Types of Buttons used in Sewing (12 varieties)

All the information you need about the various types of buttons used in sewing - different button styles, materials, sizes, and how to choose the right buttons for your sewing projects.

“Moms are like buttons – they hold everything together”, says a quote. So true about buttons. The jury is still out on some moms!

A button is the most popular of all clothing fasteners (a zipper may disagree). It is usually a small round disc, that secures an opening in garments, accessories and home decor. It is typically made of plastic but other materials are not uncommon. Other than functionality, buttons are great as embellishment as well.

Related posts : Different types of sewing fasteners; Sewing tips for Button. 

Different types of buttons

1. Plastic Buttons

plastic buttons

These are small plastic discs with four holes, made of Polyamide or Polyacrylonitrile. Plastic buttons are commonly used in clothing, from shirts and blouses to trousers and skirts. They are also used in jewelry-making, scrapbooking, and DIY home decor. They are also often used as eyes, noses, or joints in stuffed animals and dolls.

Shirt Buttons – On most button-up shirts there will be 8 such plastic buttons, out of which one is fastened on the back of the packet as a spare. For button-down shirts, there will be two smaller buttons fastening the collar edges down.

Coat Buttons are plastic buttons which are bigger in size than the shirt buttons. 

buttons with 4 holes

Disadvantages : When making couture garments or formal garments, plastic buttons may not provide the same luxurious or elegant appearance as buttons made from natural materials like mother of pearl or horn.

Some plastic buttons may become brittle and prone to breaking or chipping, especially when exposed to extreme temperatures or stress.

A plastic button can get damaged if touched with a hot iron.

2. Metal Buttons

metal buttons

These are the sturdy buttons used on jeans and on leather garments. Jeans buttons and cuff links are metal buttons which are widely used. Check out this post on sewing a jeans button.

Disadvantages of metal buttons: Metal buttons are usually more expensive than plastic ones.

They maynot be suitable for lightweight fabrics or delicate garments. The added weight can cause the fabric to sag or pull.

This is my pet peeve – Some metal buttons, as they may be made of iron or steel, are susceptible to rust and corrosion when exposed to moisture or humidity. This can lead to unsightly stains on the fabric.

3. Shank buttons

different shank buttons

These buttons have a projection on the back of the button instead of the front holes in normal buttons. Shank buttons are raised slightly above the fabric’s surface because of the shank on the back.

These buttons are usually used on blouses, dresses, coats, crocheted and knitted clothing. 

Advantage of shank buttons: They are used when you want to fasten buttons without causing puckering or gathering around the buttonhole. It basically looks neater. 

4. Wooden Buttons

wooden buttons 

These are buttons made of wood – not quite often used but they have a charm of their own. They are mostly decorative.

Advantages of wooden buttons: These buttons have a rustic charm – it adds an organic and natural charm to clothes – best for a bohemian, cottage look.

And wood is a renewable material and it is an environmentally friendlier option than plastic buttons.

Additionally, you can paint, dye, or embellish these buttons to match your projects or clothes. 

5. Fabric Buttons

fabric buttons

Fabric buttons are buttons made with cloth or yarn. These are easy to make and are used as a decoration as well as a fastener. You can check out the posts on making the fabric buttons here and the Chinese frog fasteners 

Chinese Frog Fastener

Another option is Cloth Covered Button made with a kit.

cloth covered buttons

Advantages of fabric covered buttons : Imagine you want buttons in the same cloth as the dress you are making. You get a seamless and coordinated look when you have buttons and the clothing with the same fabric.

You have endless possibilities for matching patterns, colors, and textures when you decide to make cloth buttons. You can decorate the fabric with embroidery, decorative stitches, or fabric manipulation techniques to get even more variety.

Cloth button covering kits are very easy to use. Just pass the buttons through the kit along with your fabric and you have neatly tucked fabric covered buttons.  

6. Toggle button

different types of toggle buttons

Toggle buttons consist of two parts: a bar or rod (the toggle) and a loop or fabric strip (the buttonhole) that secures the toggle in place. They can be made of wood, bone, horn, metal, or plastic. 

Advantages of toogle buttons : Toggles are easy to open and close. They are a good fastener for people of all ages, including children and those with difficulty moving their hands.

It also gives an adjustable fit, as the length of the toggle can be customized to your requirements.

They have a decorative appeal and are used on outerwear like coats, jackets, vests, cardigans, capes.

7. Press Buttons / Snap Buttons

different kinds of press stud buttons

Press buttons or press studs or snap buttons are very easy to use button fasteners. They come in different types, including sew-on, pronged, and adhesive-backed options.

