New Gadget – Greist Buttonholer

Regular readers will know that I sew using an industrial plain sewer – this only sews a straight stitch, so I’m a bit stuck when it comes to buttonholes.  I usually take my garment along to work and do it on one of these:

Image sourced here

This is an industrial buttonholer, a rather scary machine for the uninitiated!  Push one pedal to clamp the fabric in place, push the other pedal to start sewing, and once the sewing is finished the knife comes down and automatically cuts the buttonhole open.  A single buttonhole only takes about a second to do, but it sounds like a jackhammer and is definitely the noisiest machine in the factory!

I do have my mother’s 1955 Elna Supermatic that does manual buttonholes – where you select different stitch widths and stitch lengths and patiently work your way around the buttonhole step-by-step, but it isn’t working.

So when I saw a Greist Rotary Buttonholer on TradeMe I was interested.  I first came across these gadgets when Judy posted about one on her blog.  I researched a little online, watched Brian’s video, and discovered you could use them on straight stitch machines as long as the shank is the right height or something…

So I put in a bid for $10 and as it turns out, no-one wanted it more than me!  The box is original vintage, and so is the dust:

Yikes!  I was half expecting a spider to crawl out of there!

All five cams were present though:

And the instruction book too, thank goodness:

The fabric clamp was a bit bent, but I managed to bend it back into shape mysteriously easily…

Then I found out it doesn’t fit my machine!  It is designed for a low shank and my machine is high shank.  After investigating high to low shank converters without success, I came to the conclusion that there was only one other option – to buy another machine…..

But that’s another blog post!

I love my buttonholer now I’ve given it a good clean-up.  And yes – some of you guessed correctly that was how I did the buttonholes on my Tangerine Tango Top!

Do you have a Greist buttonholer or similar gadget?  What do you think – do you love it or loathe it?

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I'm a designer/patternmaker who loves to share my sewing knowledge with others! Follow me as I sew my personal projects, sharing my favourite tricks of the trade along the way.

38 thoughts on “New Gadget – Greist Buttonholer

  1. My Singer buttonholer (much like the Greist) is definitely my Go To attachment for the best looking buttonholes! I usually use it on my Singer 201, but it fits all the old Singer low shanks.

    One little tip: I will usually go around the buttonhole twice, using a slightly narrower stitch width the final time around This raises the stitch a bit & gives it a crisper, tighter look. A little more work than the fancy schmancy modern machines, but you can't beat the appearance, imho 🙂

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  2. Hmmm, how interesting! I didn't even know things like that existed! I have an ordinary very basic 24 yr old domestic Janome that I bought when we were first married, and it has manual buttonholes only. I'll admit to feeling a bit jealous of my mother's and sister-in-law's automatic buttonhole functions, but I think I've perfected my buttonholes over the years so I can't see myself ever upgrading.

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  3. I use the Singer version, the cams look identical. It's great and like Jilly Be suggests I usually go around twice. I always test on a scrap of my fabric first. The only problem I've had is with very bulky fabrics, where it can get a bit stuck or skip stitches. That and the fact you're limited to the sizes of the cams. On the whole though it's very nifty 🙂

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  4. I do all my buttonholes on a Singer buttonhole attachment! I LOVE it! Very easy to use and consistently good results. Wow, that industrial buttonholer sounds a bit scary!!

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  5. I have a Singer as well, eventually they expanded the cams to be a set of around 12 that includes keyholes and a single cam for bound buttonholes. Mine is permanently set up as a buttonhole station on a Singer 501A. I never use the automatic button holder on my Bernina, these are so much better!

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  6. I too have several Singer buttonholer's which appear to be identical to the one you have. Would you like to trade your high shank for a low shank? I need a high for a student and only have low shanks here…..let me know

    p.s. my daughter just moved to NZ and is loving it!

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  7. I received a Singer button hole attachment with my Vintage 500A, however, I have not used it yet. Add that to the to do list because I have a computerized machine that makes perfect button holes, every time. I am spoiled, and tend to fall back on my tried and true method. However, I do like the idea of doing the button hole with a smaller stitch and then again with a larger one.

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  8. I have the Singer equivalent also that attaches to my Grandma's old machine. It was so nice when I figured out how to use it. Now that I have a new machine with an automatic buttonholer (which is fantastic), I don't use it anymore, but I'm quite happy to have it around as a backup.

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  9. I will join the Singer buttonhole attachment fans – it is the only thing I use. For years I have sewn only with my Singer straight stitch, so no zig-zag or options for manual buttonholes. I did a post last year, with a little video http://sunnygalstudio.blogspot.com/search/label/vintage%20buttonhole%20attachment. I even use the tiny template to make holes when I make a matching belt for a dress. They are a tiny bit oval instead of round, but it looks just fine when finished.

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  10. I've got the Singer version which worst just fine on the Singer Featherweight, is somewhat pointless on the Singer 328K zigzag, and won't work at all with the Bernina, but it might be an improvement over Bernina's buttonhole program.

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  11. I love seeing those cool industrial machines. I don't have a separate buttonholer. My machine has the buttonhole foot and does them automatically. The only problem is that it doesn't go beyond 3cm and it struggles over thick and uneven layers…which means… coat buttonholes are a hand-made business for me.

