Learning how to Sew a button by hand stitches as well as by the sewing machine is a nice trick to know for the hardened sewist as well as the “I haven’t touched a needle in my life” person around.
What if you are on a trip and a button has popped off from the only shorts in your luggage. Would’nt you like to use that small needle kit you got from your hotel ( It is a good idea to have this kit always in your bag; You never know when a button wants to wander) to be able to wear your favourite clothing.
What if you do not know how to? That seems an extreme case for me but the right way is always good to know .
No sewing skill is needed to sew the simple button with a few hand stitches. Good eyesight to thread the needle and hand ability to pass needle through the fabric are all you need.
But Sewing on buttons when you have lots of buttons can be a pain. As a very impatient person this was one of my grouches before I learned how to.
I used to hesitate sewing on a button with sewing machine thinking ‘what if I hit the button with the needle’. Once I sew my first button on a sewing machine, I was literally hooked. It is so easy. My number one preferred method for sewing buttons for sure, especially if I am sewing several buttons at once.
Basic rules in sewing a button
Buttons are one of the last things you sew when sewing a dress. Buttonholes are made before buttons are stitched on to the garment for correct placement. When sewing from a pattern sew on the center line marking on the pattern. If you have qualms marking with chalk on the face of the garment use tailor tack stitches to mark the button placements.
How to Sew a button
Sew through buttons are flat buttons with two or more holes through which we loop thread and attach it to the fabric. There are many varieties of buttons for you to choose from like see through buttons, irregularly shaped buttons.
Select buttons according to the fabric of your garment. Heavy fabric needs a heavy button and delicate fabric small buttons. A contrasting button over your fabric will add an interesting element to the design of the garment.Use smooth flat textured buttons on smooth textured fabrics and shiny buttons on shiny fabrics. When selecting numbers I go for an odd number of buttons rather than an even number
If you find that you are not able to match the exact color of the fabric for your button choose a darker color rather than a lighter color. A darker colored button will blend in and a lighter one will stand out against the fabric color
If your popped button has chosen to wander off you have a problem at hand. You will have to find a spare one. Most of good quality clothes have a spare on the side seams. If you are at home and your dress does not seem to be having a spare one on the side seams you can pick a similar one from an old shirt or blouse. Unless you have a box full of buttons you have collected over the years in all shapes and sizes. I do have such a collection as well as ones I have scavenged from old throw away clothes.( Handy tip – never throw away an old dress without taking off the buttons )
For replacing an old button choose the button according to the other buttons or as per the size of the buttonhole.
Choosing the Thread – It is best if you can use a button thread for sewing buttons instead of the normal sewing thread as that is very strong and more durable. But it is ok if you do not have that. Top stitching thread or carpet thread are also used as they are also sturdy especially for heavy fabric.
Regarding the color of the thread, normally I use the same colored thread as the garment. If you are sewing clothes choose the same colored thread you used to sew it, if you do not have heavy thread. If you are reattaching try to find a closer color.
When hand sewing the button you can make the thread you have better and more malleable by coating it with the wax from a candle.
Interfacing or not – If you are sewing the button on to a very thin fabric it is a very good idea to add a small piece of interfacing to the area where you will stitch the button. The button will put a lot of strain on the fabric and it may tear and this will be prevented by the addition of the interfacing. Sometimes another small button is used on the other side of the fabric in place of interfacing.
I would take some 20 inch length of thread ( You can wing this measure by measuring from the tip of your fingers to the elbow and add a little extra – to be accurate an arm size) This is a manageable length for sewing anything. Thread the needle with your thread.
Tie a knot catching both the ends.( What I do is to roll the ends around my forefinger and then with the help of my thumb slip the rolled thread off the finger and then tighten it to form the knot.) . It is better if you make this knot twice.
Another option is to leave a long tail ( 1 -2 inch) which you can cut off later. This is the preferred way for professionals because when you finally cut off the end there is no visibly ugly knot at the back. Just stitch 3-4 times to anchor the thread at the start
You have taken the first steps to sewing the button.
Mark where you want the button placed . To know where to place the button exactly for an existing buttonhole, keep it aligned on the placket. Mark through the buttonhole with a pin or a narrow chalk (or whatever marking tool you have). Separate the placket.
