March 1, 2013

Greist mechanical buttonholer on a handcranked Singer 99

I've been making all buttonholes by hand since I moved to exclusive use of my treadle machine a little over a year ago. I like handmade buttonholes (although some of mine can get pretty ugly!), but even doing them poorly takes me a lot of time.

Last year I bought a mechanical buttonholer for something like $30 on ebay, figuring I could make an adapter to put it on my D-9. It is a Greist, and is all metal construction with die cast templates. After getting the buttonholer, it looked like it was going to be more challenging than I had hoped to make the pieces to put it on the W&W, so its been sitting on the shelf while I spend a lot of time doing buttonholes by hand.

But just the other week I brought in a hand crank Singer 99 for my kids, and it has a standard low shank foot. So last weekend I tried putting the buttonholer on to do the holes for a button fly on the second muslin for the pants I've been trying to make for the last couple months. It is fantastic! Quick to set up, easy to use, fast and efficient, and makes a nice buttonhole. It is also entertaining to watch, and has a nice sound to it as you crank: click-click-click-click...

Here is my buttonholer layed out on the counter for inspection by Buster. My unit came with a number of cams, and I see that extras are not hard to find on ebay.

Here is my fly getting buttonholes. So much faster than hand buttonholes! Once they are layed out and everything is set up (tensions, stitch length/width, etc.) it takes less than a minute to do a buttonhole.

With setup and cleanup time added it, it would make sense to do one buttonhole by hand. But if there are more, this charming contraption will start to shine. There is a discussion on Treadle On right now about buttonhole options for old sewing machines, and Helen Howes from the UK wrote that she has done 10,000 buttonholes with her attachment! Awesome!

To sum up, I am extremely pleased with my buttonholer and looked forward to using it extensively. For a few buttonholes that are highly visible or that I want to make especially interesting, I'll continue to improve my hand work. But for the rest I'll be cranking them out (quite literally) with the Greist on the 99.


Peter Lappin said...

Congratulations, Holly! Vintage buttonholers are the best -- so reliable, easy to make, and good looking.

Perhaps a compromise for you would be a bound buttonhole: still uses the machine, but more "couture" than the standard mechanical buttonholer buttonholes. And MUCH faster than stitching a buttonhole by hand (or so I gather: I've never made on that way).

Holly Gates said...

Hey Peter, great to see you here. And thanks for the suggestion on bound buttonholes.

Actually a few people mentioned the idea of bound buttonholes on Treadle On when just before I moved out my electric machine I asked what people did about buttonholes with antique straight stitch machines.

At the time I looked at the process and concluded it looked dubious to me that it would save any time over doing a hand buttonhole, and I didn't feel the look would be right for all situations. That being said maybe I should reconsider, now that I have a deeper understanding of various non-electronic buttonhole options!

mssewcrazy said...

I've got this same 99 handcrank and my mother's greist buttonholer that hasn't been out of its box in 25 or more years. I am going to set mine up and try this as the 99 mostly sits around doing nothing and I could just leave it set up most of the time for button hole making. I didn't really know until recently the hand cranks could use the attachment. I am going to check this out one day.

Anneg said...

Totally agree with you on the 99 and Griest buttonholer. I got my 99 in Feb and buttonholer in March. I tried it last week and even the first button hole was perfect, so it will be my go to machine and attachment for buttonholes from now on!