Last week we asked you, our faithful readers, what simple things you wished you could do. First on the list of responses was sewing; how to sew a button or hem pants. Today we will be tackling buttons, next week we’ll do pants. My sewing skills are very visceral, figuring out how to describe what I’m doing in words is tricky enough that I’d rather go in bite-size chunks.
First, the needle. You’ll need about 2-3 feet of thread. It seems like a lot, but it will be doubled over and it’s easier to have a little more than not enough. If you have never threaded a needle, you just poke the thread through the eye. Or you can try a needle threader. Most packets of needles and sewing kits have one. You poke the wiry loop through the eye, poke the thread through the wiry loop and pull it out of the eye, taking the thread with it – voila, threaded needle. Pull the thread through until the ends are even with each other.
Now the knot. First lick you thumb, just trust me on this one. Now wrap the end of the threads around your index finger. Pinch the loop with your thumb and roll it to the tip of your finger (this is why you licked your thumb, for traction). When you reach the tip of your finger, keep them pinched together. Then use your pointer finger to pin the twisty loop in place and pull. The twisty loop will turn into a knot. I promise this is way easier to do than it is to describe.
On to the button. If you are replacing a missing button there is probably a worn spot on the fabric where the old button was. If the fabric is in good shape you can put the new button right on top of it, if it is really threadbare you need to shift the button to the side a bit. Remember, closer to the edge will make your clothes a tiny bit looser, away from the edge will make them a little tighter. Poke the needle through from the back, so the knot is on the wrong side of the fabric (Instead of a front side and back side, fabric has a right side and a wrong side. The wrong side is the side that won’t be seen when you are wearing your garment.) Now poke the needle through a button hole. From here you have a couple of options. If you have a four hole button you can sew it in straight lines or X’s. I like X’s because they are cool, but they are both equally stable. Anyway, poke the needle through a different hole in the button and keep going through the fabric behind it. From here it is just rinse and repeat. You want to have a total of six stitches holding your button down, so on a four hole button you use three stitches in each pair of holes, in a two-hole button you put all six in the same place. (Figuring out where to poke the needle through from the back of the fabric, so that it comes up through the right hole in the button is a huge pain in the ass until you’ve done it a few times. Don’t stress, you will find a way to make it work. I can’t really offer any advice here other than ‘Practice.’)
After you have your six stitches you get to make a shank. Yay – fun words! The shank holds the button away from the fabric so that there is room for another piece of fabric behind it. Here’s what you do: Poke your needle through from the back of the fabric, like you’re making another stitch, but don’t go through the button. Instead, you wrap the thread around your stitches behind the button, three times, then you go back through the fabric.
You are almost done. The only thing left is the final knot. Make a tiny stitch on the wrong side of the fabric. Instead of going straight through, back to front, you make a straight stitch so you start and end on the same side of the fabric. Before you pull the needle all the way through the fabric, wrap the thread around the free end of the needle two or three times. When you pull the needle through, it should make a knot right on the fabric. Clip the thread and you are done. Huzzah!
Since I realize that, while this makes sense to me, it might sound like monkey gibberish to someone who hasn’t sewn before, we made a short video to demonstrate. Here’s mine, and if it still doesn’t make any sense, there are lots of other recommended videos where others show how they were taught to sew buttons. With a little luck, one of us can teach you what you need to know.