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Sewing Tips: Attaching Buttons with a Sewing Machine


Don’t you love realizing there’s a faster way to do something?


[If only there was a faster way to potty train a snarky little 3 year old boy who tells me it’s not time to poop (or pee for that matter) in the potty yet.  While I was changing his messy diaper yesterday, I suggested he give his potty chair another try……and he quickly responded, so matter-of-factly, “Not today mommy, maybe when I’m 4!”  No sirree little buddy.  The 4 year mark doesn’t include diapers.]


Anyway, I digress.  And may have lost a few of you after typing poop a few times.  Haha.  Sorry.



But today’s little trick will definitely save you some time.  Especially if you’re working on a project that includes a whole lotta these:




Now you can sew them on with your sewing machine in a few easy steps.




I sure wish I would have realized this trick back when I made this pillow (found here). 

Sheesh, those buttons took me a long time to attach. 



So don’t let those little buttons intimidate you. 

After you get the hang of this technique (after practicing on one or two) you’ll never go back.  Promise.



(And a I have had several emails asking about making button holes.  I have a tutorial coming up for that.  I didn’t forget.)



Would you like to learn how to sew on your buttons with your sewing machine?


First of all, this technique only works with flat buttons with the holes through the top.


However, you can use this technique with 2 hole and 4 hole buttons.  Yay.


And there is a presser foot that is designed for attaching buttons……..but I don’t have one.  And didn’t need it.  So no biggee.  You don’t need one either.


To get started, you need to drop your feed dogs so they’re out of the way.


What are feed dogs?  They are those metal bars (with all of those ridges on it) that come up from the metal plate below the needle.  With each stitch, those feed dogs come up and pull your fabric under your needle.  They help your fabric move forward as you sew.

image source



But for this technique we want to de-activate them (or drop them down) so they aren’t pulling on the button.  Look to see if there is some sort of lever or button to drop the feed dogs down. 



Your machine may not have this as an option and if that’s the case….you’ll have to rig it a little differently.  I was reading some suggestions online and someone suggested taping an old credit card down over the feed dogs.  But be sure to drill a hole in the center of the card (or use an exacto knife) and line the hole up where the needle would need to go through it.  And make sure it’s wide enough for your zig-zag stitch.  Or you could even try some heavy card stock……..that would probably work well too.



Next, you want to decrease your stitch length all the way to zero so that the needle doesn’t advance forward at all.




And at first, make sure that you are on the “straight stitch” setting.




Place your button under your presser foot and line up the center of the button with the center of the presser foot (usually there’s a little mark on the presser foot that marks center).  Lower your needle down (with the hand wheel on the side of your machine) just to see if the needle hits down at center.  But don’t sew……you’ll break your needle.  You’re just making sure your button is centered under the needle.




Now, be careful not to bump your button and switch your stitch setting to “zig-zag”.




Make sure that your stitch length is still set to zero and now you’ll need to adjust the “stitch width”.  This will make your zig-zag stitch more narrow or wide.




Now, with my “stitch width” set at the largest…….when I lower my needle, it’s just a little too far over to the left.  See that?





So I decreased my “stitch width” a few notches…..



……..until it was centered over that left hole.




Now, slowly lower your needle down in to the hole with your side wheel (turn the wheel towards you)……..



……..until it drops right into the hole.




Now drop down your presser foot so that it clamps the button down in place.



And then advance your needle a bit more with your hand wheel and take a look from the top to see if the needle is now centered over the right hole.





And then slowly lower the needle down.



Make a another few turns of the hand wheel, just to be sure that it’s going in the holes each time………and then start sewing.  I let the zig-zag hit each hole about 7 times.  That seemed nice and secure to me.


When you’re done, life up your presser foot and switch the stitch back to the “straight stitch”. 



You will see your needle go back to center.


Then reposition your button under the presser foot so that one of the holes is right under the center.



Then lower the needle right down into the hole, and lower your presser foot, and then sew (with the pedal) 4 or 5 or five stitches. 



Then lift up the presser foot and place your needle back into the hole, just in a slightly different spot, lower the presser foot, and then sew another 4 or 5 stitches.  (This helps lock your threads in place.)



Then lift up your presser foot again and pull your fabric out.  Trim your threads nice and close so you can’t see any loose ends. 

(If sewing those last few stitches with your straight stitch didn’t lock your threads in place…… can thread those loose ends that are coming out the top, onto a hand-sewing needle, and thread them back down through the button holes.  And then tie the loose ends in a knot from the bottom side.)



And what if you’re using a 4 hole button?


Begin the same way as you did above.  After you sew through the first two holes, lift up your presser foot but don’t pull on the thread too much.  Rotate your button (and fabric) until the second set of holes are lined up…………..and then repeat.



And that’s it.


This may seem like a lot of steps but I showed you a ton of pictures.  It doesn’t actually take very long once you try a button or two.  SO give it a try……..I promise I saved a ton of time with this technique.  Sewing all of those buttons on probably took me a 1/3 of the time it would have taken me to hand sew them. 


That’s good news in my book.


Let me know how it works for you!



Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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