How to Sew a New Button on a Shirt

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A single shirt button might be a tiny thing and just one of many, but if it pops off and isn’t replaced, the shirt will likely become unwearable. Don’t discard an entire garment for lack of a single button. Securely sewing the original button, a spare or the closest match you can find back onto the shirt is an important skill. It’s a simple, easy-to-learn task, but using the correct technique -- which involves creating a thread shank under the button -- is key to ensuring a smooth fit when the shirt is buttoned up.

How to Sew a New Button on a Shirt
(Pamela Follett/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Straight pin or fabric marker
  • Needle
  • All-purpose thread
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Toothpick or match
Step 1

Button up the remaining buttons on the shirt and lay the shirt out flat on a work surface so that the plackets -- the vertical strips of fabric with the buttons and the buttonholes along them -- are smooth and aligned.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 2

Poke a straight pin through the center of the buttonhole with the missing button, into the button placket. This marks the spot where the missing button should be. Alternatively, make a mark on the button placket through the center of the buttonhole using a fabric marker.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 3

Unbutton the shirt and carefully lift the buttonhole over the pin. Make sure the pin stays in place to mark the spot where you need to sew the button.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 4

Take an arm’s length of all-purpose thread that matches the color of the thread used for the other buttons. Fold the thread in half. Thread the looped end of the doubled thread through the eye of a needle. Knot the other end of the doubled thread.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 5

Place the button on the button placket over the spot marked by the pin or marker. Remove the pin. Align the button so that its holes are parallel to the buttonhole.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 6

Poke the needle from the underside of the button placket and up through one of the button’s holes. Pull the thread taut.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 7

Insert the needle through a second hole, poking it down through the fabric layers and pulling it taut on the underside of the button placket.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 8

Slide a toothpick or matchstick between the top of the button and the threads. Pull the needle gently to tighten the stitches over the toothpick or matchstick. This step creates just enough room between the button and the placket to create a thread shank.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 9

Continue stitching up and down through the button’s holes, taking the thread over the toothpick or matchstick. With a two-hole button, simply alternate stitches between the two holes. With a four-hole button, examine the other buttons on the shirt and replicate the stitch pattern with which they are attached. This is commonly in the form of an “X” or a square box shape. Three or four stitches through each pair of holes will be sufficient.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 10

Bring the needle from the underside to the upper side of the button placket, without taking it through any of the button’s holes, and pull it taut underneath the button. Remove the toothpick or matchstick.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 11

Lift the button up from the fabric and wind the thread around the stitches underneath it two or three times. This forms a thread shank, which holds the button just above the placket.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 12

Make a secure knot as part of the final wrap-around of thread, or sew two or three tiny stitches underneath the button to secure the thread. Snip the thread close to the knot or tiny stitches so that the ends are concealed underneath the button.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

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