 1941 (it attaches to a special cogged throat plate), the Famous, and another Singer Professional Buttonholer set, that I kept mostly because it had an eyelet template though I have never used it. It is strange that your Famous doesn't fit your machines, as I thought mine fit fine, and I have a 66 and a similar Kenmore to yours. Mine (I have 2 of the same that came from my late Grandma) needed a ton of oil too, but once I worked the oil in, in made really nice buttonholes, and to my untrained eye it seems you can achieve a look that is more like handworked buttonholes than the ones you can make with the Singer.
    Another interesting tidbit is that my Singer in the forest green box came with a receipt from Singer to the original buyer, and it cost her $9.95 in 1951 which adjusts to $87 in 2012 money. But it must have been worth it to her to save all of the time she would have spent handworking her buttonholes.

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  16. Your "Famous" buttonholer is most likely for a high shank machine - which is standard on most industrial machines. But there were many great older machines, particularly from the 1950's that also had high shanks. Necchi BU and BF are two fine examples that can use the "industrial" high shank attachments.

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    1. Maybe it fit my old Pfaff 30 -- that was a high shank machine.

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    2. I have seen adapters, on eBay, for using low-shank attachments on high shank machines. It's an obvious sort of gadget. How well it works, and how well the drive lever fits, I have no idea. It might only be for non-moving feet, not these mechanical devices.

      Fitting a high shank attachment to a low shank machine looks to be impossible, short of cutting and welding.

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  17. I have a slant shank and straight shank buttonholer. They are awesome and truly do a better job than my modern machine does. They look more intimidating to use than they really are and will work on anything. Two layers of softshell fleece? No problem!

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  18. I have the same Singer in the green rectangular box, it's on my Singer 66-8 full-time! Since it's the only thing I use that machine for, I actually went ahead and removed the feed dogs entirely. I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to messing with machines (especially free ones). I also have the Greist buttonholer, which is very similar to the metal Singer & came with extra templates :) I adore these buttonholers & would never part with them.

    I'm intrigued by your Famous buttonholer, I have a high-shank Sunger industrial that I would LOVE to be able to use for buttonholes. Must track one down!

    In other news, a friend is giving me her great-grandma's Singer treadle, in excellent condition. I can't wait!

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  19. I have two: one has the 5 templates and the other is the one you've just purchased. I love them both and use them regularly. In fact just like you mentioned, i prefer to use them instead of the multiple in-built buttonhole choices on my Pfaff 2056.

    The other great gadget i have to finish off buttonholes beautifully is a wood handled buttonhole chisel cutter. No more stretched buttonholes from cutting them with my quick unpick..and thankfully no more mistakes of cutting right through the end of the buttonhole as i vigorously push the quick unpick through the fabric :/

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    1. I usually use a seam ripper -- VERY carefully!

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    2. I too use a seam ripper, but I start from the ends of the buttonhole and work toward the center of the buttonhole. Not as much chance of going through the ends.

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    3. My mother showed me the trick of putting a pin through one end of the buttonhole before using the seam ripper - slip in a pin just before the bar-tack. The pin stops the seam ripper from overshooting.

      Here's a pic...

      http://welcome.solutions.brother.com/NR/rdonlyres/0D66C317-C60D-4394-B16A-C7F37E9C9664/14018/19.jpg

      I have a vintage "Y Star" buttonholer, which works brilliantly. My Viking does a nice 4-step buttonhole, but I always seem to be buttonholing late at night, when brainfade takes over and the mistakes begin. The Y Star is much more reliable than I am.

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  20. I, too, had the metal buttonhole attachment in the green rectangular plastic box. I loved the buttonholes it made. But I got rid of it with the Singer, just don't have room for more than 2 sewing machines and the Singer was in a cabinet. I think my 1980's Bernina makes a superior buttonhole, so I'm ok with having given up the Singer.

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  21. Thanks for sharing! I adore vintage sewing machine attachments. I must confess, though, that I sew more quilts than clothes, and don't often have occasion to use my vintage buttonholers, and monogrammers, and tuckers--the list goes on and on. It's a bit of an obsession. I'm fascinated by the mechanics and history. And I am amazed at the quality of buttonholes that can be made on a straight stitch machine with one of these attachments (I have one for a White made Kenmore from the 40's). Every now and then I come up with a special project just so I have an excuse to use them.

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  22. Oh Peter, I love my buttonhole attachment!

    My very expensive brand new computerized viking came with a broken buttonhole function-this was the machine I just HAD to buy, ugh. Well I felt like an idiot but took the buttonhole issue as a sign and opted NOT to have that repaired, warranty or not. Since the simplest solutions are usually the best I set up one of my vintage machines with a buttonhole attachment and use it exclusively for buttonholes.

    I will not give up my buttonholer unless I win the lottery and can buy an industrial buttonhole machine.

