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How To Properly Sew On A Button
An Instructional Treatise by Kabbaz-Kelly Fine Custom Shirtmakers
How To Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz Kelly Shirtmakers
18 Ligne Mother-of-Pearl Button

Properly sewing on a button is not difficult. For the beginner it can - and should - take a bit of time. The method illustrated applies to shirts. The same method applies to suits and coats, but there are usually more turns on the shank and sometimes the thread end is left running inside the garment rather than being locked through the thread.

You will need a needle. We use #7 sharps, but a honed toothpick with a hole in one end will suffice. You will need thread. We use Mercerized Cotton Glacé #24 which is thick, strong, and meant not to break. Any thread will work, but if you use "standard home sewing thread", double the number of stitches/turns, etc. Silk is used on tailored clothing. You will need a thimble or pair of pliers ... or a large box of Band-Aids.

Ready? Slog on ... the end is but 15-20 minutes away. :-)



Instruction: Properly Sewing A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Fine Custom Clothiers

1] Thread your needle. No knot! Cut the two thread ends roughly the same length.

2] Insert the needle into the cloth 1/16" above or below where you want the button.

3] Outsert the needle from the cloth 1/8" from the insertion point. No - I have no clue if outsert is a word. I take it you got the drift, though.

 
How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers

4] Pull the thread through until about 1" of the two tails remain sticking out. Repeat the same procedure in the same place. You now have the thread going through the cloth twice.

5] Do the same thing, one time, in the same position, but at a 90° angle to the first two stitches.

How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers

6] Pull gently to tighten up the three stitches. Using a sharp scissor, cut off the two tails about 1/16" from the cloth.

7] Insert the button onto the needle (from the underside of the button) through any of the four holes. Yes, I know the photos show three hole buttons. The principle is the same.

How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers

8] Decide if you want a cross-stitch or a parallel stitch and insert the needle (from the topside) back down through the button in the appropriate hole.

9] Repeat steps 2] & 3] drawing the thread tight but leaving a 1/16" gap between the button and the cloth.

10] Repeat steps 8] and 9] using the two opposite holes.

11] If using Glacé or other strong thread, repeat steps 8], 9], & 10] one more time. If using weak home sewing thread (h.s.t.), repeat these steps three more times.

How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers

12] Now wrap the thread tightly around the attaching threads. If using glacé, do this three or four times. If using h.s.t., do this 6-8 times. You are constructing the "shank".

 
How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers

13] This is the hardest part. You will need pliers or thimble: Keep the thread locked tightly around the shank by holding it in place with one thumbnail. Using thimble or pliers, push your needle through the thread of the shank. Pull the needle and thread all the way through. Perform this operation twice more.

If you can manage to do it, actually push the point of the needle through the thread itself (pierce the thread). These are the stitches which lock your work in place. If they actually pierce the shank thread, the assembly will be ever-that-much stronger and permanent. Spare no effort.

 
How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers

14] Cut the threads about 1/16" from the shank. Tie no knots.

 

15] Launder the shirt. When the thread shrinks, it will shrink around those final three stitches, firmly locking them so that they should not unravel.

How to Properly Sew On A Button by Kabbaz-Kelly Shirtmakers
We have demonstrated using a unique 3-hole button and an upward pointing "arrow" stitch similar to a "chicken foot".

And the whole thing only required 15 minutes! Multiply that times the average 14 buttons on a shirt. Now you know why they sew buttons on using button-sewing machines!

As an aside, there are three popular bespoke stitches. The cross-stitch is most popular; parallel stitch second most (and the one usually seen on RTW), and the "chicken-foot" stitch the least seen ... but that's a story for another day.


Copyright © 2006 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind permitted without written permission of the copyright holder.