How do you sew buttons back onto shirts?

Hello all,

I can do my own laundry, and always separate the whites from the darks. I can fold, spot stains, and even iron if I have to. Not bad for a bachelor, I know. But if one of my shirts loses a button, I’m completely useless sewing it back on. Don’t even know where to begin. Is there a simple, foolproof technique for sewing buttons onto shirts? I’ve been wearing extra-thick ties, just to hide the fact that a couple of my work shirts are missing obvious buttons down the center. I know, very professional.

If there are still threads where the button came off, they are your guide. Otherwise, lay the shirt on your knee as if it were buttoned and put a little dot in the buttonhole where the button would be. Then put the button over the dot or the threads. Thread the needle and poke it into the back of the shirt numerous times til it comes out the hole in the button. If the button only has two holes, easy, just sit there and sew with your knees together like my grandma. In one hole, then up through the other. If it has four holes, do them on the diagonal a few times, then switch and do the other diagonal so your stitches make a cross on the face of the button. Make sense? Don’t try to sew it on like a motherfuck or it will be too tight and your shirt will buckle and look weird. Keep it reasonably loose so that it feels like the other buttons do. Not too tight and not too loose.

Make your last pass of the needle one that faces the back of the shirt. When you tie the thread in a knot and it is too far away from the shirt, keep knotting it closer and closer til you have a knot that’s close to the back of the shirt. Then cut off the extra thread and put the button through the buttonhole. Does it lie right? If not, yank on it a while. Just be happy you were an independent person with his own sewing skills and don’t be so picky if it doesn’t look exactly right. Wash it a few times and maybe it will look better. This is how I was taught in girl guides and it has served me well.

Probably not the “accepted” method, but since I never learned it either, what I do is:

4- holed button

1: Put the button to the shirt.
2: Push the needle (with thread) up through the fabric and through the hole all the way
3: Push the needle downwards through the other hole and the fabric underneath that, but NOT so that it’ll all come out
4: Tie the string to itself and push it up through the next hole
5: Put it downwards through the last hole
6: Continue until you feel that it’s strong enough, then tie the thread to itself underneath.

If it’s a two-holed button, just go under and over continuously.

Don’t know if that’s EXACTLY how you do it, but it’s worked well for me.

  1. Invite woman friend over. (Doesn’t matter if she’s a feminist or not. For some reason, this works with virtually all women.)
  2. Chat pleasantly for awhile.
  3. Preferably, ply her with drinks and/or food.
  4. Nonchalantly take out shirt, needle, thread, button and announce that you are going to sew on a button while you chat.
  5. Fuck it up royally.
  6. Sit back and watch appreciatively while woman grabs shirt from you and says something like, “honestly! Men! I don’t know how you manage to do anything!” and then sews your button on for you.

Works for me!

  1. Thank woman profusely! (you can probably work this a couple times before she catches on)

I think the moment when my husband first realized that I was the woman of his dreams was when we’d been seeing each other for a few weeks and I offered to mend his clothes. Sewing buttons on a man’s shirt can be a bonding experience.

(sits on computer chair in girly pajamas and grins arrogantly at Big Bad Voodoo Lou)

In the spirit of see one, do one, teach one:

Get person who knows how to sew button back on to show you (pokey sounds like a good candidate; he or she is able to clearly describe how to do this task; her method matches with how I was taught by my mom). Then, preferably under supervision, sew one button one. Once certified by your supervisor, you may now go forth and teach other bachelors how to sew buttons on.

Only modification to pokey’s method: in the name of expediency and efficiency, double up your thread before putting it through the needle so that each pass of the needle fastens your button with four strands of thread.

Does late night TV still run those infomercials for the Buttonator™ machine that hypersonically welds buttons of all sizes back to garments from the finest silk to moose arse cloth using color coordinated plastique in 1.3 seconds flat? Order now and the Buttonator™ comes with a supply of round, square, triangular, and rhombus shaped buttons in 256 different colors-a full 10 pounds of buttons-a $59.95 value abso-farking-lutely free!

Laugh all you want, cat, but those things work! I have one in the team bag for instances when one of my debaters loses a button before a round and we don’t have time to sew it back on.