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  23. I grew up using a Greist button holer. It made regular and keyhole buttonholes, and the eyelet. I never liked the way they looked. I don't like the way these mechanical buttonholes look generally. The edges are a bit feathery and uneven. I do like my little portable White zig zag machines buttonhole. You adjust the stitch length to make a satin stitch and the width to make one side of the button hole. Adjust again and stitch the width of the whole buttonhole, adjust again and stitch the other side, then adjust width to finish the end. It has four steps, but the button holes are lovely. I mean crisp, perfect and sturdy. I recently made a shower curtain, and after a few practice runs, they went right in, and look great.
    The old attachments sit around the basement for sentimental reasons but they never get used. Just getting out the thing to use takes longer than using the zig zag to put in a few buttonholes. Sorry, this time I vote for the very slight progress of the zig zag machine.

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  24. I use a Brother NS-20 and the buttonholes are automatic (thank &*^% - I do not have the time or patience for step by step stuff). They've worked perfectly apart from on a couple of fine fabrics which needed a bit of support/ interfacing + fiddling with the upper thread tension to get them to work. Congratulations on your Vogue patterns article btw.

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  25. How timely is this! I just made my first button holes in years with my Sears Kenmore (new in 1972 - you have one like it). BUT I inherited (and use) my mother's Singer Featherweight and I have the space-age plastic box with buttonholer which I will definitely use for the next buttonholes!

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  26. I still have a Singer buttonhole attachment with templates (green box) that we all used for many years with the family sewing machine, even though I no longer have the machine. I have a 1952 Montgomery Ward machine that is similar to the old Singers, but IIRC the buttonholer would not work on it. I bought a Greist on ebay (for only $1.99) that was marked as being a MW attachment, but that didn't work either. It came with a bunch of attachments but no feed dog plate -- however, it's identical to the Singer attachment. I hardly ever make buttonholes, but the few I've done have actually come out well using the built-in feature on my new basic Kenmore.

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  27. Yes, buttonhole attachments. I've had/have two Bernina's and still I like to use my old Featherweight with the buttonhholer in the dark green case. I also have the one in the space age case which I've never used. I tried and tried to use the Bernina's for making buttonholes but always went back to my Singer. They are so easy and you get exactly the size you need with hands-off application. I wouldn't trade mine for anything. It's been in my family since 1948.
    For those of you who have the attachment and haven't tried it yet, go for it. It's not as complicated as it might seem at first. Enjoy. Some things did work better in the past.
    And my Featherweight will sew through 4 layers of denim without hesitation which is something my Bernina's won't do !

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  28. Buttonholes are one of my biggest challenges! I can make practice buttonholes on scraps but when it comes time for the real thing, they never work out!! Arrggghhhhh!!!!

    It must just be a user issue, heheh.

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  29. I bought an eyelet template in the original box off eBay for about $10 +shipping. Sometimes you get lucky!

    There also, for awhile, was a guy on the site selling repros for about $10.

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  30. I went to buy a new machine with all the new benefits. I was shown the one step buttonholes that looked okay but certainly not as beautiful as the ones made with the buttonhole attachments. The saleswoman admitted in very hushed tones (it is a selling feature after all) that the old buttonholer attachment would work on the new machine, too. Which only makes sense to me as long as the sewing machine is set to a straight stitch when using the attachment. It is, after all, just an attachment designed to accomplish a function the same as any other foot. The sewing machine makes the straight stitch while the attachment moves the fabric back and forth to make the buttonhole. The sewing machine mechanics of making a stitch has not changed over the years, that I know of.

    Does anyone know if any other home machine cannot handle the vintage buttonholer attachment? I am very curious to know if there is any home machine that cannot accommodate the attachment, and why? I'm sort of nerdy that way. It would certainly calm all fears of those sewers avoiding buttonholes.

    The attachment must be bought matching the shank of the attachment to the sewing machine; short shank, long shank and slanted shank; the same as any foot attachment. I have and use long and short with success. They make beautifully formed stable buttonholes; going around 2 or 3 times depending on the material. Equal spacing is so very, very easy and professional looking, too.

    I fold the buttonholes in half and cut a start in the middle of the buttonholes with small sharp scissors. Then unfold and cut to the ends. It is a quick and easy method for me. So far, I have never had an accident.

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  31. I have the Singer black buttonholer and eight templates. Usually this buttonholer comes with a feed dog cover plate that fits to most of the classic vintage Singer models, including the Featherweight. It produces cute and accurate buttonholes on the Featherweight too!

    Because I do not use it often, I did a stripe of fabric with one sample of each size o the buttonholer. I have cut them open and labeled them, so I can easily and quickly find the right template for the button size that will be used in my project.

    I quite bought one of this older Singer "adjustable" buttonholer to give as a present to my mom, who also has a Featherweight. However I have no experience with this type and was not sure if would be easy to deal with... So, now that you have all types, Which one do you think is "user friendlier", the one with the templates or the one without(adjustable)?

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  32. I am looking to "score a deal" on Elna cams; I am always finding cams in thrift stores...for every OTHER machine BUT Elna! If anyone should come across "a deal" (such as a whole bag of them for $5.-yeah I know, fat chance of THAT, but still...) could you please give me a shout-out? sephirah5@yahoo.com. Thanks in advance!

