Why I don’t like buttons

02Feb11

For some reason I’ve never much liked styles with lots and lots of buttons. Now I think I finally have found out why. Can anyone tell me the secret to sewing on buttons and making the things stay put?

A few months ago my other half got a great new coat from an Army surplus store. A proper coat, with buttons. Lots of buttons. Shortly after we got it, one of the buttons came off. I offered to sew it back on, only to discover that the problem was that the shank of the button had broken so I couldn’t just reattach it. The buttons are a distinctive style and the coat hadn’t come with any spares, so I replaced them all with a different set. This took quite a while but I figured it was worth it.

And then they started coming off again, one by one. I sewed them on with stronger thread. They fell off. I sewed them on in a slightly different position so there would be less strain on them. They fell off. I sewed them on again over a pencil rather than a matchstick, to make a longer gap between button and coat. They fell off. Even the ones that there should be no strain on at all are coming off now.

On Saturday I went to look for superstrong thread and beeswax in town, having heard that waxing the thread helps, but came back empty handed on both counts. So I’m completely stuck as to what to try next. Can anyone give me a hint?

In other news, my muslin of Vogue 1087 is coming on. I’m about halfway. Here it is pinned on my dressform. It’s actually starting to look like a dress now.

There are 38 steps in the instructions. I’m on about number 14, but as I am planning to miss out the zip it doesn’t feel like I’ve got much more to go!



7 Responses to “Why I don’t like buttons”

  1. Hmm, I don’t think there is any secret, but now that you’ve brought it up, I would love to read how others sew on buttons.

    I use 2 strands of thread through the eye of the needle, then doubled, so 4 strands go through the button at a time. If I am sewing buttons on outerwear, I use a backer button. I hold a matchstick on top of the fashion button so there ends up being a space between the button and the fabric. I take one or 2 buttonhole stitches to make the shank. The only buttons that I have problems with them coming off are at the waist of trousers. My coat buttons seem to stay on well.

    • I can’t help with the buttons or add to what Claudine already wisely suggested. I just popped in to say your dress is looking mighty fine so far.

  2. With the last lot of metal buttons that kept falling of my daughter’s trench, I finally resorted to invisible thread. It looks a bit like thin fishing line, and I plan to use that next if the invisible thread hasn’t solved the problem. I still don’t know how successful this has been because it’s summer here, so the trench hasn’t had much wear since the last button sewing on episode.

  3. I also use a doubled strand of thread. I make 2 passes through the button, wind the thread around its base a few times to make a shank, and then make 2 mores passes through the button before tying off. My buttons never fall off this way. I use backing buttons too, but usually only for knitwear.

  4. Sorry, I have only ever sewn lightweight shirt buttons on and they don’t have to take much strain. But I’m glad you asked the question as I have always used a single strand of thread and gone through the button many times but now I’ll double up!

    Your dress really looks fabulous. I can’t wait to see it made up.

    I wish I had a dressform.

  5. The dress is looking fantastic, I have this pattern (somewhere…) so am looking forward to seeing your finished version. I haven’t really had problems with buttons other than cheap plastic ones cracking in the dryer – Claudine’s advice above is excellent if you haven’t tried those tips already.

  6. Love the dress – can’t wait to see it all done up! It’s one of my favourite Donna Karan dresses. Regarding buttons: I usually use a back button on outerwear, double up the thread like Claudine suggested and do the matchstick trick to make a shank. HOWEVER, I did have a leather swing-style jacket years ago that had metal buttons, and it didn’t matter what I did, they kept falling off, too. I think I eventually used fishing line or something similar in strength, and that seemed to keep them on until I finally gave it away.



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