Eccentric Life Advice #13 – How to Sew a Button

If there is a single phrase that characterises the tragic omission of basic life skills from mainstream education, it is, “I can’t even sew a button.” Mending your own clothes is a skill that allows you to be more independent and to learn to better manage your resources. It is a skill, like all others, that becomes easier and quicker with practice. If you find it exceedingly difficult the first few times, that is normal. Do not become discouraged by the challenge, assuming Stitchcraft is easy is a fallacy borne of a patriarchal division of labour and the undervaluation of what is traditionally considered women’s work.

You will need a few basic supplies. A mending kit can usually be found at any supermarket, dollar store, hotel room, or craft shop. This kit will work in a pinch, but the components are generally low quality and I advise you to upgrade as soon as convenient. Consider the fabric you will be sewing when selecting your needle. A fine, translucent, fabric will show stitching holes from too large a needle. A heavy, thick, fabric will require a stronger needle to push through the weave. The quality of the thread will influence how much stress the button can withstand. I keep black and pale grey silk thread on hand for most repairs.

Begin by threading your needle with a length no longer than the distance between your fingertips and your elbow. Hold this doubled and tie an overhand knot at the ends. Trim uneven ends. You may wish to pass the thread across a beeswax block to improve manageability. Begin by sewing a small X over the place the button will sit, ending with the needle under the fabric (fig. 1). On the next stitch, pass the needle up through the first hole of the button and stitch down through the opposite hole (fig. 2). Continue stitching in an X through the buttonholes, leaving a few millimetres of loose thread between the back of the button and the fabric. Repeat two-three times. Pass the needle back through the button but not through the fabric. Then, wind the working thread around the loose thread, forming a shank (fig. 4). Pass the needle through to the back of the fabric, make a stitch in place to secure thread, and trim. Never use your teeth to cut thread, it is bad luck and will hasten your next trip to the dentist.