Clothes fastenings serve a functional purpose in doing up clothing and helping it shape the body, but they can also be decorative and add some creativity to designs. While buttons and zippers come to mind first when thinking of clothes fastenings, they are not the only options for sewers. Beginner sewers can choose easy options such as snaps and Velcro which are quick and simple for all levels and can be adapted to most sewing patterns.
Types of Clothes Fastenings
There are 13 main clothes fastenings types from buttons to Velcro.
Buttons are one of the first things I think of as a solution to clothes fastenings. They are popular and cheap and relatively easy to sew especially if you have a sewing machine.
Buttons can be plastic, shell, metal, ceramic or even glass and come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes. The biggest downside of using buttons for clothes fastenings is that you need to sew a buttonhole for it to insert into. This can be done with a machine, by hand or using tiny loops.
2 Hole and 4 Hole Buttons
These are the most common type of buttons and have holes going right through the top to the bottom of the button. They are easy to sew and are quite secure and long-lasting. Hole buttons are used on shirts, jackets, skirts, top - just about all clothing types.
Shank buttons have a loop that sticks out from the back of the button. Instead of sewing through the top of the button, the thread passes through this shank to attach to the clothing item. Due to the shank, these buttons stick out on the garment making them best suited to thicker fabrics such as those used for coats and jackets.
How to Sew a Button Video
Here is a video I made to show you how to sew shank and hole buttons by hand. There are weekly sewing and craft videos if you subscribe to the Treasurie YouTube channel.
Fabric buttons can be made using a kit and template or you can make your own quite easily. These buttons are perfect when you are looking to match your button perfectly to the fabric of your clothing. Fabric buttons will not wear as well as plastic or metal buttons so are best suited to items that will not be washed quite as often.
Stud buttons are the style you find on jeans. They are made from metal and rather than sewing, they are attached to the fabric by way of a stud setting at the back. These are mostly professionally attached but you can purchase small kits at most haberdasheries that include a setting tool. Stud buttons on jeans and denim jackets are often patterned and branded with logos and letters.
Buckles can be used to fasten belts, shoes, and even clothing. They come in metal, plastic and wood and can be plain or decorative. Some buckles simply thread through and others have a tongue that will need to go into a hole or eyelet.
Eyelets will need to be used in conjunction with either a buckle or used to thread a cord through. Eyelets are extremely common on leather and denim garments and are durable and able to take a lot of pressure. Thin articles of clothing are not suitable for eyelets as they tend to tear the fabric.
Fabric ties can be used in conjunction with eyelets or fabric loops or can be sewn into the seam of an opening. Fabric ties are usually thin so they will tie easily without coming undone. These clothes fastenings are often found at the neck or back openings and can be matching or a decorative contrast color. You will find fabric ties at the back of many wedding dresses enabling them to fit between a few sizes and adding a corsetry look.
Further Reading: How to Make Spaghetti Straps
Frog closures are braided clothes fastenings often found on Eastern clothing. They consist of 2 sides, one with a knot and the other a loop. These clothes fastenings can also be called frogging and were initially found on military uniforms from the 17th Century. The frog closures were often excessive and decorative.
Hook and Eyes
Hook and eyes are often used at the top of a zipper rather than as a stand-alone clothes fastener. They can also be used at the neck where a small slit is used to enable a top to be put over the head. While they come in different sizes and compositions, most clothing uses small silver metal hook and eyes. Hooks and eyes are found at the back of bras and can be used in lingerie.
Further Reading: How to Sew Hook and Eyes
Kam snaps are a plastic brand of snaps that are particularly popular on baby nappies and clothing. They are hand set with a pliers style of tool and are great for home sewers. Kams come with different sized posts that you will need to match to the thickness of the fabric you are using. Kam snaps are readily available on eBay and Amazon and are an inexpensive clothes fastener.
Further Reading: How to Set Kam Snaps
Ribbons and Cords
Ribbons and cords can be used in a similar way to fabric ties. They can be sewn into a seam and tied or laced through holes or loops. Ribbon is commonly used in wedding dresses and corsets.
Further Reading: Types of Ribbons
Sew in Snaps (Press Studs)
Sew in snaps have 4 holes around their perimeter through which you hand sew. They are easy for beginners to sew and come in various sizes from small to really big. They are mainly composed of black or silver metal but you can also purchase plastic ones.
Further Reading: How to Sew Snaps
Snaps (Press Studs)
Press studs or snaps are easy clothes fastening options that are set with pliers or a special tool. They normally come in kits which include the tool.
Further Reading: How to Insert Snaps
Do you love Paddington Bear? Well, his little coat has wooden toggles. Toggles are a long bar-shaped button that is secured with a loop and can be found on coats. The term toggles is also used for the metal or plastic stopper found on the cords of hats and activewear and drawstring bags.
Velcro (Hook and Loop Tape)
Velcro is the brand name for hook and loop tape and is one of the wonders of modern sewing. It is easy for even beginners to sew and is great for bags and children's clothing.
Velcro comes in various widths but most common is ¾ inch (2cm). You cut it to length and sew half on either side of your closure. Also available is baby Velcro which is narrower and softer.
Velcro is usually purchased on rolls and you will pay by the yard or metre. It can also be purchased in pre-glued dots. However you purchase it, make sure it is designed for sewing. Non-sewing types will gum up your needle if they have glue or may be too thick or stiff to even sew through. Skipped stitches are common when sewing Velcro, so use a sharp thick needle and a good quality thread.
Further Reading: How to Sew Velcro
Zippers have long been used as a neat and almost invisible way to secure clothing. Zippers can be metal or plastic and come in various lengths. They also come in various teeth sizes so you can match the style and durability to the item you are sewing.
When reading sewing patterns, keep in mind that zippers are measured from metal stopper to stopper and not along the tape which is often a couple of inches longer. Most common as a clothes fastener is the invisible zipper which can be used in skirts, pants and dresses. Zippers can be shortened, often saving you a trip to the shop.
Clothes Fasteners - In Conclusion
Clothes fasteners are a necessary part of sewing so learn how to attach some of the easiest types and slowly build your skills. There are many alternatives to buttons and zippers for beginners so don't let a fastener stop you from making something beautiful.