Learn How To Sew A Button In Simple Steps

Sewing buttons is often regarded as something best left to mom, just like sewing poppers. However, sewing can be a useful skill to possess when trying to be more self-sufficient. We’ve all been in situations where buttons fall off and have to be replaced or re-attached.

Bright buttons in mix colors

Most clothes come with extra buttons in case one snaps off. All you need is a few tools and a little bit of guidance to DIY sew your button on. It’s easier than it sounds, so are you ready to needle up

The tools that you’ll need

Depending on your experience with sewing, you can use a machine to stitch a two-hole button. However, it is recommended to use a sewing needle and do it by hand. A basic sewing kit is handy and comes with everything you need for hand sewing

But, if you don’t have your own kit, don’t worry. To begin, if you are not reattaching a snapped one, select a suitable button for your garment. There are two types of buttons, and you’ll see them below!

Flat button vs Shank button 

Flat ones are the most common type found in clothes. They come with either one or two sets of holes and do not have loops for sewing on their backside. They can be hand sewn or with a machine.

On the contrary, shank ones have no holes to sew through. Instead, this type of button has a barrel at the back containing holes. Since there are no holes on the top, doing it by hand is the only way to attach them. 

Needle and Thread 

All buttons can be hand sewn, and regardless of the type, to begin, you need to thread your needle. Pick a thread that matches your clothing appropriately. If you do not have different coloured threads or a sewing kit, black or white thread can be used for emergencies. 

Sewing accessories and fabric on a white background

You can use any needle to button up. A cutting tool like sharp, pointy scissors is helpful to cut the excess thread when needed. Furthermore, to hold your threading on heavier fabrics, like cardigans and jackets, you will require a toothpick or a matchstick. 

Using a single thread is not strong enough to hold a button unless the thread is thick enough. So instead, to double thread through your needle, cut a 40 cm piece of your selected thread. Then, loop it through the eye of the needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread

Additionally, if you have a hard time getting the thread through your needle, you can use a needle threader. These are small devices that usually come with extra needles. If you are in an urgent situation, all you require is a threaded needle to sew your button on! 

Mark Button Position 

To accurately measure the space between each button, a tape measure can be helpful, along with fabric pens or pencils. You can use them to mark out where you want to place your new button if the markings of your old button are not visible. 

Accurately positioning is crucial so that it aligns with its corresponding hole. You could end up with an a-symmetrical stitch and change the design of your clothes if this is not done correctly. 

The First Stitch

To begin, push your needle through the right side of the fabric, coming up approximately 3 mm away. Using your scissors, remove any extra thread after the knot you tied earlier.

Depending on your button, skip to the section of this step-by-step guide that is applicable. 

How to sew a button with two holes

Now that you’ve covered the basics and marked your first stitch, you can begin sewing the button on. To sew a two-hole on using a needle and thread: 

Woman sews a button with two holes

  1. First, centre your button on your fabric pen marking, ensuring one hole lines up with your first stitch. Next, thread the needle through one side, from below the fabric to above. Try not to move the button around. 
  2. Put the needle through the opposite hole, pulling through to the back of the fabric
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. Stitch through your 2-hole till the button feels sturdy
  4. Bring the needle to the top of the fabric without going through the button. Pass the needle through and wrap around the stitches several times. 
  5. Push the needle out the side of the button to knot it off. 

Attaching a 2-hole is a straightforward process and suitable even when sewing for beginners

How to sew a button with four holes

The steps to sew 4-hole buttons are similar to the 2-hole button tutorial above. However, due to the extra holes, you can incorporate different patterns into your sewing. After the first stitch:

  1. Place your button over the needle-marking. Make sure it is positioned in the centre of the mark and thread through one of the holes.
  2. Next, decide if you want a criss-cross, two-bar or square pattern. A two-bar stitch is more effective as it holds better. However, as long as you sew enough times and use a strong thread, you can stitch in any pattern. 
  3. Push the needle through the second opposite or adjacent hole, depending on your decision.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 till you feel the button is sturdy and not loose.
  5. Thread the needle through the fabric but not to the top of the button. Then, wrap the needle around the stitches under the button and knot it off. 

Man sews a button with four holes to his shirt

Flat type is easy to sew as they have visible holes. Don’t worry though, shank type is just as easy to sew, and our tutorial below highlights everything you need to know. 

How to sew a shank button 

They involve easy sewing and begin with the first stitch, just like flat buttons. But, instead of passing the thread through the button, it goes through the part underneath

To sew a shank button

  1. Position your button on the marking. Then, thread the needle to the top of the fabric through the holes under it
  2. Make sure you don’t move the button, and it is still aligned with your marking. Then, pull the needle to the back of the clothing item. Place a toothpick between the stitch and button to create space. 
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a few more times, stitching through till the button is well held. 
  4. Bring the needle back up in between the button shank and the fabric. Knot the thread to the side multiple times. Then, cut off any extra fabric.

In last-minute situations or when away from home, hand sewing a button can be a useful skill to have. You can easily button up with everyday tools that can be found anywhere. 

Alternatively, flat buttons can be stitched on clothes with a machine. However, this technique requires some experience with handling the machine and is not recommended for beginners

How to use a sewing machine

The only extra tools required for this process are a machine and a button foot. A button foot is a small device with a wide opening to hold the button in place. 

If you can’t find a button foot, don’t worry. Alternatively, you can use a general or zig-zag with a toe opening more comprehensive than the buttonholes. 

To begin, snap your foot securely onto your machine. Then, mark your fabric to position the button. For extra safety, add a piece of tape over the button to hold it in place while sewing.

Woman hands sewing buttons using sewing machine

Sewing a button using a sewing machine

  1. Set your machine to 0.0 stitch length on zig-zag. This means the machine will stitch side-to-side, not forward. 
  2. Measure the exact width between the buttonholes. Then, using the handwheel, make sure the width is correct. Next, check the sewing needle is passing through the buttonholes correctly. Skipping this could lead to both your needle and button breaking. 
  3. Use your handwheel to do the first stitches. Then, push your foot-pedal for the machine to zig-zag. 
  4. When you have enough threading, remove the button from the machine. 
  5. Pull the threads to the back of the fabric. Knot and remove any excess thread at the end. 

4-holes are sewn using the same technique. Repeat each of the above steps diagonally in a cross shape or across to create a 2-bar. 

Once you master the art of using a machine, stitching on a button becomes a super quick and easy task. 

Some extra helpful tips

Stitching your own clothes or reattaching a broken button can be intimidating, mainly due to its aesthetic value! 

If you are a beginner, using a thimble protects your fingers when pushing needles through the fabric. Beeswax is optional but helps keep button threads detangled while strengthening them. 

Pre-wash all your clothes and fabrics to avoid unexpected shrinking after you have stitched them. Also, some materials bleed colour, which could consequently dye the button threads too. 

Unexpected snapping can be frustrating. Use high-quality needles and threads to avoid unwarranted situations and accidents. Cheaper threads may look the same as high-quality; however, their fibres are not as strong. 

Buttons in blue background

Take a moment to enjoy learning how to sew. To add to the experience, you can put on some music and use sewing buttons to take a break when not urgent. Learning how to fix a button is an easy skill to learn. After all, you never know when you are in a scenario where you need a quick DIY fix. 

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