How To Sew On A Button

How many pieces of clothing are lurking, unloved, in your wardrobe, just because they’re missing buttons? If you know how to sew on a button, this is an easy fix. If not, read on…

Learning how to sew on a button used to be a very basic skill that everyone learned early on.

My husband sewed his way through college, sewing buttons on for his friends, and getting paid a pint a time.

Knowing how to sew on a button can help you save clothes from the rag bag, making your clothes budget go further, and keeping things out of landfill for longer.

Supplies For Sewing On A Button.

Supplies needed for sewing on a button - scissors, thread, needles, button.
  1. Needle.

    It doesn’t matter too much what kind of needle you choose. Use what you have. It just needs to be slim enough to fit through the holes in your button, even when there are a few layers of thread already through.
  2. Strong thread to match the button (or to match the thread used for the rest of the buttons on the garment).

    I like Gutermann Sew-All thread. It’s readily available, comes in every colour under the sun, and the quality is consistent.
  3. Scissors.

    These are my favourite scissors. They’re technically pruning scissors, but they’re perfect for snipping thread.
  4. A button – choose as close a match as possible to the original button.

    Obviously, if you’ve saved the ‘lost’ button, use that.

    If not, check inside the garment to see if there’s a spare one lurking somewhere. Sometimes they’re at the bottom of a shirt, on the part that’s normally tucked into trousers. Sometimes they’re joined to a label in the side seam.

A Quick Note On Button Tins.

If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a button tin, then you’re probably already familiar with the treasures you can find in them.

If not, look out for buttons at car boot sales, thrift stores, and even on eBay.

Having a good selection of buttons increases the odds of you finding just the right thing without having to shop for it.

Button tins also provide endless fun for small children, counting and sorting, threading, choosing their favourites and hoarding them like precious treasures. (Obviously, you’ll want to supervise any children likely to put things in their mouths).

If you don’t have a button tin, I highly recommend you start one yourself.

Snip buttons off any clothes headed for the rag-bag, and you’ll soon start to amass a collection.

(If you’ve got a sizeable collection of buttons, take a look here for ideas of things to make with them.)

How To Sew On A Button

Before we get started, this tutorial applies to a two-hole button. If you’ve got four holes, or a shank (the kind of button with a little loop on the back), the process is a little different.

In general, though, it’s very similar. You need several strands of thread passing through the button and the fabric to hold everything firmly in place.

1. Thread your needle with a doubled length of thread.

Here’s a quick video on how to do that.

Cut the thread to about the length of your outstretched arms, and then pull it through the needle so that both ends are the same length.

This gives you a doubled length of thread that’s long enough to sew on the button, but not so long that it tangles all the time.

2. Tie a knot in the end.

Wrap the end of the doubled thread around the tip of your finger, and then use the needle to pull the thread through the loop a couple of times.

Pull the thread tight, gently, and then slide the loop off your finger and tighten the knot fully.

3. Figure out where the button needs to go.

You can usually see telltale threads where the old button fell off, or needle-marks in the fabric.

If not, button up the whole garment, and then use a fine pen to make a mark through the buttonhole, on the fabric where the button needs to be sewn.

4. Bring the needle up through the fabric, ready to sew.

Start from the wrong side of the fabric and poke the needle through so that it comes out right where the button needs to go.

5. Thread the button onto the needle, and then pull the thread completely through.

how to sew on a button

You want the knot to sit snugly at the back of the fabric, right behind the button.

how to sew on a button

The button should sit snugly on the front of the fabric.

6. Poke the needle down through the other hole on the button, and through the fabric, bringing it out at the back, right next to the knot.

how to sew on a button

Take some time here to get the thread pulled firmly through, and the button sitting just how you want it.

It’s easier to make adjustments now, while there’s just one loop of thread holding it all together than it is to try and do it later.

Use the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand to hold the button in place as you work.

7. From now on, you’re just making the same kind of stitch over and over again.

how to sew on a button

Come up through the fabric and through the first hole in the button, and then back down the other side.

Keep going until you’ve done this six times.

Really, six is kind of an arbitrary number. Five would be fine, or seven. I just like six. I feel like that’s enough to hold the button on without it becoming impossible to wedge the needle through the holes.

8. Bring the needle up just through the fabric (not the button).

how to sew on a button

You need to bring the needle out between the button and the fabric.

9. Wrap the thread firmly around the stitches under the button a few times.

It’s a little hard to describe this, but you’re effectively making a little ‘stem’ for the button.

The purpose of this step is to create a little space between the button and the fabric, and to strengthen the stitches a little more.

10. Bring the needle through to the back of the fabric one last time and fasten off.

how to sew on a button

Just poke it down nice and close to the button, so that it comes out right by all the other stitches on the back.

Take a couple of small stitches at the back of the work, trying not to go completely through the fabric.

Then take a third stitch, and put the needle and thread through the loop before you pull it tight.

Trim the thread leaving a short tail on the wrong side of the garment.

All done! Now you know how to sew on a button.

how to sew on a button

So, the next step is to go and rummage out any clothes you have with missing buttons and add them to your mending pile.

The fastest way to get better at something is to keep doing it.

So, don’t leave it at one button.

Make time over the next week or so to practice a few more times, until you know how to sew on a button properly, without having to check the instructions.

Once you’ve nailed the art of sewing on buttons, pick something else to try. How about learning to darn a sock?

how to sew on a button