Sewing a button is as fundamental as it gets when it comes to sewing. Whether you’re sewing buttons on a new creation, or repairing a popped button on a beloved garment, sewing a button is a vital hand sewing skill that everyone should know!
- Fabric thread – mercerized cotton or general purpose thread is best. Double up for efficient button stitches!
- Needle – Sharps hand needles, size 9 average works well.
In addition to your basic needle and thread, there’s a few optional, yet very helpful, tools:
Beeswax – a thread strengthener and detangler. Sewing a button is best with doubled thread, and beeswax helps detangle the 2 threads. It also adds strength to the thread, something needed to keep the button on.
Thimble – a thimble is “handy” for sewing by hand, it helps protect your finger, and helps push the needle through.
Needle Threader – threading a needle can be a challenge in itself, having a needle threader can expedite the process.
Disappearing Ink fabric marking pen – marking where the button goes is paramount, this ink will disappear with time, heat or water.
Toothpick – a toothpick serves as spacer between the button and the fabric when making a thread shank. You could also use a machine needle, just watch out for the point!
Now let's talk about 3 basic techniques for sewing buttons by hand for effective, professional results! The above video will walk you through each one of these techniques in detail. Be sure to save this video for when you get in a pinch!
Creating a thread shank is highly recommended for 4-hole buttons. Shirt buttons are predominantly 4-hole buttons and when examining a professionally made shirt, a 4-hole button with a shank is standard. The thread shank allows for the thickness of the joining fabric, so when buttoned, both fabrics will lay flat. The thread shank also joins 4 sets of button thread stitches on the underside of the button, cinching them together so that they fit properly within the buttonhole.
Simply stitching in and out joining the button to the fabric will create a stable button, flush with the fabric. It’s best used when the joining fabric isn’t very thick, the button won’t be heavily used, or for decorative buttons. Sewing a 2-hole button doesn’t necessarily require a thread shank.
Sewing a shank button is as easy as stitching in and out. The key here is the direction of the shank, making sure it’s the same orientation as the button hole for a proper fit. Shank buttons are common with coats and jackets. Depending on the thickness of the fabric, a shank button might require an additional thread shank, so the joining fabric doesn’t pucker.
Happy sewing buttons!