how to sew a button

The Complete Guide To Sewing Buttons: Effortlessly Replace or Add Buttons With Pro Tips

Have you ever needed to quickly replace the button that fell off your favorite shirt or coat? Knowing how to sew on a shank button, hole button, or flat button properly ensures your clothing repairs are secure and look neat. You can tackle this valuable sewing skill in minutes with simple tools like needle and thread.

Whether fixing a missing button or adding decorative ones to a handmade garment, this DIY tutorial guides you through the process. I’ll review the equipment needed, like button thread and small scissors, button placement factors, how to stitch them by machine and hand sewing, and tips for success. Soon, you’ll expertly replace loosened shirt buttons or missing pants buttons.

The Three Main Button Types

Before stitching, consider the type of replacement button. Shank buttons contain a protruding loop on the backside to stitch through, providing space between the button and the fabric. The threaded shank allows thicker fabrics like coats to fit through the buttonhole easily. Hole buttons feature two or four holes for threading the needle through. Flat buttons lack holes and shanks, so they require anchoring threads directly to the underside instead.

Gather Your Sewing Supplies

Having the right gear ensures efficient button repairs:

  • Button – match size and holes to the missing one when possible
  • Needle – sharp enough to pierce the fabric
  • Thread – coordinate color to button and garment
  • Fabric swatch – part of the garment button is being replaced on
  • Scissors
  • Pins, embroidery hoops, or masking tape – to stabilize the fabric
  • Sewing machine (optional) – for efficiency but can be hand-sewn too.

Check Button Placement

Check Button Placement
Photo credit: freepik

Take a moment to examine where the original button was located. Mark the button location with chalk, pencil, or fabric marker, aligning any existing stitches or buttonholes. Proper placement helps the garment hang correctly when worn. Vertically lining up buttons also contributes to a neat appearance.

Prepare Your Needle and Thread

Cut an adequate thread length of about 18 inches. For durability, double up the thread; otherwise, a single thread suffices. Knot the end tightly, or the thread may pull straight through the fabric after applying tension. This anchors it securely.

To sew, either use a narrow zigzag stitch on your sewing machine or tightly thread your needle for hand sewing. A second needle provides an easy way to stitch through heavier buttons with four holes.

Sew on a Hole Button

The steps involved for this popular button type include:

  1. Stabilize the area behind the button placement by inserting pins or using an embroidery hoop or masking tape.
  2. Position the button, aligning the holes appropriately over the marked placement.
  3. Moving from the right side to the wrong side, push the threaded needle down through one hole and up through the opposite.
  4. Repeat this motion several times, alternating between the pairs of holes.
  5. Check positioning on the right side before finishing.
  6. Rotate the fabric to the wrong side, then knot threads securely so they won’t loosen and pull through.

Make stitches in an x-shape through the holes before knotting threads for enhanced security.

Attaching Shank Buttons

Follow these directions when sewing on a shank button:

  1. As for hole buttons, stabilize the fabric behind the placement spot first.
  2. Position the button, ensuring correct placement.
  3. Move your threaded needle down through one hole and then up through the other.
  4. To form the shank or thread loop, make several stitches around the waist of the button without going through the holes themselves.
  5. Doing so anchors the button while creating space between it and the fabric.
  6. Finish off as usual by knotting threads on the underside so the tension keeps everything in place. You just created a thread shank!

Sew Flat Buttons into Place

Flat buttons lack any sort of holes or loops, making placement slightly more challenging. However, just takes a few extra stitches for fabulous staying power.

  1. As always, stabilize behind the fabric first where the button will go.
  2. Mark the precise position desired with chalk or fabric marker.
  3. Situate the button in the exact spot.
  4. Rather than holes, you’ll stitch across the center of the button, moving the needle from top to bottom.
  5. Create a crisscross motion with the thread across the button underside.
  6. Doing so anchors the threads securely into the weave of the fabric button backing.
  7. Finish with knots as usual on the underside.

Voila! Your flat button should now stay firmly in pace despite wear.

Replacing Buttons by Hand Sewing

While less efficient, you can sew buttons by hand in a pinch when needed. Just follow these steps:

  1. Knot together the ends of a double strand of thread for enhanced strength.
  2. Mark the garment placement accurately with chalk or by pinning.
  3. Aligning the button’s holes or edges, stitch through the right side and then underside by hand about ten times.
  4. Wrap the threads several times around the stitches themselves.
  5. Then, make knots on the wrong side to prevent loosening and slipping.

Try this classic hand-sewing method for coated buttons that can’t tolerate ironing or machine stitch friction.

Sew On Buttons Successfully

Take note of a few additional tips for sewing buttons:

  • Check if the garment came with extra buttons, just in case.
  • Stitch the bottom ones first when replacing multiple missing buttons, like on a coat. Then, work your way up to align spacing properly.
  • Consider button sewing position – vertically or horizontally stitched – according to garment type for aesthetics.
  • Are you in a rush? Choose machine sewing instead for much faster results.
  • Make sure to double-check stability by gently tugging after sewing.


What type of thread should I use to sew a button?

Use strong thread in a color that matches your button or garment so the stitching blends in. Cotton thread is best for sewing on buttons.

How many stitches should I make through each buttonhole or shank loop?

4-6 stitches through each hole or loop ensure the threads stay secured.

What’s the best stitch for sewing buttons?

Most sewing machines have a dedicated button stitch that provides a zigzag or cross stitch. Or you can use a traditional straight stitch.

Should I sew through the holes or around the sides of the hole buttons?

Stitching through just the existing holes provides enough strength; there is no need to go around the edges additionally.

Now, you know how to sew on a button utilizing several techniques. Soon, you’ll become a pro at replacing lost shank, hole, or flat buttons. Share if this DIY tutorial helped teach you this valuable essential skill! What other sewing basics should I cover? Let me know in the comments.


Main image: freepik

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 169

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