How to Fix a Button

Reviving the Lost Art of Mending Clothing

Picture this: you are on your way to an important event. You take two steps from your front door when you hear a pop, and then the dreaded ping, ping, ping as something small hits the driveway and bounces away. You look down at your shirt and quickly come to the realization that you’re missing a button. And no, it’s not just any old button, lke from the cuff, where you could just roll up your sleeves and hide it. Nope, it’s that button, the one that leaves a perfect view of your belly button, and not in that good “hey, I’m wearing a pop top” sort of way.  So, what do you do?

Okay, yes, you’d probably panic.Totally respectable. But then what? Do you know how to sew a button back on to a shirt?

Back in the day, every woman knew how to sew a button on a shirt. I mean, it was taught in classes. Home Ec. was a thing, and any woman worth her salt knew how to repair a missing button in a jiffy. Ask your grandmother: I guarantee she knows how to sew on a button and could do it with her eyes closed, probably while making a pie and pressing a perfect crease into a pair of pants at the same time.

Unfortunately, the ability to make simple repairs to clothing is becoming a bit of a lost art. In this age of fast fashion, it is so much easier to just replace a pair of pants with a fallen hem, or a shirt missing a few buttons than it is to take the time to mend them.

But I think it’s time that these skills were revived. Learning a few basic mending skills is very green and I’m even going to go so far as to say that if you employ a few clothes-saving tricks, you would definitely be eligible for an "eco" badge (that is, if I had one, and only if you could actually sew it on!) The ability to do a quick repair is a great way to extend the life of your clothing. You don't need to be able to read and follow a pattern or make your own clothes (believe me, making clothes is not for everyone. I have literally screwed up even beginner patterns and ended up with a skirt that looked like a potato sack and fit about as well), but being able to do, even the simplest of stitches, can potentially save you hundreds of dollars, and help lessen your impact on the environment.

Now, there's probably an official way to mend a button, but since I'm a rebel and like to do things my way, I may not do it exactly how you've seen it done. Which is totally okay. Little mend jobs don't have to be perfect. As long as the button stays put and looks fairly tidy, you're good!

So here's how I fix a button:

Using the existing thread from your missing button as your guide, pull your needle up through the back of the shirt to the front. Choosing any of the four holes on the button, slide the button down over the needle and set it on the front of the shirt. Try to keep the holes in a square pattern.

Loop the thread over the button and bring the needle down into the hole diagonal from the first hole. Pull the needle through to the back of the shirt and pull the thread taut. This becomes your first stitch.

Insert your needle as closely as you can to your starting point and bring your needle up through the first hole and loop over to the same diagonal hole, pulling the needle down into the back of the fabric. Pull the thread taut. This becomes your second stitch.

Repeat once more.

This time, as you insert your needle through the back of the shirt, bring the needle up and through the empty hole beside your starting point. Loop your thread up and over and bring the needle down on the diagonal hole (the only other one that doesn’t have thread in it). Pull the needle through to the back of the shirt and pull the thread taught.

Repeat twice more.

Knot your thread as closely to the back of the fabric as possible. Trim with scissors. 

Check back in few weeks for more tips and tricks to mend those clothes!