How to Sew Buttons and Buttonholes

Buttons come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Some are made from glass, others from plastics and metals. They fall into 2 general categories:

Flat buttons have two or four holes for stitching through in order to attach them to a piece of material.

Shank buttons are flat buttons without the holes cut all the way through. They either have a stitching hole cut into the back of the button itself or a metal loop at the back of the button to form a shank.

When buttons fall off, sewing them back onto your coat or blouse is fairly easy as you can see where it has fallen off from and where to sew it back onto. To prevent the button from coming off again it is best to use double thread. The easiest way to do this is to thread your needle, pull the thread through so the needle is in the middle, and knot the ends together. Adding new buttons and creating button holes can be a little trickier; here are some pointers on how to do this.

The Button

1) Get the two fabrics together as they would be worn and mark exactly where you want your button to go on both pieces. Tailors chalk (rubs off when you’ve finished) can be useful to do this, mark the buttonhole machine with an ‘I’ shape, or use pins to mark the area. Generally it is a good idea to allow 2mm on top of the button’s diameter/width for the buttonhole machine length. For note your fabric for the buttonhole may require stiffening by using interlining.

2) Place the button on top of the mark on the fabric you wish to attach it to. Double up the thread by moving the needle to the center of the length and tying a knot in the ends. (15″ of thread works well per button.) Pull the thread through from underneath the fabric through the button hole and repeat 6 to 8 times to be sure it is securely attached. Finish with the thread on the underside and tie a good knot.

The Buttonhole

1) Sewing machines are good for sewing buttonholes. They tackle it as a small rectangle with bar tacking at the two short ends and zigzag or satin stitch (very close together stitches) on the long sides. First you need to get the piece of fabric with your buttonhole marking on from earlier. Some machines start with a long side of the buttonhole machine first but others may start with the shorter end.

2) Place the material under the needle at the point you want put the button hole to start from and put the presser foot down. A buttonhole machine foot is very useful as it will have markings to allow you to line up your markings.

3) Now turn the dial to the second step of the button hole. You do not need to move the fabric round the machine will now sew bar tack stitches for the width of this button hole.