Picking out buttons for decoration is fun! But let's be frank ... sewing on those buttons is not fun. It's kind of the "cleaning toilets" of the sewing world – a dirty job, but one that is very worth it in the end. The up-side of button sewing is that it's relatively quick and easy, and there's no sponge involved. Our button sewing tutorial explains the basics. There are two types of buttons: Flat buttons and Shank buttons. Flat buttons have holes through the body of the button and thread is visible from the outside.
Shank buttons have a small "eyelet" piece that extends from the back of the button with a hole for attaching the button. These buttons are generally more decorative than flat buttons because the entire top surface is available for decoration.
How to Sew on a Flat Button by Hand
- Cut a length of thread about 24".
- Thread the needle, and loop the thread so it is folded on itself.
- Make a knot, catching both ends so you are working with double thread (you want the strength of two strands of thread when you are sewing a button so it doesn't fall off). Trim the thread so you leave a short tail. If you are new to hand sewing, read our article: Hand Sewing: Thread the Needle ... Tie the Knot.
- Pull the needle up through the back of the fabric in the location where you would like to place your button. (Because, of course, you've already figured out and marked where you want your button to be ... right?)
- Stitch an "X" in the fabric in the button location.
- Using the "X" as your guide, and with the button slightly raised from the fabric surface, bring the needle up through one hole of the button, then down through the hole diagonally across from it. Note: this is the pattern for a four-hole flat button. Sometimes there are only two holes, in which case you are simply sewing back and forth.
- To keep the button elevated from the fabric, so there is space to fit it through the buttonhole when you're done, place a pin between the fabric and the button.
- Repeat so the thread goes through all holes. Do this four times. You will end with your needle and thread on the backside of your fabric. Remove the pin.
- Bring your needle and thread through the fabric once more, but keep it UNDER the button.
- Wrap the thread tightly around the thread at the base of the button where it is now attached to the fabric. Wrap it around a few times. This reinforces your work.
- Bring the thread through to the back side of the fabric again.
- Pass the needle through a few of the stitches, and form a loop.
- Pull your needle through this loop to form a knot.
- Trim the thread to leave a very short tail.
How to Sew on a Shank Button
- To sew a Shank button, you're going to follow the steps above with just a few minor alterations.
- Because the button has a shank, you don't need to worry about creating one (the button raises itself from the surface of the fabric, so there is a natural space between it and the buttonhole). You can sew on this button without using the pin behind the button to lift it from the fabric surface.
- When stitching the button, just pull your thread through the single hole of the shank button four or five times.
- Knot your end thread and trim the tail in the same manner as above.
Button Sewing by Machine
Some advanced sewing machines (such as the Janome MO200 Quilter's Companion) come with a button sewing foot and a computerized feature that allows you to sew on buttons with your machine. Check your manual to see if this is possible on your machine. It's an ULTRA cool feature to have when you have lots and lots of buttons to sew.