Pokey gives good advice. The one addition I’d add is that if you place a wooden match under the button when you sew it back on, it will space the button enough that you can button your shirt easier. This is only necessary for thick fabrics, however. A plain cotton shirt will not require it. Do try to use the same color thread as the rest of the buttons on the shirt, ok? :smiley:

Just to complete the list of Ways To Sew Buttons Back On: if you have or can borrow a sewing machine, know that many can be used to sew on buttons! Check the user’s manual. Mine involves selecting a zig-zag stitch, then setting stitch length to 0 and stitch width to 4 mm.

No, I’m not lazy, I just am not very good at sewing by hand :stuck_out_tongue:

Personally, I’d go the prevention route in future, since most of my buttons come off because they’re often not knotted and come unraveled, not cut. Most places that sell sewing supplies will have something called FrayCheck or it’s equivalent. It’s a clear liquid and you can dab a drop on the back side of the button (the side that’s against your skin). It doesn’t wash out and prevents raveling. You can use clear nail polish or even super glue, but those can darken the fabric if you use too much.

Hold onto your sewing friend-- you’d be surprised how many women don’t sew at all anymore. I’m the only one in my circle of friends who can sew at all. It’s a cryin’ shame!

      • I had not heard of the matchstick trick to make sure there’s enough slack in thick fabric, I had heard to use a round toothpick because it’s easier to pull out. A toothpick wouldn’t give as much slack as the matchstick tho I guess… Also what I have heard is that if the thread is white, then you should use dental floss instead of thread, because the floss is stronger than regular thread.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Take shirt to tailor/dry cleaner
  2. Pay
  3. Pick-up shirt

Mind you, my method does take a few days, but there’s usually less cursing involved.

My old method was:

  1. Wait until I visit parents (which, thankfully for all of us, is rare)
  2. Ask Mom to sew buttons

But there is a lot of cursing involved with that method. I’m grateful for the advice from everyone else!

Here you go! With pictures! Also mentions how you should line the holes of a two hole button vertically for a vertical buttonhole (most men’s shirts) and horizontally for a horizontal buttonhole. Good instructions.

My old method involved a lot of cursing:

  1. Dig through basket on dresser to see if I can find the little packet the spare button(s) came in when I bought the shirt
  2. Say fuck at least three times; motherfucker at least twice
  3. Locate packet
  4. Determine it’s the wrong packet
  5. Curse some more
  6. Find button sewed to side seam at bottom of shirt
  7. Try to locate sewing kit
  8. Curse some more
  9. Hang shirt back in closet

The end result of this would be either a) wearing the shirt under a v-neck, pull-over or b) taking it out, wondering why I never wear it anymore, putting it on and saying, “Oh, yeah…that’s why…”

I really resent the hold those packets have over me. Holding my jewlery box hostage with their “you need me forever just in case” bullshit. I have 900 or so little coke baggies of buttons. I think some of them are from grade 7.

I use a second needle. It gives just enough slack and is easy to remove.

I use method like “Pokey” said!

But I must add some comments about beginning and the end!


Thread the needle (hardest part)
Take the two ends of the thread and hold them up together so that the needle
is hanging down in the exact center of the thread.
Tie a the two ends of the thread together in a small knot, as close to the top/ends
as you can.

So when you start sewing, making the first pass though the back/underside of the
shirt, needle up through shirt, then button hole, the knot stops the
thread from coming out!

Do as Pokey describes.

Then at the end …

Make the final pass, through front of shirt … through button hole
then through shirt. The needle attached to the thread coming out the
back side/underside of the shirt.

Take the needle tip to the underside of the shirt where the thread is coming out
and put it through/under a few threads of the shirt or the runs of thread you have already
made. Like when you pinch some skin together and put a needle through.
Picture someone who has had the bridge of their nose pierced.

While needle is there “piercing” the shirt, take the thread from between the
back of the needle and the shirt. And wrap it a few times around the tip of the

Then slowly and gently pull the needle out. Continue pulling gently as you
do, the loops that were wrapped around the needle tighten into a nice knot
at the base of the shirt! Wha La! Snip

Easier then it sounds! Hope I explained it well and that it makes sense!
The end is the key! It’s like making a fisherman’s knot, if you can relate.

Did you mean the Buttoneer? I actually had one of 'em. Might still be around somewhere. Worked okay, although not very professional.