Bring up the needle from the back of the fabric to the front at the place where you marked. Make two small stitches on the same place- This is done to anchor the thread there.
Place the button on top of the stitches.Use a piece of scotch tape to keep the button in place if you want to.
You need a button spacer between the button and the fabric to raise the button a bit. This rise will make a small shank which you need to ease the button to the buttonhole.Shank is necessary for the buttons to be buttoned. full stop.I usually place a spare needle across the button and then sew the button stitches over it. You can also place a needle or toothpick under the button as well.
Please note that if there are many layers through which the button will have to be buttoned the shank thickness should be more when compared to the shank of a say a shirt.
Insert the button onto the needle (from the underside of the button) through any of the four holes. Decide if you want a cross-stitch or a parallel stitch and insert the needle (from the topside) back down through the button in the appropriate hole.
For Parallel stitches, stitch across to the other hole atleast 5 times. Do the same for the next pair of holes for a 4 hole button.
As a final step go to the space between the fabric and the button with the needle and thread. Wrap the thread 3 times around the thread loops between the button and fabric. Go to the back ( push your needle through the thread of the shank. Pull the needle and thread all the way through) and finish off.
There are many ways in which you can sew the stitches across the buttons as is seen in the picture below.
There are machines with special button functions and button foot. There are machines with just the button foot; But if you have a zig zag stitch in your machine that is enough for you to sew buttons. You can sew the buttons without a button foot but a button foot is very convenient to have as you can see the stitches clearly.
My button foot has a projection in the back which seems to stop the feed dog (Otherwise it will run off with your fabric and button) and anyway you will be decreasing the length of the stitch to 0 as you start stitching.The width of the stitch should be adjusted to 3 mm – this is standard for all functional buttons (not the decorative kind- show buttons)
Keep the button in position under the foot.
You need to keep it there without shifting. If it is a big button no problem. But for small buttons It is a good idea to take out your glue stick and use it to keep it steady. Just a small dab would do Or a transparent tape also would keep it in place. For me the tape works better. Ensure that the tape is not on the holes.
Insert the button spacer. You need this spacer so that the button has some ease to get into a button hole . The button should be in a slightly raised position after it is sewn on . If you are sewing a button for decorative purposes this space is not needed but if you want to comfortably use the button as a fastener you need that raise between the fabric and the button.
You do not need any sophisticated button spacer just a toothpick or your thin plastic scale would be enough. I have seen my friend use a needle to keep the button up. so there, anything would do.( Some special button foot will have this spacer build into it – that slight rise will be accomplished by a special function in the foot itself -cool. But I donot have this so my toothpick would have to do) I also use a small paper folded many times and keep it under the button. As I said anything will do.
How to stitch a 2 hole button
Set zig zag stitch on your machine. The width has to be adjusted slowly in your machine, one stitch at a time.
First make the stitch width zero ;Leave a long tail before the first stitch. Then adjust the stitch width to 3 mm.
The first stitch has to be taken with caution so that it does not hit the sides of the button. When the needle enters the button hole correctly, make several stitches there ( this is to anchor the thread)
Then set to zig zag stitch and take a single stitch to the other hole to see which is the ideal stitch width. You will need to turn the handwheel with your hand slowly to test it. When you get it right, make 5 or more ( 5 is usually enough but you can do as many as 10 to be sure) zig zag stitches from one hole to the other
Then stay at one hole. reduce stitch width to zero and make 2-3 stitches to anchor the thread. Cut off thread leaving a long tail.
The long tail is important so that you can thread it in a small needle and take it to the back. Otherwise you will get unsightly cut off threads on top of the button
Sew a 4 hole button
If you have a 2 hole button the above stitches are enough. But if you have a 4 hole button you will have to repeat stitching the other holes the same way you have done the previous ones. Raise the foot and change the position of the fabric so that that other two holes are under the foot. Go slow always.
Take the tail of the thread to back of the of garment ( With a needle) and tie a knot with the excess threads or make small stitches and cut off thread.
If you have a liquid fray preventer nothing like it to keep the last thread from unraveling. Apply. Your button is on in minutes. Sew on those dozens of buttons you always wanted to sew .