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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sewing 101: Sewing on a button

This is the third in the Sewing 101 series. We will be sewing on buttons. Get out your sewing basics and let's start practicing. 

First, I assume nothing. That is to say, I won't assume you know anything at all about sewing. So, with this sewing lesson series, you'll understand, I hope, why I state the obvious over and over again. It's just to make myself quite clear and in doing so, you are more likely to actually learn how to do this properly. That is my goal, after all, for you to learn the basic sewing skills so you can do simple repairs on your own clothes and those of your family, easily and well and with little or no added expense.

By the way, do you know how much it costs to have a pair of pants hemmed professionally? I've seen as much as $10/hour for your basic mending. It shouldn't take more than a half hour for an experienced sewer to hem pants or a dress and for a beginner perhaps an hour. Learn how to do it yourself, that's ten bucks in your pocket. That's just from one pair of pants. What if you had a ripped seam, two pants to hem, a dress to take in and three buttons to be sewn? You may have to hand over your whole paycheck. YIKES! Now are you ready to learn? I thought so.

~I apologize for the photos I'm using here for illustration. The colors seem off and it must be due to the cloudy day. Ah, well, we shall survive.
Mark the spot with chalk
 You have a button which fell off your favorite shirt and you need to sew it back on. This is what you do:

Get thread of the color which closest matches the button and thread your needle with it. No, do not match the shirt color unless you wish the stitching to be noticeable. (For the purpose of the demonstration, I used contrasting thread, button and fabric so you can see it better.)

Two hole button
Hold the thread doubled and knot the end of the thread. Find the proper position of the button on the garment. If there had been a button there before you will likely see evidence of its exact position (tiny holes or the old thread.) To make it easy you might like to mark this spot with chalk or fabric pencil.
Chalk marks the spot
Take the threaded needle and from the back of the fabric stick the needle up and through the marked spot. Now take the button and put the needle through one of the holes and hold it in place.
Needle up from the backside of fabric to the front
Button in position

Pull the thread out and put the needle down through the other hole making certain the button is still in the proper position.
Pull the thread out
Pull the thread relatively snug toward the back, but not too tight. You want to be able to button the garment, so allow a tiny bit of give between the button and the fabric.
Snug but not too tight
Needle goes down other hole toward back
Take the needle at the back and put it through toward the top trying for the first hole. This can be a bit tricky unless you are good at guessing where the needle will show up! Just try not to prick your fingers. I've done that a few hundred times. OUCH!
Needle up through the first hole again
Now you should get how this works. Just pull the thread up and push the needle back down. Do this several times, I'd say 5-6 stitches should hold the button in place for a good long time.
Tying it off

To make quite certain the thread doesn't unravel, you must make a knot. To do this flip to the back of the fabric and put the needle through the stitching you just made. Now wrap the thread around the tip of the needle and pull the thread out. Do this 1-2 more times and that should secure the button for keeps.
Pull the thread to make a knot
You may be wondering what to do if you have a button with 4 holes. Pretty much the same thing, only you have to do it twice; first with the first set of holes, then with the second set of holes.
No different, just more to do

Same old same old

There is an alternative way to sew on a button. This would be the cross stitch which is exactly what it sounds like. You make a cross with the thread. All you do is sew from one hole to the hole diagonal to it. You make 5-6 stitches on one cross and then do the other and you ties it up on the back same as with the other way.

Cross stitch

Which method to use depends on how the other buttons on the garment, if there are any, are already done. They should match as a general rule.
Don't forget to make a knot or two
Now you know how to sew on a button. I'm certain you can find a few loose buttons on some garments for your practicing. Next time, which may be more than a week from now, we'll continue with more sewing lessons.

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