Sewing on a button is one of the most frequently needed sewing skills and yet many people are not confident at doing it.

Sewing on two hole buttons

I always begin sewing buttons on with double thread.  After threading your needle pull the ends of the thread in line with each other so that you will be sewing with double thickness.  It just saves a bit of time, and I’m all for that.

Make a couple of stitches where you want to sew the button just to anchor the thread.  Poke the needle through one of the holes of the button and push the button down to the fabric.  Turn the button so that the holes are where you want them to be, hold in place and push the needle back through the other hole of the button to the back of the fabric.

Bring the needle back up throught the first hole to the top, then push it down again through the second hole.  As you are pushing your needle up from behind the fabric, it often hits solid button rather than the hole:  peek behind and you’ll be able to see from the previous stitches where to place the needle to bring it up in the same place as before.

Repeat this about a dozen times.  Sewing on a large button needs a few more stitches, sewing on a small button might need a few less.  Too many stitches for the size of button that you are sewing on can make it look bulky, and too few might not be strong enough.

When you feel that you have enough stitches to sew the button on, push the needle up through the fabric beside the stitching but still underneath the button so that it won’s show.  Wind it around the centre between the button and fabric about six times.  This adds strength and makes it less likely that the fabric will tear if the button comes off.  Finish sewing the button on with a stitch to anchor the end of the thread, again under the button so that it won’t show.

Sewing on a four hole button

Sewing on a four hole button is the same as sewing on a two hole button.  You just need to sew the holes two at a time.  Here you have the choice of sewing two lines next to each lik an = sign, or across the diagonals to make an X.  I don’t think it matters which way you do sew the buttons on.  It comes down to personal preference or whether you need to match other buttons if you are repairing a garment.

Sewing on a covered button

Some buttons are solid across the top and have a loop underneath made either of whatever the button is made of, or made of metal.  To sew these buttons on, begin sewing the button as before with a couple of stitches to anchor the thread.

Pass the needle through the loop of the button and bring the button down to the fabric.  Pass the needle through the fabric to come up on the other side of the loop and then pass it through the loop again.  Repeat a dozen times, then wind the thread round as before and anchor the end of the thread.

Self covered button

These buttons are great fun to sew and can make a real difference to the professional look of a sewing project.  Most haberdashers sell the kits which have a plastic button body and a washer to go underneath it.

Cut a circle of fabric to the size suggested on the packet for your size of button.  Try and centre the circle on an interesting piece of pattern in your fabric as it is the centre that will show on the finished button.

Sew a line of running stitch (like basting but much smaller stitches) round the edge of the circle.  Place the button in the centre of the circle and pull both ends of the thread to gather the fabric.  Tie a knot to keep the fabric gathered and push the washer on to the bottom of the button to hold the fabric in place.

Take care to have the bumpy side of the washer facing up so that it grips the fabric.  To be sure that you have pushed the washer far enough, use a bobbin for extra push.  Usually there is a click when the washer is in place.

Why sew buttons on?

Buttons don’t have to be functional only.  A really interesting button sewn on a project looks great:  the button can be sewn on as a decoration on a bag, as part of an embroidered pattern, or even as an alternative way of holding the layers together on a quilt.

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