The most common ones are sew-on-buttons but when you want to attach it to thick fabric or leather or vinyl you may need to buy a special tool for a no-sew option – you can search for snap setter hand plier on Amazon to buy these setting tools. These snaps are used on outdoor garments and furniture made of vinyl /plastic-like raincoats, lawn furniture, and pool covers.

They are made of brass and are nickel-plated or plastic which is painted. These snap studs come usually in a silver colour. But you also get them in all other colours which are usually painted. The buttons consist of two parts – a female part and a male part, which come together to snap and form your fastener.

You need to ensure that the buttons snap on securely. But when they are very secure and too tight it may be a problem as well, as it will be difficult to get it open. Well, you can’t win everything. More on attaching snap buttons here.

Advantages of snap buttons: Snap buttons are very easy to open and close. They are usually used on kids’ clothes and bibs and back of adult garments, for this advantage. No fumbling with buttons to pry them out of the buttonholes.

You can use them on clothes that need to be fastened or unfastened rapidly, such as jackets, and kids’ clothes.

Metal snap buttons (brass and stainless steel) are durable, strong, and can withstand regular wear and tear. They are usually resistant to rust and corrosion. Plastic snap buttons, available in multi colors are used on kids’ clothing.

8. Decorative buttons

different types of decorative buttons

These include buttons made with special materials like beads, crystals, Pearls, lac, coconut shells, sea shells, wax, horns of different animals(Ivory) or buttons with interesting shapes. They may be functional but they sure are decorative

9. Shell Buttons

You can buy iridescent real shell buttons (from mother of pearl and abalone). They are very rare. These buttons are made of shells of shellfish which are handcarved or laser cut and painted and hand grilled for the holes.

Problems in using shell buttons : Shell buttons can be delicate and fragile compared to buttons made from plastic or metal – they may chip, crack, or break.

10. Bead buttons

beaded buttons

This tutorial tells you how to make beaded buttons.

11. Novelty Buttons

novelty buttons

These are buttons in curious shapes and sizes. They are usually not functional. 

12. Screw on Buttons

screw on kurta buttons

They are also called screw-back buttons or sew-through buttons.

These buttons have a small hole in the back and have screws with which to attach them to holes made on fabric. It can be used on materials that are difficult to sew – like leather, leather, etc.

Advantages of screw-on buttons : Once screwed on, these buttons are less likely to come loose or fall off. Another advantage is that you can attach them without causing fabric damage or puckering – you just need two small holes to attach them.

The attachment mechanism of screw-on buttons is often hidden beneath the fabric, so you get a clean and neat appearance  on the front as well as the back. 

Related post : Different types of beads.

Different sized buttons

Ligne is the standard measure for buttons. One ligne is equal to 0.635 mm or 0.025 inch and it indicates the diameter of a button. Buttons vary greatly according to the ligne.

Professionals refer to buttons as 12L (Ligne) 14L etc. On shirts usually a 16 Ligne or higher button is used, On sleeves a 15 Ligne button and for button down shirts 12 ligne button on the collars. On pants the button is 24L.

Different holed buttons

This refers to the holes in the buttons. Most buttons have 4 holes but some come with 2 holes. On some these holes are on the back.

And, you must know that, buttons can be stitched on so that the holes look different, as in the picture below.

easy button sewing stitches

Which buttons did our ancestors use?

People in the Indus valley civilization used buttons on their clothing and you know how old they are (think 3300 BC). Since then, all through history, the rich wore clothes with buttons but the poor could not afford them – buttons were made of bronze, horn, shell, and other costly materials.

What are the best buttons for lightweight fabrics like silk or chiffon?

For lightweight fabrics, opt for delicate and lightweight plastic buttons or small shell buttons.

What buttons work well for heavy fabrics like denim or leather?

Metal buttons, horn buttons, or sturdy plastic buttons

What buttons are ideal for formal or eveningwear?

Fabric covered buttons, buttons made from luxurious materials like mother of pearl, crystal, or ornate metal.

Which button styles are best for outerwear?

Large metal buttons, toggle buttons, or double-breasted buttons

Related posts : 10 Different types of openings in clothes ; How to make buttonloops – 3 ways ; Sewing buttonholes with your sewing machine.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Types of Buttons used in Sewing (12 varieties)”

  1. would you know what the fasteners are called that went in the very old slickers? They have to prongs to go into one side of coat that wraps around a small metal piece. On the other side of coat there are open rivets, into which this black metal end goes into and turns to secure..

    • Are you talking about clasp fasteners? or toggle clasps? They work like toggle buttons. They consist of a clasp plate with prongs and a rivet or eyelet plate and this is placed on the other side of the garment.

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