It’s early in the morning and you’re fumbling around in a sleepy daze trying to find something clean to wear to work. You settle on your favourite shirt because it never needs ironing and the cheery colour detracts attention from your sleep deprived eyes. (Note to self: must stop staying up late watching Gossip Girl dvds…) You stumble into the kitchen to put a coffee on, still doing up the buttons on your shirt when you here a light tinkling sound. A button has fallen off and is rolling across the tiles. NOOOOOO!
Okay, so I am being overly dramatic, but it is frustrating when buttons fall off. Particularly if you can’t sew it back on yourself and need to call your mother/aunt/sister/brother/dressmaker to fix it for you. But please don’t be dismayed. It’s really easy to sew buttons on yourself and I’m going to show you how to do it.
With most factory made garments, flat buttons are sewn on with a fancy machine. While this is great because it’s a really fast method for attaching buttons, it does mean that once the thread is pulled, it will unravel quickly and the button will fall off. If you notice any loose threads pulling from your buttons it’s best to take the button off and sew it back on straight away so the button doesn’t fall off later without you noticing when you’re out and about. Hand sewn buttons are much stronger and shouldn’t unravel.
There are two slightly different ways to sew on buttons. The method you use will depend on the type of button – flat or shank. Flat buttons are, well, flat. The holes go through from the front to the back of the button and are visible from the right side of the button. They can have either two holes or four holes. A shank button does not have a visible hole from the right side of the button. Instead, they have a shank with a hole going through it on the back of the button. Pretty straight forward, isn’t it?
First off I’ll show you how to sew on a flat button, as they are more commonly used on shirts. All you need is a needle, thread to match your button and garment and the secret tool, a matchstick. Yes, a simple little matchstick makes a big difference to the final result. Start by threading your needle with a double thread for extra strength and knot the ends together. (For more on threading needles and knotting thread see this post on basic hand sewing.)
Poke the needle from the wrong side of your garment through the spot where you want the button, so the knot of the thread is on the inside of the garment.
Do a tiny stitch to secure the thread and to prevent the knot pulling through the fabric.
Lay the matchstick next to the thread on your garment where the button is to be attached. Thread the needle through one of the button holes and hold the button on top of the matchstick.
Poke the needle down through the other button hole and through the fabric on the other side of the matchstick. At first it might be a little bit fiddley to hold the button on the matchstick, but once you’ve done the first stitch or two it should hold it in place.
Poke the needle back up through the garment and back through the first hole again then down through the other hole to the inside of the garment again. Repeat this stitch a few times depending on how big the button is. A small button may only need 3 stitches through the button holes, but a large button my need 5 or more.
Once you’re happy with how many times you’ve stitched through the button, carefully remove the matchstick. Be careful not to pull the thread tight.
The stitches should be a little loose from where you removed the matchstick.
Now the reason for the matchstick should start to make more sense. With the needle pushed through to the right side of the garment, hold the button away from the fabric, so you can see a gap between the button and the fabric where the stitches are. Wrap the thread around the stitches four or so times. This creates a “neck” behind the button, which gives room for the fabric around the buttonhole and makes it much easier to do up your buttons.
Poke the needle back through to the wrong side of the garment but don’t cut your thread yet or it will unravel! This last step is very important. On the inside of the garment, at the back of where you’ve attached your button, do three very tiny stitches on top of one another to secure your stitching.
Now you can cut the thread. And that’s it! You’ve finished!
If your button has four holes you can either sew a little cross by sewing to the diagonally opposite holes, or you can sew across vertically and have two little bars of stitching. It’s up to you.
I know some people will just sew on buttons without using a matchstick to create the neck. That is okay, but you need to be careful with the tension of your stitches so you can still wrap the thread around to form a neck. Otherwise the button will be so tight against the fabric that it might be difficult to do up the buttons and they won’t sit as nicely. I like my buttons to sit nicely.
Stay tuned for my next learn to sew post and I’ll show you how to sew on shank buttons.
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