Published on April 4th, 2016 | by Julie Finn1
How to Replace a Button on a Button-Down Shirt
Even if you can’t sew, you can sew this.
Look at this shirt. Poor button-down shirt, missing its button! Fortunately, a missing button on a button-down shirt is THE easiest thing to replace. You don’t have to know how to sew to replace a button. The only things that you need are two needles, matching thread, and a pair of sharp scissors.
“But don’t you need a button?” you might ask?
That’s a good question, but the answer is no. No, you don’t even need a button! And that’s because your button-down shirt has a secret little present for you. Check out the inside of the shirt-tails–haven’t you always wondered why there are a couple of random buttons sewn there, when they don’t have anything to button?
They are there, Friend, just so that you have a matching button when you need to replace one. Isn’t that nice? It’s also a further sign that you can definitely do this project–if, in our throw-away, consumerist culture, manufacturers are STILL providing spare buttons on button-down shirts, then that means that everyone, EVERYONE, is absolutely capable of replacing a button on a button-down shirt.
Here’s how easy it is:
1. Snip the threads holding your spare button to the shirt. You’ll need scissors with a sharp tip, or maybe a steak knife. Be careful not to nick the fabric, but even if you do, you know what? It’s the bottom of your shirt-tail. It’ll never be seen.
2. Thread a needle. Most times, I don’t approve of doubling thread on a needle, but this time it’s fine. Thread your needle, pull it double, and tie a knot at the bottom.
3. Match the button to its correct spot. The only really tricky part to this is making sure that your replacement button is perfectly situated. Fortunately, the fabric where the old button was probably still shows the small holes where the thread used to be. Send your needle through the back to mark the place, then use that to situate the new button just right.
4. Mimic the sewing of the other buttons. Take a second to check out the other buttons to see how they’re sewn–if there are four holes in the button, are the stitches parallel or criss-cross applesauce? If they make an x, which diagonal is sewn first? Matching these little details is not hard, but it will make your new button look indistinguishable from the others.
5. Sew the button. Whichever the sewing pattern, the rule is 3-3-3. Three stitches to sew the button on, three more stitches for the other two holes if you have a four-hole button, three stitches to make the shank, three stitches to lock the thread.
As you make that first stitch, you need to add in a second needle or a pin as a placeholder–if you don’t, then you’ll be sewing the button hard against the fabric, and there won’t be room for it to be buttoned. Some people like to put the pin between the button and the fabric, but I think it’s easier to put the pin on top of the button. Just set it between the two buttonholes, and stitch over it; the stitching will hold it there, and you shouldn’t have to move it even if you’re sewing a four-hole button. And remember–three stitches are all you need!
5. Make the shank. Whichever way you set the pin, slide it out now, and gently push the button up so that you can see the thread between the fabric and the button. Push the needle up through the fabric under the button, wrap it around the thread firmly three times to make the shank, then push it back through to the wrong side of the fabric.
5. Lock the stitching. Make three tiny stitches on top of each other on the back side of the fabric, where you’ve done your sewing and so hidden from the front. This locks the thread in so it won’t unravel.
You’re all done! For bonus points, put your shirt on, go find a friend, and challenge that friend to tell you which button you just replaced.
They won’t be able to do it. Because you rule.