Sewing buttons is very easy once you get the hang of it. It's a very useful skill to possess, as buttons do fall off. These instructions are for buttons with 4 holes (::) and 2 holes (:). Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Select a suitable button and thread that matches the button, the garment, and any thread used to sew on other buttons.
If you have a button pop off and you can't take care of it immediately, use a safety pin to hold the garment closed and be sure to keep track of the button. It's best to use the original button if you have it.
Make a place to keep track of the extra buttons that come in baggies with new garments, if they're not sewn into an inner seam somewhere. Label the buttons if you can.
Thread the needle.
Thread the needle. If you like, you can double the thread to make this job quicker. Simply pull it through the needle so that there is an equal length of thread extending from both sides.
Tie a knot.
Tie a knot at the end of the thread. One way to tie a knot is to wrap the thread around your finger as shown, roll the thread between your fingers, and pull it tight. If you doubled the thread, tie the ends together. Leave a long tail of thread, whether you are doubling the thread or using a single thread to sew the button.
Position the button.
Position the button on the fabric. Line the button up with the other buttons on the garment.
Check the buttonhole. Close the opposite flap or panel where you want it and make sure that the button lines up with the buttonhole.
If the button was on correctly before, you can often go by the little holes in the fabric where the button used to be. You can see the pinholes alongside the button in the photo.
Push the needle through.
Push the threaded needle up through the fabric and through one hole in the button. Pull the thread all the way through on each stitch.
Place a pin under the center of the button.
Place a pin or toothpick under the button across the button's center and hold it there until the next stitch helps keep it in place. When the pin is withdrawn later, it will allow the slack necessary to create a "shank" so that there will be space between behind the button for the material that will need to go there when the garment is buttoned.
Push the needle through the next hole.
Push the needle down through the next hole and through the fabric. Still holding the pin in place, pull the thread all the way through. Once that is done, the pin will be kept in place by the thread. In this photo, the button was lifted up to show what's going where, but it's best to hold the button in place so it does not move.
Button with stitching in an X.
On a 4-hole button choose the one diagonal to the first hole if you want the threads to cross in an "X" formation.
Button with parallel thread pattern.
If you want two parallel lines of thread showing, choose the next hole that is opposite the first.
Bring the needle up through the fabric and button.
Bring the needle up through the first hole (for a 2-hole button) or a new hole (for a 4-hole button) and pull the thread all the way through the fabric.
Repeat the process until the button is secure.
Repeat the sewing process enough times to make sure the button is securely in place. On 4-hole buttons, make sure that the stitches have been made evenly, so that all four holes are equally used.
Come up between the fabric and the button.
On the last stitch, push the needle through the material, but not through a hole in the button.
Go between the button and material.
Pull the thread out into the area between button and material, remove the pin and pull up the button a little.
Wrap the thread around the "shank".
Wrap the thread six times around the thread between the button and the material to reinforce the shank you have created.
Back down through the material.
Push the needle back down through the material.
Back stitch to tie off the thread.
Make three or fourback stitchesto secure the thread.
Trim the excess thread.
Cut off the excess.
Some sewers prefer to secure the thread to the cloth with a few stitches before beginning to sew on the button.
Double thread your needle, if you want to reduce the number of times you have to thread the holes to secure the button.
If you are replacing a 4-hole button, look to see how the other buttons are sewn on the garment. Use the same stitching pattern (crossed or parallel) used on the other buttons.
Make sure you've threaded at least 5 inches (12.7 cm) of thread.
You can thread two pieces of thread through the needle, doubling each and so using four threads at once, to really speed up the process.
Another way to knot the thread at the end is to take a tiny stitch on the wrong side, pull it almost down to the fabric, and then put the threaded needle through the loop before pulling it tight. If you do this twice in the same spot, that is a double-knotted thread. Then you can cut off the thread close to the knot.
Ordinary thread is fine, but there is such a thing as button thread. It is thicker and stronger than regular thread. If the buttons you are sewing need extra strength, such as on a coat, try button thread
Button thread is often easier to use if you run it through bee's wax after threading your needle. In fact you can even use quadrupled button thread, which is great for overcoat buttons.
It is also a good idea to try to match the color of the thread used on existing buttons. Some shops specialize in buttons, if they don't have the existing button match, they should have something very near to it. If you are stuck with using a near match consider replacing all the buttons with you near match, that way your garment will look much better.
For buttons that get heavy use, try wrapping the long thread of the needle tail around the threads that hold the button, at least 4 or 5 times, tightly, then force the needle and thread through the tight bunch of threads that you have created. Try pushing the needle parallel to the the button's holes, to avoid resistance. Use a thimble for pushing the needle. (The reason for this is simple: thread wear will cause the button to fall off sooner, unless you wrap the exposed threads with a protective wrap.) Once you have forced the needle through, push it back into the cloth, and tie it off with the long tail that you left at the starting knot. When you wrap the threads, the button will be more secure, and the thread that holds it in place will last much longer.
Keep back of button as neat as the front by looking to see that you are not creating a bird nest of thread. Keep thread coming in and out at approximately the same area.
Take care not to poke yourself with the needle. If you are sewing heavy fabric, use a thimble to push the needle.