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  33. Those are so cool, I didn't realize how many there were. When I started sewing, I used my mom's old Necchi sewing machine, and it had these disks that you had to pop in on top of the machine, along with something you had to attach, it was all so long ago, but I loved that machine, it had the most beautiful stitches ever!

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  34. I've got 3 of them - the green shell, the green box and the one you just bought. Nope - haven't used any of them. It's on my list of things to do when I want to sew, but not up to a project. Just sit and play with the machines and attachements.

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  35. Wow -- I had no idea they even made buttonhole attachments for those machines. I thought the whole machine stitched buttonhole concept was new with the computerized machines. Shows what I know! I love reading your vintage machine posts.

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  36. I have the same green, cream box with the orange outline for my bentwood Singer. Fun stuff.

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  38. I have 4 or 5 old Singer and Greist buttonholers, each different. I would like for them to find a new home for a small fee (just what I paid for them which was about $5.00 each). Anyone interested?

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  39. Based on this post, I headed over to eBay, where I got a vintage White Magic Key Buttonholer for just 99¢ + S&H! I can't wait to try it out on my White 565!

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  40. Hi Peter!

    I have been attached to vintage sewing machine attachments for some time. I have some photos on my blog if you care to take a look. :)

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  41. Just realized, I am late to this party!

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  42. Okay, I'm late to the party too 'cause I don't check in often enough. But it's like this...I LOVE my buttonhole attachment!!!! I'm talking about the common Singer buttonholer in the Space Age green plastic case. (The same buttonholer in the pink plastic case fits the slant shank machines like the Rocketeer.) Like this gadget is so fun to use, I look forward to making buttonholes.

    What's not to love? It is this awkward, clunky gadget 50 years old and at first glance looks like nothing more than an interesting relic. But this thing makes amazing buttonholes and if you are a vintage gadget freak like I am, it is really fun to use. Yeah, it takes a couple of extra minutes to attach it to your vintage machine. Yeah, it makes an alarming clackety-clack sound while in operation. But hey, isn't that why we love our vintage machines anyway? It is all completely mechanical and amazing to watch. I'll pass on the ho-hum built in, computerized buttonhole function over this any day.

    BTW, you can buy a plastic eyelet template for not much $$$ which although is not the real thing, will at least make exactly the same round eyelet hole with your buttonhole attachment..at least until that long awaited day when you find an authentic eyelet template in a pile of old sewing notions at a garage sale. ;)

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    Replies
    1. I've actually never had the need to make an eyelet, now that I think about it...

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  43. I've never needed to make an eyelet either, but you know it's all theoretical. Like if you know there exists a rare template then you just have to have it - just in case!

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  44. I just started reading MPB about a week ago I think it was. I am now playing catch-up with some of the older posts and I particularly enjoyed the one about buttonhole attachments. When I was a little boy back in the 1960's, I would sit next to my mother while she sewed my sister's clothes. Sister dear went thru a little chubby period that was short-lived and Mother had to sew her clothes as there wasn't any off the rack for chubby children around her back then. Anywaaaaaay, my mother get out the buttonholer to attach to her Singer Featherweight and it was....'touvh that and you will get a spanking'. Well you know what always happened......?!

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  45. Featherweight and all-metal attachment in heavy green plastic box. Yes, feed dogs don't drop on the Featherweight. I use my grandmother's buttonhole scissors to cut the button holes open. I did a video on youtube (most of my vids are bicycling) about using the attachment. I'll stick a link here if that's OK. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-pX02hwRz4&sns=em

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  46. I started sewing aged 23 with shirts using a Jones VX760. This did basic buttonholes. It was not until I was in my mid 40's that I discovered the Singer Professional Buttonholer on Ebay USA, with eyelet buttonholes, bound buttonholes and eyelet plates. Never saw it mentioned in any sewing books or on sale in the UK (where I live). Since then I have made 3 genuine Harris tweed jackets with matching waistcoats (1930's bright colours, not the drab ones in shops) and several other waistcoats. If you want to make serious jackets this is the buttonholer for you. Opens up a "hole" new world !

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  47. Hi, I have a 1945 Singer 66-16. I am very new to vintage machines and am trying to learn what parts can be used with this machine, which is starting to be the love of my life:) I have a "Famous buttonhole worker" that is very similar to yours. The side of the box says "Singer CC.' Does anyone know if I can use this buttonholer with my machine? I would appreciate any advice, thanks so much.

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    1. If it fits on the machine (with the feed dogs either dropped or covered with a plate), I'd give it a try.

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    2. Thank you! I'll give it a go.

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  48. Are button hole attachments specific to a particular machine, i.e. will a White attachment work on a Singer or Elna?

    Bill

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    Replies
    1. Hey Mr Bill. Yep, different models for different machines. Singer machine "copies" can often use the Singer attachment, but not always. I think the templates are pretty universal between Geist and Singer units.

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  49. I wonder if the "Famous" buttonholer was for a White (top clamp) sewing machine. I have template style mechanisms for White machines that use that style attachment. Lee in Florida.

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