Tiny Tweaks: Sewing a Button
Tweak (n.) – a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system
Well, the kids are back to school, and in my LOADS of free time (insert sarcasm face here), I’ve been trying to cross little projects off my list.
At the beginning of summer, I got overwhelmed with ALL THE PROJECTS. Every time I walked into our bathroom, I thought about the 20 problems I wanted to tackle in there. Keeping all those ideas in my head started stressing me out, so one day, I walked through the house with a steno pad and made a giant list of EVERY project I could think of. Each room got a page, and I listed everything, big or small, that I wanted to do. It was so freeing to have it all written down. I stopped thinking about every little thing, and walking into the bathroom wasn’t stressful anymore.
It also helped me see which projects were so simple that I could complete them right away. I realized that it was often the little projects that made me feel so much better, so much lighter. These tiny little tweaks – “fine adjustments” – can make a big difference. So I thought it would be fun to share some of these “Tiny Tweaks” in the next few weeks in hopes that they might encourage you to tackle some small projects, too.
A few weeks ago, when we were roaming around the gardens at Biltmore Estate in the humidity-laden heat of August in the South, it occurred to me that I really don’t have enough shorts. Sure, it gets hot in California, but without the humidity, I can easily get by with jeans many days during the summer. (Once it hits 98, though, I’m wearing this dress on the daily.) So a decent pair of shorts – preferably in navy – went on my wish list. Target had a decent option, but they didn’t have my size at my local store. A few days later, I found a cute pair at the thrift store – and on a 50% off day. Score!
But they were missing a button.
No biggie! I’ve been sewing buttons on since middle school.
I know this because, one Friday, when I was in 6th or 7th grade, in anticipation of going to a high school football game with friends that night, I was wearing said high school’s t-shirt layered under a flannel shirt (because that’s what we ALL did). I had to go into the office for something, and I ran into a boy that I had known forever, and he was also wearing a high school t-shirt and a flannel shirt. (It was the 90s. I think flannel was all we owned.) He asked me if I could help him sew a button on his shirt. I told him I could, but that I didn’t have a needle and thread, but if he could find one, I could do it.
And that was the moment I remember thinking that the boys we built forts with and ran through the sprinklers with and played on the McDonald’s playground with were now boys we liked, and everything was all so different. And something that would have meant nothing a few months before – “Sure, I can sew a button on for you.” – now made me feel totally awkward and self-conscious and dorky. Which is pretty much how all of those middle school years felt.
Anyway, my “new” shorts.
And a perfectly matching button.
I have a stash of buttons. They are mostly the extras that come with new shirts. I have never had to use one of these spare buttons on their original garment, but I often find a use for them on other pieces. However, recently, BG has gotten into playing with buttons, so I emptied my stash for her. I had to dig through her closet to find one that worked.
Saving buttons makes me feel so thrifty. And also a little old-fashioned. I remember my dad telling me that my Mammaw would cut the buttons off of really old clothes that were destined for the rag bin. And I remember my mom kept her stash of buttons in an old baby food jar in our record cabinet (very much like this one) in the basement. Do you save buttons? Will any of our kids do this?
So, in the spirit of being self-sufficient, I’m going to show you how to properly sew on a button.
The first thing I do is to mark the button placement. Hold the waistband closed as it would look when buttoned
Insert a pin in the existing buttonhole until it pierces the underneath fabric where the button will go.
Carefully separate the front and back pieces of fabric, keeping the pin in the back fabric. This is where the first stitch will start.
Thread your needle. I’m using a contrasting color of thread – just for kicks. Feel free to use the same color thread as your fabric or button. Wrap thread around your finger and roll thread off of finger to create a knot.
Pull thread to secure knot.
I always repeat to make a larger, extra secure knot.
Flip back fabric over to inside.
Insert threaded needle as close to pin as possible, coming up from the back side.
Slide button onto threaded needle through any of the holes on the button.
Pull thread through hole until knot touches back of fabric.
Insert needle into hole immediately below hole where thread is coming out.
Pull thread all the way through to back.
Looking at the back, I use the previous stitch as a guide to see where to insert my needle again – the same place as the initial stitch, where the knot in the thread is resting.
Before pulling taut, insert a pin underneath the first stitch on the front of the button. This will leave some space so the button is not too tight and will button and unbutton with ease.
Repeat up and down stitches through the same two holes a few times (I did 4).
After 4th stitch, keep thread at the back of fabric.
Use a pin to locate the top hole on the other side of the button. This will once again give you a guide for where to insert your needle.
Insert needle through the back of the fabric and come up through new hole in button.
Pull thread through and insert needle into hole directly below the hole you just came up through.
This will create a second vertical stitch on the button.
Repeat the same number of times as the first stitches.
To make the button more secure, we will wrap the thread around the stitches behind the button but in front of the fabric. With thread pulled to the back of the fabric, come back up through the fabric but not through the button.
Wrap thread around stitches behind the button several times. I did 6 wraps.
Insert needle back through the fabric behind the button.
Pull through back side of fabric.
Trim thread and tie off loose pieces in a knot. I usually do this 2-3 times.
A nice, new, secure button with a little pop of color.
I’m also playing around with some new ideas for bracelets for my shop. I cut apart old bangles and added some vintage beads.
I love the colors, but I’m still tweaking the design. I’ll keep you posted on what I end up with.
And I’ll make sure they pair nicely with a flannel shirt.