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Hand sewing - replacing a button

A couple of weeks ago I shared some tips for adjusting (or mending) a hem on a skirt or trousers. It seems like hems come apart very easily on most bought clothes these days. The other thing that I seem to be constantly mending is buttons. My sewing machine sews buttons and I guess that industrial clothing manufacturers use something similar. The problem is that the ends of the thread are left lose, so as soon as one end starts to pull, it doesn’t take long to unravel the whole button. I prefer to hand-sew replacement buttons for a more permanent solution. I’m pretty sure that I learnt to do this for a girl guide sewing badge a long long time ago, and I have sewn many buttons since then, so its a pretty useful skill to have!

eight acres: replacing buttons
my button collection

First find a button. If you’re lucky, you will still have the button that fell off.  Sometimes you can move a decorative button to replace a useful button, and in fancy shirts a spare button is usually sewn into a tab in the seam.  If not, try to find a matching button in your button collection. Everyone has a button collection right? At the least, you should keep all the buttons that come with your clothes when you buy them. Just toss them all in a jar so you can find them when you need them. And that is how a button collection starts.... I pick up buttons I see on the ground and I buy bags of buttons from op shops, I also borrowed a few from my mum’s button collection at one stage (apparently this is heritable trait). Sometimes I even buy clothes from op shops just because they have nice buttons that I want to use for something else.... but I digress. Find a suitable button, find thread that matches you button and fabric, find a needle, and you’re ready to start.

Your next decision is whether to double over the thread. If I am sewing a large button on thick fabric I prefer to use double thread, otherwise smaller buttons are ok with a single thread. You will just have to use personal judgement on this one. Thread your needle and tie a knot. I finally found an example of the knot that I do in the fabric to start most mending, if you don’t like that knot, you can just tie a few granny knots until you have a big knot in the end of your thread. Position your button on the right side of the fabric and start sewing from the wrong side. I will admit that it can be tricky to get the needle through the holes in the button at first, sometimes it helps to poke the needle through the fabric and then line up the holes. For a two hole button you just go in one hole and out the other a few times, maybe six or so, you don’t want to overdo it, try to match the other buttons on the garment. For a four hole button you can either do parallel lines or crosses, you might want to match the other buttons though. Either way, you should complete one set of two holes and then move to the next set. You don’t need to pull it very tight, in fact some people use a toothpick or similar to keep the stitches lose enough to complete the final step.


eight acres: replacing buttons
replacing a button on an op shop find,
I will just move the top button to replace the missing button in the middle

To finish off, you keep the thread on the right side, put the needle through the button hole, but not through the fabric and wind the thread around the stitches (between the button and the fabric) a few times to create a “shank”. This helps the button to sit better in the button hole. This step does not occur when buttons are sewn using a sewing machine, and that is part of the reason why can sit funny, as they are too tight on the fabric.

You may also have a button with a shank rather than with holes. This is much simpler to sew, just start the same way, and create a number of stitches through the loop (shank) in the back of the button.

Finally, slip the needle to the back of the fabric and use a similar knot to complete the button.

Here’s some nice photos and instructions to help you step by step.

Do you sew buttons?  Or do other hand sewing mending to make clothes last longer?

Comments

  1. I sew on buttons and do hemming to make my clothes last longer. I also repair seam tears and holes. If the hole is really bad, I add a cute patch.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My grandmother taught me to sew buttons, and if you want a shank for hand or machine sewn, just put a match between the fabric and the button until you have finished stitching. If the button is getting heavy duty use (on a waist band etc.) you can put a small piece of denim or other thick fabric, under the clothing fabric to stitch through, so the stitches will tug on the denim rather than the clothing and rip through.

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