Sewing a button back onto an article of clothing—it seems simple enough, doesn’t it? My rational mind knows it’s a fairly easy task, knows that it would probably only take 10 minutes for me to complete, and yet my heart could spend an entire afternoon avoiding it. But, of course, once I actually sit down to do it, as I have done many times—after fishing my sewing kit out of the back of my closet, retrieving my out-of-commission coat from wherever it’s been stashed—I am awash in satisfaction over my old-timey accomplishment. I may even feel so inspired that I consider hand-washing a delicate garment or two, which of course, I do not do, because I have probably already made plans to meet someone for lunch. Another time!
But, for all the button reattaching (and replacing) I’ve done over the years, I’ve never been completely sure whether I’m doing it right or if there’s a more efficient, more long-lasting way to do it. So, as part of a how-to mini-series we’ll be publishing on mending clothes—to help make them last forever, or close to it—I asked Kendall Khanna of Shopboy to break down the exact right way to do it. “Most of these repair jobs aren’t expensive, so it’s worth doing. As long as aesthetically it’s going to look okay, I say salvage it,” Khanna explains. “You might as well, because it’s probably going to be cheaper than buying something new to serve the same purpose.” (For those who prefer not to take to needle and thread on their own, Shopboy also offers mending services, which Khanna says their clients often spring for when dropping off pieces that need more substantial tailoring.)
Things to learn here? How many times you actually need to loop the thread and the best way to secure your button—so that you don’t find yourself resewing the same button anytime soon—and probably one or two other things you were doing instinctively that could be done a little bit better.
Keep scrolling to read and watch Khanna’s guide (then bookmark this story for the next weekend afternoon when you’re ready to expand your wardrobe in one of the easiest ways possible). —Mallory
Flat Button (Two- or Four-Hole)
1. Thread the needle
2. Tie a knot at the end of the thread by wrapping the thread around your index finger and rolling the thread off your finger. Pull the thread tight.
3. Push the needle through the fabric until in stops at your knot. Then push the needle through one hole of the button and bring the button to the garment, placing it where you’d like it sewn.
4. Then push the needle through the hole opposite your needle.
a. For a cross shape, use the hole diagonal to your first hole (only works if your button has four holes, like the white shirt with the brown button).
b. For a straight stitch, use the hole across from your first hole (you can do this with two or four hole buttons, like our orange silk shirt).
5. Push the needle back up through the garment through the hole you started with.
6. After you’ve gone through the same two holes twice, move to thread your needle through the other hole. You will be starting from the back side of the garment.
7. Push the needle through the hole and then back through the opposite hole twice.
8. Here you should be on the back side of the garment, so when you thread the needle back through, do not thread through any hole in the button, but rather to the side of the button.
9. Wrap the thread around the button 3-4 times.
10. To tie the knot, create a loop with your thread and stick the needle through the loop. Pull tight to secure. Repeat to create one more knot.
1. Thread the needle and pull the thread through to double the thread.
2. Tie a knot with both threads at the end by wrapping the thread around your index finger and rolling the thread off your finger. Pull the thread tight.
3. Push the needle through the fabric until it stops at your knot. Then push the needle through the shank of the button and bring the button to the garment, placing it where you’d like it sewn.
4. Push your needle down through the garment, pull tight and then push the needle back up through the fabric.
5. Push the needle through the shank of the button and repeat step five 4-5 times.
6. Wrap the thread around the button 3-4 times.
7. To tie the knot, create a loop with your thread and stick the needle through the loop. Pull tight to secure. Repeat to create one more knot.
And now, may we interest you in a little button shopping?
While the original idea for this story was focused on reattaching buttons that have become uncoupled from your garments, you can also freshen up a piece that’s not inspiring you or substantially spruce up a vintage find by replacing existing buttons. MR Market Strategist Eliz Tamkin is, naturally, a fount of ideas when it comes to this scenario. “One thing I love to do is order mismatched buttons—like mixed metals or primary colors,” she says. “Something like that can totally reinvent a boring cardigan.” Cruise through some of Eliz’s favorite button retailers via her selections below.