Sew Buttons Securely on Hand Knits

comments (4) July 22nd, 2008     

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Cranky_Daphne Daphne Adair, contributor
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Sewing needle options, thread, and button.
Place the first stitch to get the button in the right spot.
Secure the thread by pulling the needle through the doubled thread loop.
Sewing needle options, thread, and button.

Sewing needle options, thread, and button.

Photo: Daphne Adair
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Sometimes, a happy accident is all it takes to separate a cardigan-lover from a pullover fanatic. Okay, usually people go one way or the other; they don't like mussing up their hair to take off a sweater, or they prefer the cleaner lines of a pullover. We have both in our house; my partner hates pulling anything other than a T-shirt over his head, while I covet the warmth and simplicity of sweaters, but I confess that I'm wearing a zip-up fleece hoodie as I write this. (Hey, my modified Rusted Root is still on the needles and my Cyd unfortunately just emerged from mothball treatment…more on that another time, maybe when I'm over it.)

Others are simply worried about sewing on buttons. I was shocked when I read the confession in a knitting forum that one woman had had numerous buttons simply fall off her hand knits-until someone uncovered the fact that the knitter was using the project yarn and blunt-tipped yarn needles to sew on her buttons. I actually have done this at least once-but only once, as I found the challenge of finding buttons with holes or shanks big enough for my yarn and needle nearly impossible.

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Luckily, I learned how to sew on buttons in high school, I believe it was-I don't actually remember the circumstances that clearly, which is probably for the best, high school being what it was. But I retained the important things, and here's how I sew on buttons now. This is pretty much what I do for knitted and sewn garments.

What you need is your standard hand-sewing needle and thread, plus your chosen button(s).

Sew Buttons Securely on Hand Knits
Sewing needle options, thread, and button.

Any hand-sewing needle will do, so don't worry about the distinctions between "sharps" and "betweens." Today I'm trying a fancy "ball-point" needle for the first time; it's got a dull point that should help avoid snagging yarn in your hand- and machine-knit fabric, and instead go between the stitches. I've never used one before and though it worked well, I don't think you need to run out and buy one before you get started. Just use what you have.

As for the thread, just about any thread fine enough for machine sewing will work. Some people will insist on polyester because it's strongest (and woe unto those who try to break this with hands or teeth!), but cotton-wrapped polyester, cotton, or even silk is probably okay, but that's in descending order of strength. You can use buttonhole thread or upholstery thread if you've got it lying around, but I like to buy thread to match if I can, and who doesn't need an excuse to go to the craft store?

What I like to do first is find the position for the button by closing the garment, lining up button band and buttonhole band just where I want 'em. Then, I mark the spot with my needle and thread by making a first stitch on the far side of the garment through the buttonhole.

Sew Buttons Securely on Hand Knits
Place the first stitch to get the button in the right spot.

You'll notice I've got my thread doubled and knotted at the far end. This makes sewing on the button faster (twice as strong with fewer passes!) and gives me an easy way to secure the first stitch, rather than having to make a knot. You instead attach the thread by looping the needle through the loop created by the doubled thread.

Sew Buttons Securely on Hand Knits
Secure the thread by pulling the needle through the doubled thread loop.

Now I'm ready for the button and slide it onto the needle and thread.

Sew Buttons Securely on Hand Knits
Slide the button into place.

While I like these colors together, I chose them mainly for visibility; usually I match thread color closely to either the button or yarn color, depending on the desired effect.

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posted in: buttons

Comments (4)

cajafa writes: "the knitter was using the project yarn and blunt-tipped yarn needles to sew on her buttons"

Yikes! that's what I've done in the past. I'm glad I decided to check myself and look up the proper way to do it. Thank you for this post!
Posted: 12:00 pm on November 17th
Nani_Rose writes: I just completed a baby dress with three buttons. Buttons slip out of button hole. Any tips on button holes?
Posted: 3:02 pm on April 29th
joyce_amarantha writes: Thank you SOOO much for posting this! I've been dreading the day I finally have to sew something onto a handknit. I'm decent with a needle and thread when it comes to fabric, but how exactly do you anchor thread on a knit?!? I think that question has made me subconsciously delay knitting my first cardigan. :D Now I can move forward without worrying about them darn buttons!
Posted: 8:38 pm on March 1st
Ingden writes: Thank you for this. I have a finished version of the Central Park Hoodie from Knitscene, and I don't want to wear it sans buttons. I was afraid to sew on the buttons just yet. I mean, why ruin all that hard work?

Nice entry, too! Thanks again.
Posted: 12:38 am on October 13th
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