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How to: Sew on a button

Whether you are finishing off a project or needing to re-attach a button that has fallen off, the act of hand sewing a button is a great way to slow down.

There are two different kinds of buttons - flat ones and ones with a shank.

  • Flat: Just as the name suggests, these buttons are flat and don't have anything protruding out of the back. They are available with either two or four holes. Take a look at a button down shirt, or the neck opening of a top or dress for an example.

  • Shank: These buttons have no visible holes on the top. Instead, they have a tunnel like shape, or loop, on the underside that you sew through. This 'shank' essentially creates more space between the button and the fabric. Therefore, shank buttons are more suited to thicker fabrics, like a winter coat or knitted cardigan.

It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with these different types of buttons as it may effect how you sew on the button. Next time you choose a garment from your wardrobe, why not take the time to investigate what buttons have been used?

You can use your sewing machine to attach buttons (flat buttons anyway). But I really believe hand sewing skills are important to practice. Plus, stitching on a button is pretty easy and quick so why not give it a go?!

For the purpose of this post, I will focusing on how to hand sew on a flat, four hole button. This method can be easily adapted to a two-hole button.



  • Button(s): If replacing a button that has fallen off, try and use the original. If not, just ensure that the button fits nicely through the existing button hole (not too easily though as it should be a little snug). If working from a pattern, simply check the notions listed on the envelope or in the instruction booklet for the size and recommended type.

  • Sewing needle: Nothing fancy is required here, just a regular, hand sewing needle will do the trick. I also always have an additional pin at the ready for marking the button position, or to create a shank (a toothpick, or matchstick will also work for larger shanks).

  • Thread: A general purpose sewing thread will usually suffice.

  • Scissors



Investigate: If replacing a button, I recommend beginning by familiarising yourself with any existing buttons.

  • Does it have two or four holes? If four, have they used a criss-cross or just parallel line pattern?

  • Have they used matching or contrasting thread?

Thread the needle: Cut a piece of thread (around 40-50cm will probably suffice), and slip the thread through the eye of the needle, pulling until there are even amounts on either side. I like to double the thread in this way for added strength (buttons go through a lot). Knot the end.

Position the button(s):

  • If replacing a lost or missing button, look for the evidence - marks, holes or loose threads - left on the fabric that will indicate exactly where the button was previously. If not, grab a tape measure or ruler and check the distance between existing buttons.

  • If working from a pattern, the relevant pattern piece will indicate the exact positioning and these markings can simply be transferred across to your fabric.

Anchor the thread: Sew a couple of little stitches on the spot to avoiding relying solely on the knot.

Attach the button:

  1. To sew on the button, simply push the threaded needle up through one hole of the button and back down through the next.

  2. Anchor to the fabric by threading the needle through the fabric. To make the stitching invisible on the underside don’t go entirely through all the layers of fabric. Simply pick up the top layer of fabric, or just a couple of threads of your fabric each time.

  3. Insert pin or toothpick, between the button and fabric.

  4. Repeat steps i-ii 3-5 times per hole. Whether creating a criss-cross or parallel lines will determine whether to thread the needle through the adjacent hole or the one diagonally opposite.

Create a shank: Once the button has been sewn on, remove the pin or toothpick. Wrap the thread 3-4 times around between the button and fabric. This will create a shank.

Finish off: Push the needle through the fabric, not the button hole, and sew 2-3 stitches to secure. Tie and cut off any excess thread.

There you have it! It is as simply as that!

Please get in touch or leave me a comment, I would love to know if you found this tutorial useful, or if you have any tips to share on sewing on a button!

Thanks for reading!

Emma xx

This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions contained on this site are my own. I am not affiliated with any brands, products, or organisations mentioned, and do not receive any sponsorship, payment, or other compensation for any of the content on this site.

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