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Maybe your shirt button just fell off and you don’t have enough time to take it to the dry-cleaners. Or maybe you have decided to add ‘learn how to sew a button’ to your life skills repertoire along with separating colors in laundry and writing down every dinner recipe you learn.
Here’s how to sew a button like a pro, whether a flat sew-through button or those funny shank ones with a loop on one side.
How To Sew a Flat Button
You’ll see flat buttons on shirts, pants and shorts. Usually, every clothing item comes with an extra button in a small bag. It may also be sewn into the hem of your shirt or pants. The technique for flat buttons is mutliple loops in the holes until the button is secure. Here’s how to do it:
- Pin or Second Needle
If you have a lot of thread, cut off 24 inches and double it over. Thread the needle and ensure an equal amount of thread on either side. If you only have 12 inches, you will use a single thread.
You must make a knot to secure the thread for both the single and double threads. Secure the tail end by circling it around your forefinger and pull the tail into the circle to make a knot.
- X marks the spot: Make a small mark with a pen where you want to sew the button onto the fabric then make an X stitch. The X stitch will also anchor the thread to prevent it from loosening over time. To do this, you will run the thread to the back of the fabric, then bring it up about a mm away from your starting point to make a line. Repeat with a crossing line to complete the X.
- Attaching the button: Place the flat side of the button on the fabric with the ridged/patterned part facing you. Start sewing by pushing the needle and threading through the first buttonhole to make a loop through the second buttonhole. Add a pin or needle in the loop between the button and thread to create a spacer. A spacer ensures that the button is flexible enough for you to button up later.
- Stitch away: Push the needle up through the third hole, connect it to the fourth then push the needle into the back of the fabric. Repeat this loop on both sides three to four times until the button sits snugly against the fabric.
- Create a shank: Repeat the loop a last time, but instead of pushing the needle up through the button, let it come back up through the fabric. Turn the needle sideways and bring it up from under the button. Make a loop around the bridges of the thread you created under the button. Repeat this loop six more times. Pull the thread tightly and push the needle back into the base of the fabric.
- Secure the button: turn the fabric around to the threaded side without the button. Make a small knot with the thread. The easiest way is to make a simple overhand loop with the thread. Pin the thread against the back of the fabric, tighten the knot then cut off the excess thread.
How To Sew A Shank Button
Remember the ‘shank’ step above for the flat button? You’ll use a similar technique for this button since it has no holes in the front and one loop in the back.
Shank buttons are usually used for blazers and coats. Contrasting buttons are the technical features that define a blazer, which is why you see most blazers with contrasting buttons made of mother of pearl or embossed silver. It allows designers to show off a unique pattern or design on the button to complement the garment.
- Shank button
You need a double thread for this to ensure it is secure. Cut a 24-inch piece of thread, put it in the needle of the eye and pull until you have two equal sides. Tie a knot at the tail end.
- Mark the spot: Position your button and ensure it sits on the right spot. Use a pen or pencil to mark the spot.
- Secure the thread: push the needle through the material from the back and pull it all the way. Thread the needle into the button’s shank, then push into the fabric to make one loop. Repeat this step several times until the button feels secure. Four to six loops should be enough.
- Tie the thread: Push the needle and thread through the fabric. Make a small loop on the back side of the fabric. Thread the needle through to make a knot. Cut the thread.
Sewing Tips and Tricks
Maybe you knew how to sew a flat button but needed some help with a shank button, or maybe you’re a beginner and need some help figuring out how to make sure you replace your buttons seamlessly. Here are some tips for a pro-level button replacement:
If you have time, practice on a separate piece of fabric. Although the instructions are easy to follow, you may feel better knowing you can make mistakes and correct them without running your favorite shirt. While you’re at it, practice other sewing or altering techniques like hemming or sewing darts.
Use excess thread
While the instructions recommend 24 inches of thread, add a few more inches to be on the safe side. You’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to rethread the needle when you’re on the last step of securing the button.
Match the thread to the fabric (or pick a contrasting color)
Pick out a similar color to your shirt or pants if you want your sewing to be invisible. If you want a decorative or stylish effect, pick a contrasting color for sew-through buttons for a suave detail. You can also play with sewing patterns, an X, Square or an Arrow instead of two loops on either side of the button.
Use the Pinch method to thread the needle
You may have seen your grandmother or friend push the thread through the needle. While you can get it by doing it that way, it takes longer if you aren’t used to it. Make it easier for yourself by following these steps:
- Pinch down on the thread between your thumb and index finger. You should see a tiny part of the tip instead of a long one.
- Bring the needle towards the pinched thread. Keep your fingers pressed together to create an oblong shape that fits easily into the needle.
- Push the eye of the needle onto the tip of the thread.
- When you part your fingers, the needle should be threaded.
Sewing a Button in a Few Easy Steps
Now that you know how to sew a button, you can replace your shirt button or change your blazer buttons on a whim, knowing that it’ll look sleek and professional.