When people learn I sew they often tell me, “Oh I can’t even sew on a button!” – it’s an oft-repeated phrase that means, essentially, one has no sewing skills whatsoever. But I find this phrase funny because actually, sewing on a button is more difficult than it seems!
Here I’ll illustrate how to enact a button installation – in this case on a folded edge of felt. My method hides thread tails and creates a very strong, and very tidy result. It can be used almost any place you need a button – whether a new garment, or a repair!
You will need your thread, button, a heavier needle with a large eye, and (optional) thread conditioner or thread wax.
When I first learned how to sew on a button, I would thread a single strand through the needle, knot the thread, and sew six to eight times per button pass. What I’ve sense learned to do, is quadruple-thread the needle. Take a long draw of thread, double it over, and push the folded end through the needle:
Then draw the folded edge to meet the cut edge, pulling the thread taut. No need to knot the end. You now have a quadruple-threaded needle ready to go!
Go ahead and pass the thread through your wax or thread conditioner – steam press the wax into the thread if you’re using wax. If you have neither thread conditioner or wax, you can simply stroke the thread several times. The oils on your fingers will help coax the thread into behaving better.
Now it’s time to sew! I have marked my button location with a little ballpoint pen, on the right side of the garment:
Now, we are ready to start sewing! Slide the needle in between the layers, about 1/2″ to 5/8″ away from the button location. Then bring the needle out right at the button location. Draw the thread such that only about 1/4″ of the thread end is peaking out of the fabric.
Holding the thread end with your non-dominant hand’s thumb, go ahead and tie a knot right at the button location by taking a tiny bite of fabric, drawing the thread down to a loop, and passing the needle in and over the loop twice. Draw the thread down into a firm knot, holding the thread ends to keep them secure.
Now simply cut those loose thread ends close to the fabric (careful not to cut the fabric itself!) and voila- hidden thread tails!
Now it’s time to sew the button! I am using two parallel stitches for the button, but you can also use a square formation, or an x formation – whatever you like. Push the needle through the underside of the button, and back down – then stab the needle through to the back side of the work.
Drive the needle back up and sew the second stitch for the button. When you drive the needle to the back side again, go ahead and drive the needle right through the bite on the back side.
Continue sewing the button – I usually use two passes per stitch. On the last pass, do not drive the needle to the back side of the work. Instead, pass the needle in between the button and the fabric, and then tightly wrap the thread between the button and fabric. This creates a strong button with a space for the buttonhole to “float” on the button closure. It makes it easier to work the closure, too.
Then drive the needle to the back side for the final time. Knot the back side just as we created our first knot.
Then stab the needle right next to the finished knot, and draw the thread in between the two layers to hide it. Drive the needle out from the hidden layers and clip the threads, in the same fashion we started our knot!