Do you have something to mend or are a new sewer wondering how to sew a button? I will show you how to sew on a button easily and quickly either by hand or machine in just a few easy steps. This tutorial is aimed at absolute beginners so don’t worry if you don’t know how to sew!
How to Sew a Button
There are 2 kinds of buttons – flat buttons and shank buttons. The method you use for how to sew a button will depend on what type of button you have.
The beginning part of this tutorial will show you how to sew a button by hand but did you know you can also use your sewing machine for small flat buttons? Using a sewing machine to sew buttons is only the best option when you have numerous buttons to sew and your machine is all set up to go. Hand stitching is really fast and often better than getting your machine out if you just have one or two buttons to sew.
Types of Buttons
Flat buttons can have 2 or 4 holes and are the most common type of button found on clothing. As the name suggests, the buttons are flat with no loop protruding out of the back. The holes will go right through the button from the top to the bottom. In the photo below, the middle and end right buttons are examples of flat buttons. Flat buttons can be sewn by hand or with a sewing machine.
Shank buttons have no holes on the top but instead, have the holes through an extra barrel-shaped piece at the back of the button. The red button on the left is a shank button. See how there are no holes visible on the top? Shank buttons can only be sewn by hand as there is nothing on top for the sewing machine to go through. These buttons are also better for thicker fabrics and jackets as they sit up higher than flat buttons.
Here I will show you how to sew buttons with 2 holes, 4 holes and a shank.
How to Sew a Button – The Video
Here is a short video I made to show you how to sew the 3 types of buttons by hand. If you love craft and sewing videos make sure you subscribe to the Treasurie YouTube channel.
How to Sew a Button By Hand – All Types
Step 1: Thread the Needle
Regardless of the type of button you have, the first step will be to thread a needle.
Cut 16 inches of thread and thread it double through your needle. Knot the end. You can use a single thread but it is normally not strong enough for button sewing unless you have a really thick thread.
If you are having trouble getting the thread through the eye of the needle, use a needle threader to help. These small silver devices normally come with a packet of needles and can be really useful.
Step 2: Mark the Position
Mark your button position. If you are replacing a button, you can clearly see where to sew it. For sewing patterns, it should be marked on the pattern piece with a cross or dot.
On the right side of the fabric, put your needle down into the fabric and come up a short distance away (1/8″ (3mm). Cut any excess thread after the knot. This knot will be hidden by the button when you are finished.
Now skip to the section with your type of button – either 2 holes, 4 holes or shank.
How to Sew a Button By Hand – With 2 Holes
See steps 1 and 2 above – thread your needle with double thread and mark the position of the needle.
Step 3: Stitch the Button On
Thread the needle through one side of the button. Make sure the button is centered on the mark and put the needle back down through the opposite hole.
Stitch through the holes a few more times.
Step 4: Knot Off
Bring the needle up to the top but not through the button. Wrap the thread around the stitches a few times. Pass the needle to the side and knot it off.
See the diagram below which shows you how to sew a button with 2 holes.
How to Sew a Button By Hand – With 4 holes
This method is very similar to the above 2 hole buttons. See steps 1 and 2 at the top – thread your needle with double thread and mark the position of the needle.
Step 3: Stitch the Button
Thread the needle through one hole of the button. Make sure the button is centered on the mark and put the needle back down through the opposite hole.
Stitch through the holes a few more times in a cross pattern as shown. Most 4 hole buttons are sewn with the cross pattern but you could also sew it going across or down so you have 2 bars. This is just a personal preference. As long as you have a strong thread and enough stitches, it will hold just as well.
Step 4: Knot Off
Bring the needle up to the top but not through the button. Wrap the thread around the stitches a few times at the base of the button. Pass the needle to the side and knot it off.
How to Sew a Button by Hand – With a Shank
Sewing a button with a shank starts out the same way but instead of passing the needle through the center of the button you will be passing it through the shank (or hole) underneath.
See steps 1 and 2 at the top – thread your needle with double thread and mark the position of the needle.
Step 3: Thread the Shank
Thread the needle through the shank on the underside of the button. Make sure the button is centered on the mark and put the needle back down into the back of the fabric.
Bring the needle to the top and stitch through the shank a few more times.
Step 4: Knot Off
Bring the needle up to the top but not through the button. Pass the needle to the side and knot it off a couple of times.
How to Sew a Button With a Sewing Machine
Learning how to sew a button with a sewing machine can save you valuable time, particularly when you have numerous buttons to sew on a shirt or dress. Have you ever tried sewing tiny buttons on men’s shirts? They are everywhere. Ahh, way too much work! Done correctly, sewing buttons with a sewing machine also creates strongly held buttons that won’t fall off after washing and general wear and tear.
Once you have practiced how to sew a button with a sewing machine you will want to do this every time.
This technique can be used to sew 2 hole or 4 hole buttons but the buttons should be relatively flat for the best results. Thick or domed buttons may not fit under the foot and will slip around so you will need to test it first.
How to Sew a Button By Sewing Machine – Supplies
In order to sew a button with your sewing machine, you will need a button foot. It generally has a very wide open toe for the button to sit under and is specially shaped to hold the button in place. You can purchase a generic one to fit most low shank machines.
ALTERNATIVE: Now if you can’t get hold of a special button foot, don’t worry. You can actually use this same technique with a zig-zag or general foot. Just make sure the opening at the toe (where the needle goes in) is a bit wider than the holes in the button.
Your button foot should snap on like most regular feet and you can thread your machine as you normally do. This close up reminds me that my machine needs a bit of a clean!
Try and use a quality all-purpose polyester thread that won’t break in the long term.
Step 1: Mark Position
On your fabric, mark the position of your button. If you are worried about the button moving as you sew you can hold it in place with a bit of clear tape and remove it when you have finished sewing.
Step 2: Zig-Zag
Place the button under the foot with the holes lined up in the open toe.
Put your machine on a zig-zag with a 0.0 stitch length. With a stitch length of 0.0, it will zig-zag from side to side without moving forwards.
The width will depend on the exact position of the buttonholes. This small button had a width of 4.0.
Just use your handwheel to make sure the width is correct and won’t hit the sides of the button.
IMPORTANT: If you put your foot on the sewing machine pedal before you have checked the needle is going through the holes correctly you might break a needle. Full disclosure – yes I broke a needle on my first attempt at this button. It had been a while since I’d sewn one with my machine and I forgot to check!
Once you have used the handwheel to do the first couple of stitches, put your foot down and it will zig-zag from hole to hole. Stop when you think you have enough threads. You don’t need to be excessive.
Step 3: Remove and Knot Off
Take the button out of the machine.
Pull the threads to the back and knot off the ends.
How to Sew a Button – 4 Holes
A 4 hole button is sewn the same way except that you will repeat the process for each set of holes. You can choose to go across twice like I did in the photo below or diagonally to make a cross shape.
So now you know how to sew a button with a sewing machine you can save precious time for more enjoyable things.
How to Sew a Button – In Conclusion
So now you know how to sew a button both by hand and by sewing machine! You can use this method for skirts, shirts, dresses and anything you need to.