There are so many different buttons, so many different varieties, so many sizes, and so many different thicknesses. So many possibilities not only for holding pieces of material together but also for decoration. Made in wood, plastic, glass, metal, horn, bone, leather, or fabric covered and the list goes on. Buttons can vary from flat discs with a number of holes on the disc face to raised or domed shapes.
There are two types of button:
- Sew-through buttons. These are usually used on lighter fabrics. You make the shank when you sew the button on to your garment to allow space for the second layer of fabric behind the button itself.
- Shank buttons. These are more suitable for heavier fabrics and are sometimes reinforced with a flat button on the back of the fabric. The shank is designed to compensate for thick materials or layers without having to “an add extra thread shank” .
If you are using an oddly shaped button that would cause excessive wear on a buttonhole, consider using them as a decoration with a press stud or velcro underneath (depending on the application).
Decorative buttons don’t need a shank so you can sew them tightly onto the underlying fabric.
Sewing On Your Buttons
Thread to use when sewing on buttons
Always use the right sort of thread for sewing buttons on your garment. If you have a cotton fabric use a cotton thread, silk with silk, and polyester on synthetics. Buttonhole twist is stronger and used for suiting or coat fabric.
Locate The Button Position
Put your project together as if the buttons where already on it. Make a mark or place a pin through the centre of the button hole. From this point, mark the centre of the button which should go 1/8″ (3mm) towards the edge (for horizontal holes) or the top (for vertical holes).
Attaching The Button
Thread you hand needle with a double thread. Take a few small stitches to lock the thread at the mark for the centre of the button.
TIP: To sew super quick, you could double your thread in the needle, so you have four thickness of thread rather than two.
TIP: You can run your needle and threads through beeswax before you sew to help keep the thread tangle-free and strong.
Bring the needle through the button and back into the fabric (do not go all the way through to the other side). Repeat several times. To create a shank on a sew-through button place a toothpick on the top of the button and sew over it several times. Then remove the toothpick and wind the thread around the sewn thread under the button.
To finish off, draw the needle to the underside of the fabric and fasten with several small stitches. Insert the needle into the fabric and tunnel between the layers for about 1″ (2.5cm). Bring the needle out and clip the thread close to the fabric. If you have sheer or only one layer of fabric, don’t tunnel just clip the thread close to the stitches.
You could also use your machine to attach the sew-through type of button.
Buttons on loosely woven or heavy fabrics need a small(er) button stitched to the wrong side of the garment to stop the shank pulling away from the fabric. The small button may also be attached to the main (bigger) button on the front with a thread shank. On fine or delicate fabrics, use a small circle of fleecy interlining or firm fabric behind the button.
Linked buttons are useful to fasten cuffs, especially on coat sleeve cuffs. Place the buttons back to back. Using your finger(s) as the shank spacer between the backs of the buttons, sew double thread loops between the two buttons. Once you have attached the buttons to each other, blanket stitch over the loops to form one shank.
If you have a number of holes in the centre of the buttons you are using, you can add extra decorative features by using a sewing pattern between the holes.
Decorative Covered Buttons
Covered button moulds are an easy way to add your own individual flair to your sewing project. Try to use a firm closely woven fabric. Avoid transparent or stretchy fabrics. If you want to match a semi transparent or transparent fabric of your garment you could use that as the top layer backed by your chosen lining fabric.
Cut a circle of fabric about twice the diameter (or width) of the button head. If the button is domed make it a bit bigger to allow for the height.
Put the fabric right side down on the table and place the mould in the centre. Hook the fabric round the serrated edge of the button. Work on opposite sides so that the fabric is distributed evenly. Press the edges firmly into the centre at the back. Make sure the edges are smooth.
Place the button back on the covered head and press it into place. You may need to trim away any excess folded-in fabric so that the back fits snug.
Another type of button mould has the serrated edge on the back plate rather than the button front. To cover the mould, make the fabric circle about twice the diameter (width) of the button head. Then make a ring of tiny stitches around the edge of the circle. Place the mould in the centre of the wrong side of the fabric circle and pull up the thread to gather the fabric, evening out the gathers around the mould. Press the back piece into place.
Button rings can be made in plastic or metal. To cover the ring make a fabric circle about twice the diameter of the ring. Using a double thread, sew a ring of tiny stitches around the edge of the fabric circle.
Place the ring in the centre of the wrong side of the fabric circle. Gather the threads up so the ring is contained within the fabric. Make sure that the gathering is smooth.
Back stitch to secure the gathered material and threads. Wind the thread around to form a short shank. If you have enough thread you can use it to attach the button to your project.
Decorating your covered button
With this type of button, you can use several different techniques to create an even more individual effect;
- Plain fabric and appliques. A little bit of lace or ribbon could be hand sewn to the fabric before it is made into the covered button.
- Embroidery or machine stitch a pattern on to the fabric in contrasting or similar tone colour thread or floss.
- Stitch tiny sequins or beads on to the fabric circle before assembling the button.