Buttonhole Foot Not Moving – Reasons and Solutions

Modern sewing machines come with a buttonhole foot. This foot is an additional feature of these sewing machines.

This foot makes the job of sewing a buttonhole quite easy. But, like most electric device parts, it can bring problems over time. An example of such problems includes the buttonhole foot itself not moving. There are so many factors that cause this problem, and of course, there are solutions to these causes. If you would love to find out both, continue reading.

Why Does Buttonhole Foot Stop Moving?

Buttonhole Foot Stop Moving

Troubleshooting is the best way to find out the possible reasons the buttonhole foot stops. These causes are avoidable and fixable too.

Being familiar with these causes will help you in the troubleshooting process. And being familiar with the solutions will help you fix this problem with ease. Below are some of these causes and their possible solutions.

1. There Might Be Something Interfering With the Buttonhole Foot Movement

Interference causes restraint in the buttonhole foot movement. The interference can be in the form of touching the fabric you are sewing. Besides, you may find yourself touching the fabric under the buttonhole foot with your hand.

Moreover, you can also touch it with the toe of your foot at the same time. Touching it with your toe would be because the fabric reaches the floor.

Thus, you may be wondering how your fabric would reach the floor to the extent of touching it with your toe. Well, the reason is simple, you don’t make buttonholes on small fabric. And the longer or wider the fabric, the higher the chances of it reaching the floor. So that’s why you could end up touching the fabric with your toe.

If the fabric touches the buttonhole lever, it will also interfere with how the buttonhole foot operates. It can be one of the results being the foot stopping to move.

Solution – Feed the Fabric Correctly

The solution to this is simple. First, make sure you feed the fabric carefully by hand as you are sewing the buttonholes. Also, make sure your hand or toe does not interfere with the sewing process.

To make sure the fabric does not touch the buttonhole lever, always pull the lever down.

2. You May Not Be Keeping the Buttonhole Foot Level

You May Not Be Keeping the Buttonhole Foot Level

If you don’t keep the buttonhole foot level, the feed dogs may fail to feed the fabric.

Keeping the buttonhole foot flat can be somewhat tricky. The reason is the buttonhole foot is different from the presser foot. It is longer and wider.

That’s why it is not easy to keep it flat as you sew. So many times, we have uneven layers of fabric on the seam allowance while we sew. Besides, we also sew too much near the edge of the seam allowance.

Uneven layers in the seam allowance cause the buttonhole foot not to stay flat too. Sewing near the seam allowance also causes the same problem. These two causes can even tip the foot. Thus, it will result in the feed dogs losing their traction. As a result, they fail to feed the fabric properly.

In the end, it also causes the fabric to stop moving, and the needle gets stuck on one spot. The result is a lot of stitches appearing on the spot the needle stops.

Solution – Keep the Buttonhole Foot Flat

The solution is to keep the buttonhole foot as flat as possible. It may be challenging, but it is necessary. It will help the feed dogs have even traction throughout the sewing process.

If the fabric or seam layers are uneven, you need to compensate for different layers. It means making them even by adding fabric to the side with fewer layers. For example, balance the equation if you have four layers of buttonhole fabric on one side and two on the other side.

You can do this by adding two pieces of fabric on the two layers to make it four. Then, to keep the two added pieces stable, glue them or use the fusible web as interfacing.

3. You Might Be Working on Stretchy Fabric

You Might Be Working on Stretchy Fabric

Stretchy fabric can be tricky to work with at times. That’s because it tends to shift as you are making a buttonhole. As a result, that makes it difficult for the feed dogs to feed fabric evenly.

Sometimes the upper level of the stretchy fabric can move differently from the lower level fabric while sewing. It causes the fabric to form layers and causes the buttonhole foot to jam.

Solution – Use Stabilizers While Sewing Stretchy Fabric

Using stabilizers and interfacing is the best way to deal with stretchy fabric.

