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learning to sew - replacing a button

Simple Sewing Kit ~ Basic tools to do this project

  • Small packet of medium size needles.
  • Thread the required colour of your garment.
  • Small sharp embroidery scissors
  • Unpicker
  • Basic colours of reels of thread for example: white, grey, black & navy depending on your wardrobe.


I often hear as an introduction “I can’t sew on a button but….I would like to learn to sew.”

Then astoundingly I have heard at least three prospective pupils say ~ I would like to make my own Wedding Dress (one was XXX L) & alternatively make Wedding Dresses to sell!

We are going to start very simply with basic tasks that you can do relatively quickly yourself. It is normal if you find yourself feeling clumsy in your coordination, as it is fairly demanding work & it takes time & skill to develop. You will have a new respect for the skill after sewing one button on!

My career began as a small child as I was always drawing feminine figures & clothing which evolved into paper dolls. My fascination with transformation came as I played with the buttons, while watching my mother & aunt sewing as part of their regular lifestyle, but best of all making wonderful dresses for Parties. I was dazzled to see two attractive women become glamorous!

Your first task is to find the missing button or replace it with one that closely matches your garment in size & colour. The most common ones to go missing are usually on shirts & more regularly men’s shirts.

I suggest you start a button bottle as the variety in buttons is huge! Just cut off any buttons before you throw an old garment away & I need to mention here that the variety of buttons is enormous. The likelihood of finding one the same very remote & highly unlikely!

If you are lucky & mostly when the garment was a good one, there is a spare sewn on the side seam. Remove carefully with the small sharp scissors or unpicker.

If there is not a button available & you have not yet got a button bottle then visit “The Bargain Box” in Wynberg, which is an old fashioned shop & where you could buy a single similar button!

The first step is to remove a button from the lowest part of the shirt near the hem where you may be able to get away with replacing it, if it is tucked in like a man’s shirt. The one that is missing is often over the chest or the stomach where some stress often occurs depending on the figure!

The replacement is easier if the button has two holes instead of four, but if it is four holed you just examine how the original method button was sewn on & duplicate it using the formula.

All this is a good excise in logic….as well as nimble fingers. If the shirt tucks in you can replace the lowest button with something similar just to keep the bottom together when it is tucked in which makes the look tidier.

Thread up a medium sized needle with a matching thread & thread up your needle double with a knot or failing that start with 2 small back stitches for security. Lay the shirt flat on a table & do up the rest of the buttons. The exact place will be clear if you put a pencil mark through the buttonhole to mark the alignment.

You need to notice which was the direction of the holes are to be able to imitate the existing buttons.

Best Tip ~ Take a match stick & place under where the stitches will be (you seem to need 3 hands at this time) & incorporate the match stick under the button when you sew about 4 times, then bring the needle out under the button close to the sewing you have done & wind the tread about 3 times around the bottom of the button. This forms what is called a shank & this makes the method of the button sewn on not only strong but more flexible & therefore unlikely to fall off again.

Finish by taking the needle & thread to the wrong side to sew a few small stiches in the same place discretely under the button.

How I can help?

If you would like me to do an evening Workshop on this & how to put up a Hem please give me a call on 021 6711387. I will be covering “How to put up a Hem in Theory in the next Newsletter.”

Just to say it is harder to write the instructions than to actually do it!

Barter (Trade your skill for mine)

I am willing to do an exchange of services instead of money on a barter system if you have a skill I would like to learn or a service to offer in exchange.

Visit a Class – no obligations

You are welcome to visit a class by phoning me to book an appointment with no obligations.

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