Beat the button-bursting blues!
Buttons are often come off at the worst possible time. Be patient, try not to curse too much, and go find your needle and thread; this lesson will show you how to use them for a fast and durable fix. Did the button slip between the floorboards when it busted? We'll show you how to deal with that problem as well.
It's a good thing to keep a small sewing repair kit around the house and in your travel gear. Corner stores often have small, basic kits for a couple of bucks, or you can buy a more elaborate one at a sewing supply store. You're just looking for one that has a couple of different needles and buttons, as well as several colors and strengths of thread.
1. Avoid Panicky Movements
If you can't find the button that fell off, take a close look at the garment itself. If it's a man's shirt, there may be extra buttons sewn on at the bottom of it. On any piece of clothing, there's often a matching button that's not seen when the garment is worn, such as on the bottom of a blouse or shirt that gets tucked in. Use that button to replace the lost one, and then replace the second one from your sewing kit, or from a piece of clothing that's not being worn right now.
2. Find the Trail
Locate where the button will be placed by the torn threads still on the garment.
- Clean out those threads. Carefully slice through them with your knife, or cut them with the tip of the scissors, and pull them out.
- Thread your needle with a thread that closely matches the original thread color. If you have nothing similar, use black.
- Starting from the back of the fabric (not the side that shows), take a few stitches back and forth through the fabric. Very important: make sure that you leave enough thread handy to sew on the button (about 12" until you get the hang of it).
Attach the button
There are two basic ways to attach the button: either flat against the garment (for a decorative button) or leaving a "shank," so that there's room for buttoned fabric to fasten smoothly.
For a Flat, Decorative Button:
Start off by placing the button over those first few stitches that you made.
- Bring the needle up from the back, through one of the holes in the button.
- Bring the needle back down through another hole, through the fabric, and up again from the back. Pull tight after each stroke. If the button has four holes, alternate holes, but cross over when the needle is behind the fabric so that the front looks neatly sewn.
After about six stitches, leave the last two slightly loose in back, then pass the needle through those stitches once or twice. Use that as the start of your finishing knot in back. Cut off the remaining thread.
For A Stacked Button:
The one you'll probably use most. First place the button over those first few stitches that you made.
- Place the other needle/toothpick/wooden match on top of the button, so that your stitches will pass over the top of it before going back down.
- Bring the needle up from the back, through one of the holes in the button. Pass the thread over the other needle/toothpick/wooden match that's sitting on top of the button.
- Bring the needle back down through another hole, through the fabric, and up again from the back. If the button has four holes, alternate holes, but cross over when the needle is behind the fabric so that the front looks neatly sewn.
- After about six stitches, take away the other needle/ toothpick/ wooden match, and pull the button away from the fabric so that the stitches are taught.
- Wind the needle and thread around those stitches. This forms the "shank" that creates room for fabric to be buttoned underneath. Turn the needle back into the windings, and tie a knot. Be careful not to make the shank too thick with the knot.
Some Helpful Tip For This How To Lesson:
Consider the fabric thickness when forming a shank. Heavier fabrics need a longer shank, and you can vary how tight you pull your stitches to form the right length. Make the shank just a tad longer than the fabric thickness, and the fabric will lie flat when buttoned.
Sometimes you'll have a button that's been formed with a "U-shaped" metal shank already. In these cases stitch the bottom of the "U" to the fabric, and position it so that the shank slides easily into the buttonhole without spreading it.
For light and medium weight fabrics, general purpose thread is fine. For heavyweight fabrics, such as coats, try to use heavy duty thread for extra strength.
- A small to medium size straight needle
- A stitch holder
- Another needle (or maybe a matchstick or toothpick)
- Thread in an appropriate color and strength (see below)
- A replacement button
- A small knife or scissors