You can use a temporary embroidery stabilizer either on the top, bottom, or both sides of the fabric. An example of a stabilizer you can use is the tear-away embroidery stabilizer. The stabilizer will make the fabric stiffer as such; it will be easy to sew.

It will also help you to improve buttonhole quality. And the good news is, you get to remove the stabilizer once done with your stitches. But take note that only temporary stabilizers are removable. So choose the stabilizers wisely.

You can also attach interfacing to the back of the fabric. Interfacing is a textile attached to make an area of the garment more rigid, stiff and add body to the fabric. For example, you can do interfacing on the buttonhole area. It will help to prevent the fabric from stretching and make it stable, just like stabilizers.

4. Your Sewing Machine Might Be on Wrong Settings

Your Sewing Machine Might Be on Wrong Settings

Sometimes the buttonhole foot fails to move if the sewing machine settings are wrong. For example, sometimes, you change your sewing machine settings when working on some other project. These settings may not work well with the buttonhole foot.

Tension settings are one of the settings to cause problems. It could be that the sewing machine is on a tension or foot pressure which is not ideal for a zigzag buttonhole stitch. Moreover, the tension or foot pressure could also not be ideal for the fabric you are using.

It could also be that the speed is too fast and the stitch width is wrong. But, unfortunately, fast speed and wrong width are not good for a zigzag buttonhole stitch. The reason is, this stitch is special, and it requires a narrow width and short length.

Sometimes it could be that you are using a very thick thread or the wrong needle. These will cause buttonhole foot problems too.

Solution – Change the Machine Settings According to Your Task

Adjust your settings to suit the task. It means adjusting the tension, foot pressure, speed, and width to suit the buttonhole sewing task.

Moreover, ensure that you are using the right needle and thread. Moreover, avoid using buttonhole thread meant for hand sewing.

The reason is it tends to be very thick and does not work well with the sewing machine.

It is important to note that adjustment of these settings will also depend on the fabric type. For example, you can adjust the length of the stitch and make it either long or small to fit your fabric type.

5. Clogged Needle Plate Area

Clogged Needle Plate Area

Your sewing machine’s needle plate area can become clogged over time. It could be a result of loose threads, lint, or dust buildup. It becomes worse if you don’t clean your sewing machine regularly.

If the needle plate area is clogged, it stops the buttonhole foot from functioning well.  

Solution – Make Sure There Is No Dust or Lint

Thread, lint, or dust buildup up is best removed by cleaning. You can clean using a mini vacuum cleaner or a small clean brush.

What’s more, cleaning should happen as often as possible. Even after every project if you have to do it.

6. You Might Be Pulling the Buttonhole Foot With Force

Sometimes you get excited or overwhelmed, and you end up pulling your buttonhole foot with force.

Well, pulling the buttonhole foot with force, whether when sewing, attaching, or removing it, will create problems. Likewise, pulling with force curves the buttonhole foot and stops it from functioning well.

Solution – Gently Handle the Buttonhole Foot

Care is the only thing you need to solve this problem. Make it a point always to attach, remove and sew with care to avoid bending the buttonhole foot.

How Do You Fix a Buttonhole?

You can fix the buttonhole either by hand or using a sewing machine. If it is short, you should sew over the stitches that are still there. If it is too big, you can resize it.

But, you can do this by first deciding the size of the buttonhole you want. After that, the next thing you should do is to sew the part you want to get rid of at the moment. It will close that part of the buttonhole and leave you with your desired size.

Can You Unpick Buttonholes?

Sometimes, we need to deal with buttonholes that turn out bad. But, of course, you can unpick such buttonholes manually or by using tools.

As unpleasant as it is, you can do it using a seam ripper to cut through the buttonhole stitches. But, make sure you cut through the buttonhole on the back of the garment and not the front.

What’s more, it is advisable first to press the fabric with steam to relax its fibers before you start removing the stitches. However, one needs to be careful to avoid damaging the fabric.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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