Two main types of buttons
Shank buttons are buttons that have an extension on the back or wrong side of the button. It extends downward with a single hole going through the extended portion. The thread you use to sew on this type of button you will not see when the button is through the buttonhole. When it is not buttoned, you might be able to see a little of the thread going through the shank, attaching it to the fabric.
How to sew on a button by hand
- Thread (Can be button thread or regular sewing thread.)
- Fabric Marking Pen (Pen is more for new projects than replacing a button.)
- Tape (My trick to easily keeping a button in place. )
- Hump jumper or button spacer (To create a space between the button the fabric.)
- Thumble (Help push the needle through the fabric.)
- Mark the placement of where the button you want to sew on goes on the fabric. Make sure to measure the spacing correctly to get the buttons evenly spaced. (On blouses, I will adjust the button placement because I am a bit busty. I don’t like for my shirts to gap at the bustline. I have in the past made a cute double button pattern all the way down the blouse instead of single buttons.)
- Thread the sewing needle and use the two strands of thread instead of just the one strand of thread. Tie a knot with the two ends together. By doing this, it will create stronger stitching for the buttons.
Sewing on steps
- Place the button where you are about to sew it onto the fabric. If you are using a thicker fabric, then you will need to include a space for the thread to hand loosely when the button is not buttoned. By creating this spacing, you will make sure the button will not be too tight against the fabric and pucker around the buttonhole. To generate this spacing, I will use a little tool which I call a hump jumper. I will use tape to temporary keep the button and the hump jumper into place while I sew the button onto the fabric.
- Sew the button into place about 8 to 10 passes through the button depending on the thickness of the thread.
- Remove the tape and the hump jumper/ button spacer.
- After making those passes through the button and fabric go through the fabric again but not through the button at the same spot. Now wrap the thread around the strands of thread that are going through the material and the button. Go around these threads about 6-8 times. By doing this, it will create an excellent shank for when the button it buttoned. This shank will add strength with the sewn on the button so that the thread will not break easily.
- Now, sew back through the fabric and tie a finishing knot. Clip the thread close to the knot, and you will have your button all sewn onto your fabric.
Sewing a button on with a sewing machine
Sewing a button onto fabric by sewing machine gets a little more involved. It isn’t hard to do, but you do have to be precise. If you mess up, you can break a needle or even throw your sewing machine out of timing which will require you to take your sewing machine in to be repaired. Now that I have scared you to death about sewing on a button with a sewing machine I will tell you how.
First and foremost, make sure your sewing machine can drop or lower the feed dogs. If your sewing machine has fixed feed dogs that will not lower, then you can NOT sew any button on with your sewing machine. The second thing your sewing machine must have is an adjustable zig-zag width stitch. As long as your sewing machine has both of these features, then you are in business.
You can only sew on flat style buttons with your sewing machine.
- Fabric Marking Pen
- Hump jumper or button spacer
Sewing Machine Prep Steps
- The first preparation step is the same as sewing on a button by hand. Be sure to mark the fabric where you want to place the button.
- Place the button with the button spacer on the fabric and use the tape to help hold it into place.
- Thread the sewing machine and wind a bobbin with the thread you will be using to sew the button on. Make sure to use thread that is for a sewing machine and not hand sewing.
- Drop the feed dogs on the sewing machine. These need to be retracted, so they do not advance the fabric. You will be sewing in place when you are sewing a button on. (Some sewing machines have an actual stitch that will drop the feed dogs and set the sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch.)
- Put the foot on the sewing machine that is made for sewing on a button by a sewing machine. (This accessory foot is specific usually for each brand of sewing machine.)
Sewing Machine Stitching Steps
- Place the button with the tape and spacer into sewing position. Lowered the pressure foot lever down onto the actual button. The foot will rest on the button.
- Select a zig-zag stitch (or your automatic button sewing on stitch.)
- Change the zig-zag length to 0
- The width you will adjust accordingly to the width of the buttonholes.
- Next line up the hole with the side of the sewing machine the needle position starts. If it’s to the right side of the foot align the buttonhole with the needle to go into the right hole first.
- Now carefully hand turn the wheel towards you to advance the needle down into the button and fabric. When the needle comes up, it will move to the left and create a zig-zag stitch in place. If the needle is not spaced enough between the other hole then increase the width of the stitch slowly, checking to see when it does line up.
Final sewing machine steps
- After you feel you have the alignment correctly spaced between the holes hand walk the wheel one complete zig-zag. If it doesn’t hit the button, then go ahead and put your foot on the pedal and sew back and forth 10 -12 times or so.
- If your sewing machine has a lock stitch that isn’t just a backstitch then be sure to do that at the end of the stitching so that your thread doesn’t unravel and come loose with wear.
- Lift the pressure foot and take the button you have just sewn from the sewing machine without cutting the threads. Pull out an extra length of the bobbin and top thread. At least 12 inches each. Remove the tape and the spacer from the fabric. Pull the thread from the bottom of the material to the middle portion and wind it around to make a shank on the button as we did by hand sewing. Double knot the thread and you are all done with this button and ready to go onto the next button.
Sew in your buttonholes first before you sew your buttons into place. I do this trick for several reasons. The first is to make sure you have the buttons going on in the right place. They will line up much easier this way. The second is it’s much easier to remove a sewn on a button and stitch it back on than to remove a buttonhole and sew it again. If you have already cut the hole for the buttonhole, then you are out of luck on moving it. Measure twice and cut only once is an excellent motto to follow.