Monday, December 8, 2014

Who's got the button? Guest Blogger Claudine of Rolling in Cloth!

It is my great pleasure to have teaching us tonight, Claudine from Rolling in Cloth. She is an amazing seamstress, fabric dyer and painter and has a very creative fashion view point that wonderfully surfaces in her garments. I was thrilled when she contacted me to do a guest post on Next Level Sewing. She feels strongly about our newer sewists getting quality information and generously shares her knowledge tonight. We often think of the lowly button as an afterthought when it comes to technique but Claudine shows us the right way to install buttons and some new tricks to make them look good and last long. I learned a technique totally new to me and I think you will too.  Let's begin!

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When Bunny started this Next Level Sewing series, I thought it was a fantastic idea, and wanted to be somehow involved.  It can be hard to know where to go online to get good information that is not linked to product sales.  I asked Bunny if I could take over for a week and do a post of my own, and she graciously accepted my offer.  For those who don't know me, I normally blog at Rolling in Cloth.




Aren't buttons great? There’s such a variety available, and it feels so good to find just the right one for a project. They’re my favorite thing to buy as a souvenir when visiting a city. Then when I use the button that I purchased, I can think about my trip again. There’s a huge variety of buttons available, some of which are pictured above. The top left buttons are metal; top right are plastic; bottom left are fabric-covered buttons; and bottom right are natural and dyed shell. 



You know how to sew on a button. Obviously, you do. Even people who “don’t know how to sew” know how to do it. But, as with a lot of things, there is a right way and it may not be as obvious as you might think.
The picture above shows a well-sewn-on shirt button. The top view picture does not tell you much, since most buttons look passable from the top. When you turn it over, you see a few small stitches on the wrong side and no loose threads. From the side, you can see a thread shank that lifts the button slightly, allowing room for the buttonhole to rest under the button. The following video will go over my method for sewing this button on.



There are loads of different kinds of buttons. Most buttons have 2 or 4 holes to pass the thread through. Other buttons have a shank for attaching to the garment. The video above shows how to sew on a shirt button with 2 holes. You would need to extrapolate a bit to use these directions for a shank button or a 4-hole button, but the process is very similar. The main difference when sewing on a shank button is that you will sew it directly to the fabric. You won’t need to add the thread shank.



Use whatever thread you prefer. I like to use cotton thread for most applications. One exception is the button on the waistband of trousers, where I use the strongest thread that I have. Lately, I have been using artificial sinew that I bought from Dharma Trading to sew on trouser buttons.




Jackets (like in the photo above) can have backer buttons. Backer buttons add stability and durability if you are working with an unstable fabric. Make sure you match the number of holes in the backer button to the number of holes in the functional button, and sew them on simultaneously. I used backer buttons on the jacket above because the tweed fabric is very unstable, and I was afraid that the buttons would tear right off. I used whatever buttons I had around for backer buttons, but you can buy buttons that are specifically designed as backer buttons. They are very flat and are made of clear plastic.


Backer buttons
If you have a shank button that is non-functional (such as on a double-breasted jacket), you can sink the shank in a hole in the fabric made with an awl, then sew the shank button to a backer button very tightly through the hole. This will keep the button more flush with the garment fabric and keep the button from drooping. In the picture above, you can see that the button on the left is resting on top of the fabric, making it droop slightly and move around more. The one on the right is sunk into the fabric, causing the button to lay flatter. Honestly, I have never done this on a garment outside of school, but I have a couple of coats with drooping decorative shank buttons that I wish I had done this with.
On the subject of double-breasted jackets, sew the decorative button on the right side and the functional button on the wrong side separately. This will keep the decorative button in place if you lose the functional one.


Heavy or unusually shaped buttons are often non-functional. Generally, you would sew the button on the right side of the garment, then sew a snap underneath the button to keep the garment closed.




And lastly, when using a 4-hole button, never, ever sew it on with the threads crossed. Crossing the threads is not a design decision. It is poor technique.
 

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Thank you so much, Claudine. You made us realize how important it is to sew a button on correctly. Your method of making a hole with an awl to seat the shank button is brilliant. It is a new technique for me and I would guess many. It is so wonderful that you have shared with our newbies and all our sewing sisters your methods.  Isn't her video great? She has the patient voice of a great teacher. I think I speak for all when I say I have a new appreciation for sewing on buttons and I thank you immensely for that. 

