WHAT IS IT?
Buttons form half of a two-part closure consisting of a button and buttonhole or button and button loop. The button slips through the buttonhole or loop, and since the button has to be turned to get through the buttonhole, the closure keeps the garment closed.
Buttons have two or four holes in the middle for sewing the button to the garment. Buttons may have a shank, a small loop underneath the button, for sewing it to the garment. This raises the button, making it a good choice for buttoning thick garments.
The majority of buttons are round, but they can also be square, oval, long and narrow or novelty shapes like hearts or leaves. Rounded buttons are the easiest to button and unbutton, which is why they are the most common shape.
Buttons can be made using a variety of different materials, including plastic, wood, metal, bone, horn, shell, leather, vegetable ivory (a type of nut), clay, fabric or glass. For more on fabric-covered buttons see (page link).
Wood and metal buttons
Button detail on Robson Coat
WHEN DO YOU USE IT?
Buttons are used as closures on coats, blouses, dresses, jackets and suits. Buttons are a good choice when you want the closure to be a design feature or when you want a strong closure. If you lose a button, it’s easy to replace it without taking apart the garment. Buttons are used to close pockets and secure cuffs, and they are often used as part of an adjustable feature; for example, dress straps with multiple buttons allow the straps to be tightened as needed without altering the garment. Buttons can be purely decorative; for instance, placed at necklines, waistlines and down the center of garments. Buttons can also decorate an opening that has a functioning zipper or snap placket as the real closure.
HOW TO CHOOSE BUTTONS
There are many factors to consider when choosing a button. Size is the most obvious, but you also want to consider the weight, washability, color and material. On lightweight garments, choose buttons that are both physically and visually light. Metal buttons may look out of place on a pale chiffon garment unless the contrast is part of the look you are after. Think about how easy the buttons are to button, especially on children’s wear or on waistband closures. Novelty-shape buttons are fun but tricky for young children to manage on their own. When choosing buttons as a closure, make sure the garment doesn’t fit too snugly, as the spaces between the buttons can gape and pull apart.
HOW TO MARK BUTTON PLACEMENT
Take your garment and line up the center fronts with the facing sides together, right sides outward. Line up the bottom edges, making the buttonhole side slightly longer than the button side. This will ensure your top layer is longer than the bottom layer at the center front. (Imagine how sloppy it would look the other way around, with the bottom layer hanging lower.)
Now pin your edges together to keep the edges aligned while you mark the button placement. You’ll unpin these edges before sewing on the buttons. You might have a hard time pinning through all of these layers, so you could try using binder clips if that makes it easier.
Mark the button placement by sticking a pin through the buttonhole, through all layers of fabric, about 1⁄6″ (3mm) from the edge of the buttonhole at the front edge. Repeat with each of the buttonholes.
These pins are marking the button placements. Because they might fall out as you work, mark where the pins come out with chalk or tailor’s tacks (page link). I chose chalk because it’s faster than tailor’s tacks, but it all depends on your fabric. If your fabric is light colored, you might want to use tailor’s tacks. Mark an X over the pin spot. You’ll find it easier to locate the exact right spot for the button if you use an X instead of a dot or circle.
HOW TO SEW ON A FLAT BUTTON
If the button is going to be used with a buttonhole, you don’t want to sew the button completely flat to the garment. Leave space for the layer with the buttonholes to fit between the button and the bottom layer. Picture a button with a shank, like on the waistband of your jeans. You’ll make a shank out of thread so the buttons button nicely without squishing that top layer.
To make the shank, stick something in your button stitches—a toothpick or straight pin—to keep the stitches loose. The longer you want the shank to be, the thicker the item you should use. For blouse buttons, a straight pin will be fine. For coat buttons on thick fabrics, a toothpick or skewer will work.
Thread a handsewing needle with doubled thread. To make the thread stronger and reduce tangles, run it through beeswax, pulling it through one of the slots from end to end. I like to press the waxed thread to make it much stronger and thicker. Press the thread between a folded piece of paper so you don’t get wax on your iron or ironing board.
Take your needle and thread, knot the ends, and make a few stitches in the button placement spot, right through the X. The goal is to go just through the top layer, not through to the facing. It gives you a more professional look not to have little stitch marks on the inside of your garment. After you make two or three small stitches, poke your needle upward through any hole in the button.
Take the thread and poke it back into the button’s next hole. I like to make an X with my stitching on four-hole buttons. You can also make two parallel lines or a box around the four holes. On two-hole buttons, you simply sew from hole to hole. Before you pull the stitch tight, add the toothpick or straight pin to keep an even amount of extra space.
Make four more stitches through the same holes in the button. Turn the toothpick so you can make four more stitches through the opposite two holes for the X stitching.
Remove the toothpick. Push the button to the end of the stitches, so any extra space is under the button (not above the button).
Push up the button, so you’re looking at the underside of the button and the stitch loops. Wrap your thread around the button threads, underneath the button, twenty or thirty times. Remember how many times you wrapped the thread on your first button so you can be consistent and do the same on all of your buttons.
Finish off your button by making a few small stitches at the base of your thread shank. I made about six or eight stitches, just to be sure it would stay put. These stitches take the place of a knot. Trim your thread.
HOW TO SEW ON A SHANK BUTTON
Thread your handsewing needle with doubled thread. Make a stitch in the button placement spot, right through the X. Again, the goal is to go just through the top layer, not through to the facing. After the thread is secured, sew the button in place. Place the button with the shank parallel to the buttonhole opening. Sew through the shank and garment several times. Finish off sewing the shank button by making a few small stitches at the base of the shank.
HOW TO SEW REINFORCED BUTTONS
For hard-wearing, long-lasting buttons, add a reinforcing button. This is a small, flat button on the inside of the garment that will help strengthen the closure and reduce the possibility of the button stitching pulling out of the fabric. It’s great for frequently worn coats and jackets.
Find a small, flat button and place it on the facing side of the garment. Sew through both buttons, following the steps above. It makes it easy if you choose a reinforcing button with the same number of holes as your garment button. Form the shank underneath the garment button.
Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine