Buttons make a great finish for lots of projects but some people avoid using them because they can appear daunting to fix to the fabric.
It might be that you want to use a lot of buttons but sewing them on by hand is going to be very time-consuming.
So can sewing machines sew buttons? You certainly can and pretty easily too. A sewing machine that has a zig-zag stitching setting and a button sew-on foot can sew a button onto your material within minutes.
If you only have one or two buttons to sew, you might be wondering if it’s worth the effort of setting up your sewing machine to complete the job.
That depends on you but there are advantages to using a sewing machine for buttons.
Neater finish. A sewing machine can stitch much more accurately than humans can.
The thread is controlled more when using a sewing machine and you are able to ensure the button is placed exactly where you want it.
This is particularly useful if you are sewing on many buttons in a row (a shirt for example) as using a sewing machine is likely to ensure that your line of buttons is much more uniform.
Speed. Once you get the hang of using a sewing machine to sew on buttons, you will find that it takes minutes - saving you a lot of time.
The first thing you are going to want to do is to choose the right button.
Consider the type of fabric the button will be going onto. If your fabric is heavy, then the button needs to be heavy.
Delicate fabric, delicate and small button. Make sense?
Then it comes to the style of the button, time to start thinking about what colours work best.
If you’re wanting to add an interesting take on your design, then consider opting for a contrasting coloured button.
You will also want to think about the texture of the fabric and the texture of the button. Match them up (or don’t!).
Smooth on smooth. Shiny on shiny. Or go crazy. This is your time to be creative so do what suits you!
As for how many buttons to use, again, it’s down to you. My preference? I swing more for odd numbers rather than evens.
If you are trying to match the colours exactly but can’t manage it then try to choose a darker button.
The reason being is that a darker coloured button will blend in more than a lighter one. A lighter button against a darker fabric will stand out more.
Pro tip - To build up a good supply of buttons, always remove the buttons off old dresses/shirts/anything before throwing them out.
This way you’ll have plenty of buttons when you need them!
Now we have the buttons taken care of, it’s time to think about the thread!
You can buy a dedicated button thread, I would always advise that you use this rather than standard sewing thread.
It is more durable and will hold up to greater use. However, don’t panic if you don’t have any.
The colour of the thread is important - an enjoyable process but one we all want to get right!
I try to use the same coloured thread as the fabric. This is easy if you’ve created the garment yourself as you should have some thread that matches perfectly.
You may or may not choose to interface your fabric.
If your fabric is thin then I would recommend that you add a small bit of interfacing where the buttons will be going.
The button will be getting used and that means that area of fabric will also be so it’s best to protect it in the first instance.
Interfacing helps to prevent this from happening.
Alright so as a rule, buttons should be placed ¼ inch from the edge.
The top button should be ¼ from the neckline and the bottom ¼ inch from the hem.
Then you are able to work out where the middle buttons should go. Got it?
Some sewing machines will have button settings and a button foot. That obviously makes things easier but not hugely. There are many ways to sew a button!
If you have a zig-zag stitch option on your machine, then you’re good to go!
Ideally, a button foot would be good as it means you can see the stitches more easily but you can get by without.
So you’re going to want to put the button in the position under the foot and keep it there.
You won’t want it to shift. This is easy with a big button but with smaller buttons, this can be more tricky.
A little tip is to get a glue stick and you can use this as a way to hold it steady. A tiny dab will do the trick.
You can also use transparent tape to do the job just the same. Whichever you find easier. The only thing with the tape is to make sure it isn’t over the holes.
Now you’ll need to put in the button spacer. You will need this to allow the button to get into the hole with ease.
What you should find is that the button will be raised slightly once it has been sewn on.
One thing to point out before you go spacing every button! Is that if you are putting a button on for decorative purposes only, then a spacer isn’t needed.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy when it comes to a button spacer.
I use a toothpick - sophisticated or what?!
Some people use another needle and this keeps the button up. That gives you an idea - it doesn’t need to be complicated!
Another thing to note is that on some button foot, the spacer will actually be built into it so you can discard your toothpick.
If you don’t have a toothpick to hand, simply fold a small piece of paper up several times, and boom, you have a spacer!
We’ll now be looking at getting the machine moving.
Firstly with a 2 hole button.
You will want to set your sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch.
Then you need to adjust the width. You should do this slowly - ideally one stitch at a time.
A good starting point is to set your width at zero and work from there. You will want to leave a long tail before your first stitch.
After that, you can change the width to 3mm.
Be careful when doing your first stitch, you don’t want to hit the button. It’s easy if you go slowly!
Once the needle has gone into the first hole without issue, make a few stitches in that spot. By doing this, you will anchor the thread in place.
Once you have done that switch your machine to a zig-zag stitch. Make one single stitch to the other hole.
From this, you will be able to get an indication of what the ideal stitch width is.
This is something I recommend you take your time over, you will need to turn the hand-wheel to get the right width.
Once you’ve got the right stitch then do five or so zig-zag stitches to get things secure. You can do more than five to make things extra secure but no more than 10.
Keep your needle in one hole and turn the stitch width back down to zero. Now it’s time to anchor the thread by doing another 2 or 3 stitches.
You can now cut off the thread but leave a decent tail.
The reason it’s good to leave a long tail is it means that you can thread it in a needle and take it to the back of the garment - it keeps things neat and tidy!
Things aren’t too much different with a four-hole button.
Basically, you need to repeat the stitching over the other holes, in the same way you have done.
This will involve raising the foot and moving where the fabric is so that the two remaining holes are under the foot.
The best bit of advice I can give you is to go slowly.
Time to tidy up the stitch and finish it off.
The tail that you left, thread it to the back of the garment - you can use a needle for this bit, you’d struggle otherwise!
Once it’s at the back, then tie and knot with it and cut the remainder off.
One thing you can do as a little bonus is to add a liquid fray preventer to it if you have one.
This will help to prevent the last thread from coming away. The application is quick and straightforward.
There you have it! How to sew on a button using a sewing machine - nice and easy!
What is your next project?