If you have any questions feel free to put them in the comments and Claudine will answer them as she can. She is looking forward to it. Thanks again, Claudine.....Bunny

24 comments:

  1. Sinking the shank...brilliant! Backer buttons secure bustle loops as well on thin lacy fabric on wedding gowns with bustle buttons. I buy mine from Wawak.com by the bagful...they are a life saver on so many applications. Thank you Claudine for taking the time to share your knowledge with us, your blog is filled with truly one-of-a-kind garments to drool over!

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  2. What a great post and tutorial on how to sew on a button! As long as I've been sewing, I've never seen that knot at the beginning and end of the button - can't wait to try it!

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  3. Right, sinking the shank. 50 years of sewing, with some really awesome teachers and I never heard that before. Thanks!

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  4. I thought I knew how to sew on a button!

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  5. What an interesting article! I really thought I knew how to sew on a button, but didn't know to bury the end of the thread this way. And your tip about seating a shank button is ingenious! No more floppy buttons at my house. Thank you! Linda S.

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  6. It amazes me that so many experienced craftspeople did not know about sinking the shank. I'm glad to have introduced you to a new tip!

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    1. It was totally new to me, Claudine, and clearly everyone else! Great post and thanks so much for your hard work.

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  7. I too had never known about sinking the shank of a button to prevent floppiness, so I thank you very much for your comprehensive post. I do admit, though that I am curious as to why it is poor technique to sew on a four hole button with the threads crossed instead of parallel?

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    1. The sensible reason not to cross the threads is that the threads rubbing against each other can wear them out and they can break more easily. Maybe this is true and maybe it isn't, but it is what I learned in school.

      The real reason you don't want to do it is that anyone with professional training or deep sartorial knowledge will sniff at your technique and dismiss your skills as amateur, and think your garment looks homemade, in a bad way.

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    2. I remember my Mom constantly re sewing little four hole white buttons on to my brother's white uniform shirts. She used the "cross" method. I know because she taught me to use it. Those buttons were always falling off. So I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of the threads rubbing against each other and wearing thin.

      I think I am going to check all of my shirt buttons now to make sure they pass sartorial muster!

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    3. I never thought about the abrasion factor, but that makes a great deal of sense. Any buttons sewn on here in the future will surely be done the correct way from now on...

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  8. I'd also never heard of sinking the shank. Backer buttons and thread shanks yes. But, that other tip is new to me and terrific. I made a dress a few years ago with shank buttons and they are totally floppy. Great post!

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  9. Another wonderful , helpful post! I am shocked I didn't know to sew on a button properly! good grief, I almost skipped the video, so happy I didn't....... sinking the shank, brilliant!
    Thank-you
    Joyce

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  10. Thank you, Claudine, for your very thorough tips on technique. Having learned how to sew on buttons - the wrong way - 47 years ago, I now know the right way! Your video is very helpful. Great post.
    Thanks, Bunny, for this informative series of blog posts. They're good for all of us, not only beginners!

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  11. Claudine a wonderful post - I wonder how many people went to Brownies and got their sewing badge? That is where I learnt to sew buttons on and 50 years later am still using those skills.

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  12. Fascinating, NEW information! That was great. I, too did not know about sinking the shank.

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  13. Bunny, did the video disappear. I just have a large white space.

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    1. Works fine for me and comes up in the middle of the post as it is supposed to.

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  14. Exactly where is the video, and is there a button (how appropriate) to click on?

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    1. There are three pictures of a shirt button. Under that is a paragraph and after that paragraph is the video. You just click on the arrow in the center of the video. No one else has had any difficulty that I know of. I just tried it and it works fine for me. Perhaps an issue with your computer?

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    2. You may have something in your firewall or security settings that is preventing it from coming through. You may want to check that.

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  15. OK, the part I haven't been doing right is putting the toothpick above the button. I do it between the button and the fabric and that is hard to keep nice looking. I didn't know about burying the knot. I never loved the way my buttons looked from the inside. Fine from the outside, but now I think they will look good both places. Very educational.

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