Do you know how to sew on a button? This is one of the most basic, useful life skills you can have -- and trust me, it isn't rocket science! :)
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to sew on three different kinds of buttons: standard, flat buttons; shanked buttons; and finally, how to add a thread shank to a flat button.
The supplies you need are super basic: a needle and thread, a button, and (of course) some fabric to sew it to! If you want to make a thread shank for your button, you'll also need a matchstick or toothpick.
Thread your needle, and tie a knot at one end. Bring your needle up through the fabric, then sew through one of the holes in the button. Lay the button flat against the fabric, being sure to place it where you want it, and sew down through another hole. (Like I said, this stuff is really complicated!!)
Sew through that same set of holes a couple times, then switch and sew through the other holes. If the button will be getting a lot of use, you should probably sew through each hole 6-8 times; otherwise, 4-5 times should hold it down quite nicely.
Next, let's talk shanks. A shank is a loop on the back of a button, that holds it up from the surface of the fabric. This is great when your button has to go through some thick material -- or for when you don't want a button with holes on the face.
Sewing on a shanked button is almost exactly the same as a flat button. Thread a needle, knot one end, and bring the thread up to the right side of the fabric. Then, run your needle through the shank. Take a tiny "bite" out of the fabric, and pull your thread tight.
Keep stitching in this way (shank, bite of fabric, shank, bite of fabric...) until you've been around a half dozen times, and your button is secure. Run your thread to the backside of the fabric, and tie it off.
But, what about when you have to use a flat button, but need it to stand away from the fabric? Sounds like it's time for a thread shank!
Start sewing this button just like you would a standard flat button -- but before you pull that first stitch tight, slip a matchstick or toothpick between the button and the loop of thread. Pretend the matchstick is just part of the button, and sew around it a half dozen times or so. When the button feels secure, sneak your needle up between the fabric and the button.
Next, wiggle the matchstick out, and pull the button up away from the fabric. Wrap the remaining thread around the little bits of thread between the button and the fabric, then tie your thread off. Ta-da -- you've just made a thread shank!
Thanks for following along today! Do you have a favorite button story? We'd love to hear it!
For Pixie Faire,
Thank you so much for showing how to do this.
Love your patterns! Thanks for the information on button sewing.
Have you ever tried an old “not a knot trick?” Thread your needle upside down, needle threaded from 2 thread end, and pull it thru the fabric and down thru the loop. This will cause your thread to anchor to your fabric, no knot. Knot is secure.
Thanks for all the good tips. I have a question. Where can I buy 1/4" buttons that many of the patterns call for?
These are great photos. Your sewing tips are helpful to sewers at all levels. I especially like the instructions for the four-holed button. One thing I notice in photographing doll clothes is that the stitching on the button hole is noticeable. Keeping the threads smooth is much easier when you sew all the threads in one direction first and then switch directions, as you have suggested (for the four-holed button). With the two-holed button, I make sure to have the button holes placed in the same direction on each button so that the thread is going in the same direction on each button on the front of a garment. When purchasing buttons, I try to find two-holed buttons when possible. They are neater and easier to sew.
Wow! What great hints and tips, ladies! There is so much we can learn from each other, thank you for sharing!
My mother, who did alterations for many years, taught me to put both thread ends through the needle and then catch the loop with your needle, rather than tying a knot, so I always sew buttons on that way.
I too start on the top of the fabric like Susan said. I also sew the regular button like the thread shank but using a pin instead of the match stick. This step makes it much easier to pull the button through the buttonhole giving it just a little extra room especially if the fabric is thick. Thanks for all the great comments and hints. I look forward to receiving them each week.
Actually the couture way is to start on the top of the fabric, just on the underside the button.. The button hides the knot and the button knot typically on the underside (which usually wears) eventually loosing and you have to resew the button.
Great explanation and pictures. Thank you.
February 09, 2021
Instead of a knot I thread both ends of the thread through the needle eye to form a loop, After securing the button with one pass through the button holes, I draw the loop tight and proceed to secure the button from there. This way you do not have a knot showing. This tutorial has been very helpful! Thanks!