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Message Board > Beginner's Forum > Scoured the forums, but still stumped! ( Moderated by EleanorSews)

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Scoured the forums, but still stumped!
Can you help?
Member since 12/11/12
Posts: 4
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Date: 12/11/12 4:59 PM

Hi, everyone! I'm new to the site and would have never found it if I hadn't come across a snag in my sewing. I don't know many sewers IRL so this treasure trove of knowledge is amazing! Silver lining, I guess.

I have a Kenmore 385.15516 (manual here: ManualsOnline Kenmore).
I'm trying to use the automatic buttonhole foot for the first time. It makes the first bar tack, goes up the left side, and then keeps stitching in the same place, never making the second bar tack or the right side.

Troubleshoots I've tried already:
- making sure the buttonhole lever is down all the way
- making sure the buttonhole lever is correctly placed between the brackets on the foot
- making sure the stitch selector and stitch length are correct
- changing the needle
- rethreading the machine
- oiling the machine
- cleaning the shuttle

I'm sewing with all-purpose thread on some quilting print scraps with iron-on interfacing.

Any ideas??

Thanks in advance for any answers, and for this fantastic community!

loti  Friend of PR
Member since 5/27/04
Posts: 3634
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In reply to brooke.lynne <<

Date: 12/11/12 6:06 PM

If it were a manual buttonhole attachment, I would say there was something wrong with the template. Has the machine been oiled lately, if there are cams that assist with the buttonhole it might just be getting stuck there. Oiling is the cheapest first fix, if that doesn't help, it might need to go in for a service.

Maybe someone who is more familiar with the machine will chime in.

"A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
Coco Chanel

Stash Sewn in 2011 148.5 Yds
Stash Sewn in 2012.... counting...

Advanced Beginner
Member since 6/11/10
Posts: 1575
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Date: 12/11/12 6:48 PM

Another possibility - Could it be the timing? That happened to me with my 4-step buttonhole on a manual machine, and it was timing out of whack.

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Date: 12/11/12 9:01 PM

When you pull the buttonhole lever down are you making sure that it's behind the bracket on the foot? That's what tell's the machine to start the thread bar and go up the other side based on the size button put in the foot.


Mufffet  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/11/12 9:14 PM

I agree with simplystitches that you probably don't have the lever in the right place - take a good long look at the picture on p. 64 of your manual and a look at the side of your buttonhole foot after you have the button in the back of it and you pull the lever down - is it exactly where it is in the picture? It should sew by itself - don't pull it or anything, and if the lever is in the correct place, it hits the back stop thingy there and makes the machine do the bar tacking and go down the other side. I do hope you can get it to work for you. Let us know. And welcome to PR!

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
--Dalai Lama

I have sewing machines

Marie367  Friend of PR
Member since 5/28/11
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In reply to brooke.lynne <<

Date: 12/11/12 9:30 PM

This looks similar to my Kenmore. If it is sewing ok otherwise it is probably ok and just a setting. It sounds like you are doing it correctly but I think there is probably something you are missing. Go through the steps again. I notice in the manual it states to After a button hole is sewn,move the stitch to _ by turning the stitch selector, then return the stitch back to " H"to reset for sewing the next buttonhole(pg 64). Did you do this? Also it says to make sure the stretch stitch is not selected on the dial (pg 30). You also have a stretch stitch balance control that needs to be in the right position. Could any of this be the issue?

mastdenman  Friend of PR
Member since 1/12/04
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Date: 12/12/12 0:15 AM

Also make sure that there are no seams or lumps near the button hole. It is sure to hang up every time.


January 2009 to January 2010 81 yards out and 71yards in January 2010 to the present 106.7 yards out and 146.5 yards in. January 2011 to the present: 47 yards out and 69 yards in.

Miss Fairchild
Miss Fairchild  Friend of PR
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In reply to brooke.lynne <<

Date: 12/12/12 0:30 AM

It seems as if you've tested all the possibilities you can test; especially with the buttonhole lever. I recently had this same problem but with another brand of machine (Janome) and when I took it in (I too went through the same things on your very thorough checklist), I found out it was the timing. That's something you can't fix, sad to say.

"Play the cards you are dealt, but choose who is sitting at the table"..AARP magazine

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Member since 5/2/09
Posts: 2808
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Date: 12/12/12 2:20 AM

What is supposed to make it work and know when to stop sewing one side and turn around and do the other side, or just how long to make a button hole is that when machine set up right, setting wise, and that lever pulled down, the lever has to be, even to just start out, in between the two plastic bumps/protrusions on the left side of it. Then as you sew the lever stays in the same place, (as it's attached to the machine) but part of the button hole foot, moves closer to the lever. When the pulled down lever touches/bumps into the plastic bumps/protrusion on the button hole foot, that is it's signal to it's self, to do something different, and sew the other side of the button hole.

If for some reason when you sew, and you are watching it do that, and that pulled down lever is never "bumping" into a bump there, then that probably would not happen. So watch it. Maybe you have it on backwards?

Then take off the button hole foot, and just put a zig zag foot on there, go ahead and set up machine all over again for a buttonhole the same way. Of course with no button at all, as zig zag foot, has no place to put one. Just let it sew a bit with the zig zag foot. Now use your hand, to bump the lever hanging down instead. That should trick machine into thinking it should change stitch direction (as it does not know your hand is not part of a button hole foot, that you don't even have on there). If it still does not do that, and reverse directions for you (and how you can make buttonholes larger than a button that will fit in the real button hole foot) then probably instead of you doing something wrong, then probably some about the machine, that is making it not work like you would expect instead. You could try that and see what happens.

HDWen  Friend of PR
Advanced Beginner
Member since 12/26/11
Posts: 2140
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Date: 12/12/12 6:12 PM

oh my! My pfaff did this and everyone was puzzled, cleaned, etc... nothing helped, until this gentleman at the repair shop moved the NEEDLE position (I had it on 1, he moved it to 5)... didn't keep going back the left bar, came back around *what an easy fix*

? Hope one of these helped, buttonholes are frustraing enough without feet problems

I have a great enthusium for sewing, but lack talent to be great.


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