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How to Sew on Buttons With Your Sewing Machine

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Buttons are the perfect finishing accent to so many projects. Not to mention the fact they are also a very functional closure. But if you have to sew on a lot of by hand, you might think twice about using them. I personally find sewing buttons by hand tedious, time-consuming, and I can sometimes have trouble getting them to look perfectly uniform. Sew4Home exclusive sewing machine sponsor, Janome America has come to our (and your) rescue. There's an easy method for sewing buttons on by machine. You can be sure they're securely attached, perfectly aligned, and once you've done one, your machine can use the same settings for multiple buttons of the same size. 

For this demonstration, we're using the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 15000 machine, which has some nifty automatic button-sewing features. But these same general instructions should work with any machine that can perform a zig zag stitch with the feed dogs lowered.

 

If you want your stitches to blend in, choose a thread that's the same color as your button. If you'd like a nice contrast, choose thread that's the same color as your fabric. Or if it has multiple colors, pick the one you'd like to bring out. Here at Sew4Home, we sometimes use a contrasting color for button stitching because it acts as a subtle accent. 

We recommend a button sewing foot

It's a foot that's been specially designed to hold your button still while your machine stitches it down. Button Sewing Foot T for the MC15000 has a rubber coating to help keep the button from slipping. 

The foot attaches to the machine ankle in two places to prevent it from rocking back and forth. Most manufacturers should have something similar.

If you absolutely have to sew on a button without a button sewing foot, you can remove the presser foot on your machine and use just the ankle of your machine to hold the button down. Or, you can hold the button down with an Open Toe Zig Zag foot, but you'll need to tuck some fabric under the back of the foot to keep it from rocking. 

Set up your project

  1. Using a fabric pencil, mark on your fabric where you want the button. Place your button on the fabric and then tape it down with a piece of clear tape. You can sew right over the tape and it will easily pull off when you're done.
  2. Lower your feed dogs. Depending on your sewing level, "feed dogs" might be a foreign term. These are the "teeth" that push your fabric across the needle plate. They are located directly under the needle. In the photo below, you see the presser foot removed and the feed dogs lowered.
  3. You need to lower the feed dogs so the machine doesn't try to feed the button across the plate, and so the needle can stitch over and over in one location. The feed dogs on the Memory Craft 15000 lower automatically when you choose the button sewing function. Check your manual to see how lowering is done on your machine.
  4. Attach the button sewing foot. Button Sewing Foot T for our MC15000 hooks at the back of the ankle then clicks into place like a regular snap-on foot. Check your manual for how to attach your machine's button sewing foot.
  5. Choose your button sewing stitch. Your machine may even have a stitch just for sewing on buttons. If so, select that. If not, you can use a zig zag stitch. Just set the stitch length to 0.
  6. Position your button under the foot so the needle will come down in the left hole of the button. Lower the foot to hold the button in place. Then hand crank the machine so the needle comes down, ensuring it's going through the middle of the left hole. You may need to lift the presser foot and move the button slightly for better alignment.
  7. Continue to hand crank the machine so the needle goes back up then comes down in the right hole. You can adjust this drop position by adjusting the stitch width. Just remember that any change in stitch width will apply to both swings of the needle, so you will need hand crank up and down again to test that your left hole position is still correct.
  8. When your needle hits the middle of each hole on the button, you're ready for stitching.
  9. Slowly sew 8 or 9 stitches. Our MC15000 does this number of stitches automatically. 
  10. Raise the presser foot and slide your button and fabric out. Snip the the top and bottom thread tails, leaving at least 4" of thread. The tails will be coming out across the top of the button. Remove the clear tape.
  11. Using a hand needle, pull your thread tails through the button so they are directly under the button but still on the top of the fabric. Wrap the tails a few times around the stitches you just made (just as you would do when hand stitching a button in place). This will form a nice "shank" for the button.
  12. Then insert the needle through to the back of the fabric, right alongside the stitching, and tie the two thread tails into a knot. Double or triple the knot for security. Trim the tails close to the knot. 
  13. And now you've sewn on a button. As you repeat the process, it will go much more quickly.

For buttons with four holes

If your button has four holes, simply move the button forward slightly, and repeat the process for the second set of holes.

You can decide if the stitches in your four-hole button look better parallel or crossing. If you'd like a crossed or "X" effect, you will need to reposition your button at the appropriate angle.

Our thanks again to Janome America for helping us give you the information you need to keep your sewing machine running at its best. For more about Janome machines, accessories and projects, visit them online or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

We also thank the helpful ladies at Paramount Sewing & Vacuum in Eugene, Oregon for walking us through this demo, and explaining the great tip about taping down the button.

Now that you have new, mad button sewing skills, check out these Sew4Home "buttonrific" tutorials:

Tuxedo Pillowcases in Flannel

Nature's Palette Button Top Apron

Dresser Cloth with Button Accents

Vintage Button Front Pillow 

Good Fortune Silk Pillow

Button Quilted Layer Cake Throw

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Comments (5)

Mary Jane Waggoner said:
Mary Jane Waggoner's picture

I have found an easy way to sew on a shank button, because it is not my favorite project.

1.       

Mark the placement for the button

2.       

Use a straight pin or a safety pin on one side of the mark

3.       

Run the pin through the shank and through the other side of the material

4.       

Sew on your button and remove your pin or safety pin

No fumbling with the shank button!

Bag-Sationals by Jill said:
Bag-Sationals by Jill's picture

Is there any possible way to sew on shank buttons by machine?  I HATE hand sewing them and frequently need to on magnetic tab closures of my hand-made purses when I want a bit of added detail.  The hand stitching always looks a bit messy on the back of the tab closure ( which, of course, shows!) no matter how hard I try to get them even.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jill - There is probably an industrial tool of some sort that can handle shank buttons, but I don't of any home sewing machine attachments or feet that can do it. Perhaps someone in our S4H visitor universe has some further thoughts.

Madebymeinred.com said:
Madebymeinred.com's picture

I, too, have been terrified by the needle breaking and flying in my eye. But I do not like sewing on buttons and the seem more secure done on the machine. Therefore, I wear my old glasses when sewing them on. It works for me.

StonyBrook said:
StonyBrook's picture

Oh... I don't enjoy sewing buttons by hand, but for some reason, sewing them on by machine terrifies me!  I suppose I feel that the needle will hit the button, break, fly off into my eye... who knows??  This post might be giving me a little more confidence to try it.  I've trusted you so far S4H...  

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