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!
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.
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.
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