How many good shirts or pants have you thrown away over the years simply because a button popped off? Then, inevitably, you wind up shopping for a replacement garment. In this piece I will explain the step by step process of how to sew back on buttons so as to save money versus buying new clothes.
Step 1: Get some thread that matches the color of the garment you are repairing. After all, when the project is finished, you want the thread to be as camouflaged as possible.
Step 2: Find yourself a nice fresh sharp sewing needle. Needles come in all shapes and sizes. You want one that is straight (not curved), and that will easily fit through the holes of the button. It’s important that the needle is sharp. A dull needle can damage the clothing and cause considerably more effort to use.
Step 3: (optional) Get yourself a thimble. You remember the thimble from Monopoly? It’s more or less the same thing. The function of the thimble is so you don’t accidentally stick yourself with the sewing needle. It’s not necessary to have, but it could also save you a Band-aid. The thimble fits over the tip of your finger, the finger you’ll be using to “feel” for the needle poking through the fabric on the other side. There will be more on that later.
Step 4: Have handy a nice pair of scissors. I recommend small ones that can fit in tight places. Sharpness counts here too because when you cut the thread you want a nice clean cut without fraying the thread.
Step 5: Pull out a length of thread from the spool you’ve chosen in step 1. There’s no exact science as to how much thread you’ll need, but the general rule of thumb is it’s better to have too much than not enough. What I do is grab the end of the thread and stretch my arms out to the sides so that the thread is the length of both arms and the width of my chest. Then, snip the thread at the spool.
Step 6: This next part can be tricky. Thread the needle. You do this by sticking one end of the thread through the eye of the needle. This is easier said than done because both the thread and the needle eye are tiny. If you have a threader, this makes the job so much easier. A threader is often a small flimsy piece of aluminum with a tiny looped wire on one end. To use the threader, stick the looped wire through the eye of the needle. The wire is stiff so this shouldn’t present a problem. Put one end of the thread through the wire loop of the threader. This’ll be easier as the threader has a bigger loop than the eye of the needle has. Once you have an inch or so through the threader, pull the threader out, and you’ll wind up with a threaded needle. Quickly nab the end of the thread so it doesn’t fall out from the needle eye.
Step 7: Pinch both ends of the thread between 2 fingers. Gently guide the needle to the middle of the thread. Again, don’t let go or you’ll have to repeat step 6. I say gently guide the needle because if you try and hurry this step you could encounter a tangle in the process.
Step 8: Knot together the loose ends. Again, there is no exact science to this, but I personally recommend no less than 3 times. The reason being is you want a fat knot that will (a) not come undone, and (b) not easily slip through the fabric as you sew.
Step 9: Align the button on the garment where you want it placed. Until you’ve done a few stitches you want to hold onto it firmly so it doesn’t move.
Step 10: Stick the needle through both the back of the fabric and back of the button. You want to start on the backside so the garment hides the knot when worn. This step is where that thimble could come in handy. Since we can’t see where the tip of the needle is coming out, use the thimble to “feel” the needle coming out. Most buttons have 4 holes. This first stitch doesn’t matter which hole you use. Pull the needle and thread all the way through so that the knotted end is up against the back of the fabric. Don’t pull too hard or risk snapping the thread. If you leave too much slack, the button could potentially come loose. Basically, as you pull the thread through, when you feel it stop, you stop.
Step 11: From the button hole, which now has thread coming out the front of it, stick the needle through the front of the hole diagonally across from that hole. As with step 10, continue pulling the thread all the way through until you feel it stop. You want the stitch to be firm but not tight. A button that is butted up too tight against the garment won’t function properly. Also, don’t make it too loose either or else face replacing the button all over again. To aim the needle, ideally, you want to have the needle come out the back very near to the original knot. By keeping the stitches in close proximity, you’ll have a stronger holding button.
Step 12 and 13: You’re now at the back of the fabric and button again. Position the needle to penetrate the back of the fabric, aiming for one of the unused button holes on the other side. Again, try and keep the stitch in close proximity to the original knot. Pull all the way through so that needle and thread are once again on the front side. Then, like in step 11, stick the needle through the last remaining button hole diagonally across from where you came out. Pull all the way through to the back. If you’ve done things right so far, you should see an ‘X’ pattern on the front of the button.
Step 14: From the back of the garment, guide the needle through the very first button hole you used. Don’t worry about piercing existing stitches; the chance of snagging the needle are slim.
Step 15: Continue doing this crisscross pattern, as described above, until you have used all 4 button holes at least twice. Personally, I tend to purposely overdue these steps because I prefer never having to replace the same button again. I only caution not to make too many stitches or you wind up having just a massive wad of thread.
Step 16: When you’re satisfied you’ve made enough passes with the needle, you want the needle and excess thread to be coming out the backside of the garment. Knot the excess thread as close as you possibly can at the base where it’s coming out of the fabric. As with the original knot, I tie about 3 knots on top of one another just to be certain it doesn’t come undone.
Step 17: Use your scissors to snip the thread just above the knot you just tied. Remove any unused thread from the needle and throw it out. I’d say keep it for another project, but you probably won’t have enough left over to feasibly use.
Congratulations! You have just successfully replaced a button! Now, I know there’s more than one way to sew on a button, and someone is sure to comment. But, understand that I am in no way a professional seamstress/tailor. On the other hand, these steps are ones I myself use and have had no issues with the final product. And most importantly, knowing this skill has saved me tons on needlessly buying new shirts and pants. In the end, I hope you found this helpful and hope it saves you money too.
Image Credit: curbly.com