Friday, May 22, 2009

how to sew on a button with a thread shank

I got this awesome trench coat at Value Village* last weekend, only to discover after I got it home that it had three buttons missing. Plus an empty candy wrapper in one of the pockets, but I guess that didn't really affect its functionality too much. Not like the whole missing buttons thing.

So anyhow, I was feeling too cheap to go out and get all new buttons for the coat, so I searched through my button jar at home and finally found three brown buttons that were the same size as the buttons already on the coat. I laid them out on the coat to see how things would look with two different colours of buttons, and it was kind of quirky like me, so I said, Hell, why not?

Except I wanted the brown button in the middle to be a little higher - like in the second position from the top, not the third - which meant I was going to have to remove and sew back on at least one other button. And if I was going to go to all the trouble of sewing on new buttons, I figured I might as well make sure ALL the buttons were sewn on well.

So I decided to remove and re-sew every single button on that coat.


And don't be thinking that I really like sewing buttons, or anything. I'm freaky, but not that freaky. Just OCD.

This was probably the funnest part of the whole job - choosing a bunch of different shades of thread to sew the buttons on with. Because I figured if I was going to sew on different coloured buttons, why not use all different colours of thread, too?

I swear, I handn't been drinking. I don't drink. Who needs to drink, really, when you can think up fun crap like cutting off and sewing on 12 buttons for absolutely no reason?

Okay, I only cut off nine. Three were already missing.

I did get a little distracted for a while, taking pictures of the spools of thread. Or maybe it was just procrastination. I REALLY don't like sewing buttons.

Now comes the really fun part, and don't go thinking that I'm going to explain this well, or anything. 'Cause I'm not. Even if I DO have a Home Ec. degree. Which I do. And which is where I totally learned how to do this.

Oh Jeez, I just realized I totally uploaded the same photo twice. Awesome. While forgetting to upload the photo that was SUPPOSED to be in the above place. Do you know how long it's going to take for me to upload and then figure out where to position the code for the correct photo? Sigh.

Okay, I timed myself. It took less than 30 seconds. But FELT like forever. True. So anyhow, you need to scroll back up to the duplicated photo for the next instructions: You'll need a match, or a toothpick. I usually use a toothpick, but you can tell how long it's been since I've sewn on a button, because I haven't had a toothpick in my apartment since I moved to Toronto. And I'm back in London again. The toothpick (or match) will leave a little space between the button and the fabric of the coat, which I will magically turn into a thread shank further down in this blog post.

Yeah, I know I have awful cuticles. I should probably get a manicure, but I don't believe in manicures. For reasons that I refuse to divulge right now.

Which reminds me that I need to tell you what a shank is, and I'm already totally bored with writing these instructions, so I'll just say that if you have the kind of buttons where you can see the holes when you look at them head-on, your button doesn't have a shank. If you have the kind of buttons where you just see buttons (no holes) when you look at them head-on, your buttons probably have shanks.

Unless you've been drinking. In which case, all bets are off, and I wouldn't suggest trying to sew buttons in that condition, either.

The shank makes it easier to button and unbutton the coat, because it leaves room behind the button (but before the fabric...) Oh, I should just shut up now. You probably aren't even listening. Nevermind. Enjoy the pretty pictures.

For those of you who are still hoping to figure out how to make a thread shank on a shankless button, I really apologize. But that's what Google's for these days, isn't it? (And if you've found this blog post via a Google search... I really, REALLY apologize. The line forms to the left.)

Above, you need to sew on the button with the match (or toothpick) stuck between the button and the coat. The matchstick will come out later, I promise. This is not at all the setup for a practical joke. And by the way, aren't those matches awesome? I got a whole bag full of matchbooks from a former client, and they're from all these cool places that this couple went, like this inn in Quebec. True.

(Also true: When they gave me the matches, they guessed that about half the couples whose weddings were commemorated by matchbooks in the bag were probably divorced now. True. AND awesome. And why did everybody stop handing out commemorative matchbooks at weddings, anyhow?)

After you've sewn through the holes of the button enough times (I usually do about three times), bring the needle back to the front of the coat, like this. Or just look at the picture in perplexity, drop your jaw slightly, and wonder unloud: Wha..?

Wrap the thread about six times between the button and the coat, to create the thread shank. Finish with a knot somewhere. I would tell you how to do that part, but I usually bury my threads, which is way too complicated to explain in a blog. Plus it's a secret, really. They make us swear in Home Ec. university that we'll never tell non-Home Ec. peeps. Sorry.

I was going to show you a picture of how neat and tidy all my button sewing was from the inside of the garment, but it took me, like, three or four tries to get something even remotely neat looking. Which is why the thread colour in the above photo doesn't match the others, in case you were wondering.

Just to really mess with your minds, here's a little reinforcement thingy I added behind one of the buttons I sewed (I think it was on a pocket). The previous owner had nearly ripped the button off, and the fabric was all holey. I was afraid it wouldn't hold a button, so I used this tiny scrap of fabric to reinforce the button. I'm pretty sure there's a name for what the fabric thingy is supposed to be called, but of course I can't remember it right now. You can call it George, if you like. I'm gonna.

A finished button. One of the brown ones. Obviously. Did I mention I sewed on 12 of these babies? Yeah.

The finished coat. I am totally loving this coat even more, now. Which kind of proves that theory, that people who invest a part of themselves in something tend to love it even more. Like when they make delinquent youth paint murals on graffiti-infested walls, and then nobody tags them again. Only my example uses trench coats and middle-aged women. Nevermind.

*Value Village is a used clothing store, in case you didn't already know that. And were wondering why a new coat that I bought would have missing buttons, and a candy wrapper in the pocket. Just saying.


Anonymous said...

It's ok. I hand washed a turkey roaster pan to procrastinate sewing coat buttons on my husband's heavy leather coat. You know, Scrubbing Bubbles does a good job with baked-on grease? That product is amazing. It works on stoves too, just have to be sure to not get it on the burners.

Priya said...

Well, I just happened to land on your page searching for a solution to my raincoat dilemma. Hoping you can help me. I also bought a raincoat and decided the buttons were dull and boring...I bought snazzier buttons...13 in all. 7 were flat buttons which were easy to sew on...the other 6 were small heavy metal shank buttons in the shape of small bullets (with pretty etching) - 3 for each sleeve. BTW, I am a newby at sewing buttons. Even if I use an anchor button on the other side of the fabric, the buttons are dangling and not snug...if I tighten too much, the cloth puckers...any suggestions?

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow said...

Hi Priya,

Sounds like the fabric of your coat is too light for the metal shank buttons you want to use. Those types of metal buttons often do best on heavyweight, winter coats or military-type fabrics and styles.

I would choose a different kind of button that is lighter metal (or hollow), or plastic.

Sorry I couldn't be more help...

Anonymous said...

I am laughing so hard...I had no idea it would be this entertaining to find out how to sew the buttons back on my leather coat...please keep are a hoot!!!

Nicole MacDonald said...

Woo! Now I can adjust my coat - designed for flat chested people which I'm not ;p Thanks for the instructions :)

marsha said...

Thank you soooo much for this post! I was trying to figure out how to sew a button back on my hubby's coat so it looked like the other. Never done a shank but that was the missing part! It worked perfectly!

dchands2 said... You just made my day ! Not only did you teach me ....yes I did make it through the entire article and sewed on the button to my leather jacket with a proper thread shank all the while laughing !!!! You are amazing 😜