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  12. I've had one for years, but never used it until last week! I have a 1950s straight-stitch Morse that is a LOVELY machine, so I decided to try it. It worked beautifully on the first try. The quality of the stitch is so much nicer than my newer plastic Husqvarna's automatic buttonholer. I've recommended the buttonholer attachment to everyone I know. You can even use them on a newer machine, I can't wait to try it on the Husq.

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  13. So it's MY fault you got this then? Happy to help! I was surprised to get one of mine for $5 after the first auction had closed and nobody bid (I was searching and found a finished auction and asked the seller to relist. No one but me bid that time either). It makes the loveliest buttonholes 🙂

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  14. I have three buttonholers, a Griest that I bought thirty years ago and still use and two Singers that came with Singer machines picked up at the thrift shops. Contrary to common assumptions, you can make a buttonhole larger than the largest cam. The instructions are in the booklet that comes with the device. It's a bit convoluted and involved so I've never bothered to try it. My largest cam is 1 1/16 which is pretty big. Singer probably has an instruction book for the buttonholer on their website if you need one. It will work with the Griest, which is actually a Singer clone.
    And what knid of machine did you get that you used to make the tangerine blouse?
    Theresa in Tucson

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  15. I “inherited” something similar and a Singer machine to go with it. Having tried it out, I decided that I actually preferred the buttonholes on my regular sewing machine. So, machine and gadget went to Goodwill for someone else to find and love.

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  16. I quite like my Greist buttonholer (I think it's not quite as old as yours…), although it's not the cure-all I had initially hoped it would be. It doesn't work well with my Featherweight as the presser-foot lever hits the top of it, so the foot never comes all the way down. It works a bit better with my modern machine, although it still struggles with coat-weight and denim fabrics. I need to try it out with my Pfaff and my White, as they both have dropable feed dogs which would make using it simpler. Of course, they both also do perfectly decent buttonholes of their own, albeit without a keyhole option or the cute rounded ends.

    I am now all intrigued to hear about buying a machine to fit your buttonholer 😉

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  17. So pleased to find this post and your blog! I have a Bernina record and I hate doing buttonholes on it. If I buy an OS adaptor would a Singer buttonhole attachment work on it? I see there are quite a few listed on Trademe.

    Also I'm keen to do one of your classes at Western Springs but it might be later in the year? I would love to do a class similar to a sewalong (e.g. a tailored jacket class), you should run one of these!

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  18. I too have a Singer buttonholer, it came with my thrift store Singer 66-16. The metal templates are interchangeable and more sizes are available. It makes great buttonholes but they're harder to line up than the 4-step buttonholes my Pfaff makes. Guess I need more practice!

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  19. So did you use this on your industrial? A few years ago I did a little “flowchart” about my adventures in a quest for the perfect buttonhole (http://leanmeansewingmachine.blogspot.com/2009/08/buttonhole-buttonhole-where-can-you-be.html). I still don't have it. I do however have a current Viking, a vintage Singer, a vintage Necchi, a straight stitch industrial and three buttonholers. None are compatable! I haven't given up, just trying think before I buy anything else!

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  20. I'm not very knowledgeable about what attachments fit what machines. Maybe someone else can chip in with a more helpful answer!

    I think Bridget is taking bookings for Term 2 already, if that is not too early for you. If the course is popular I am sure they will be held later in the year too, but there are no guarantees at this stage as it is a brand new course!

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  21. No it didn't work on my industrial, it didn't fit the presser bar and if it did it would sit too high. I would have thought you would have something that worked with all those options you have Dana!
    Off to check your buttonhole adventures now!

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  22. I learned to sew on my mother's 1950s White sewing machine, which my father bought for her when she graduated nursing school. It had a buttonholer much like the one you pictured. It worked GREAT! My father bought me a Montgomery Ward machine for my college graduation, and also the buttonhole attachment for that machine. Turns out that all the gears for that one were not metal but plastic, and the only buttonhole I managed to make with the attachment stripped the gears. It never worked again. Have made do with a five-step do-it-yourself method ever since (highly unsatisfactorily). But this has forced me to explore the World of Bound and/or Faced Buttonholes, so I can only be grateful that I am still growing brain cells. I guess.

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  23. What a cool find! I have memories as a teen of using a Singer buttonholer on my mom's old machine. Last year I found a very nice vintage one on ebay, as my machine at the time only had manual 4-step ones and I really wanted the keyholes. Although it was (I think) the right shank, it also kept hitting the presser bar. Sigh, I hope I find a way to use it someday.

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  24. Mom's Kenny in the basement has one of these. I never liked the way the button holes look. I much prefer the '60's Kenny and the stitch carefully with the zig zag and adjust the stitches as you go way of buttonholing. They look much nicer.

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  25. I have a Singer buttonholer that came in a pink football shaped case. I bought it because it was so cool-looking, and since it only cost $1.00 I thought I could take a chance on it. I haven't had an opportunity to see if it fits my Singer 401 yet, but your post inspires me to pull it out of the cupboard to find out. My Bernina 1530 makes lovely buttonholes unless you're too near a thick edge which can be a problem. (That's when I have to resort to a manual buttonhole.)

    –C.B.

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  26. I was going to use a Singer buttonholer in the pink case, but discovered that it was for a slant needle machine. Darn! But then I remembered the Greist lurking in the back of my sewing cabinet. It's the same one as above…right down to the box. But it didn't have any cams. Good news! The metal Singer cams work with the Greist. Yessss!

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