Extreme Makeover: Button Edition (or How to Change Your Buttons)

Like I said yesterday, button-upgrading is a great way to improve the look and feel of a garment on the cheap. This Club Monaco trench coat is a great piece, but the black plastic buttons were just screaming to be replaced. Although you can get a tailor to do the change for you, the process is not that complex and will save you even more money (along with teaching you a timeless skill).

The method I use here is similar to The Art of Manliness’ great guide on button repair. It essentially comes down to this:

1. Remove the boring old button and threads carefully (be sure to not damage the fabric behind the button).

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2. Thread a needle with 2-3 feet of matching thread (or not, if you want the contrast). Double it over and tie a knot on the bottom (the easiest way to do this is to wrap the double thread ends around your pointer finger and twist it off with your thumb – it sounds weird but works like a charm).

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3. Make a small “X” stitch to mark the location of your future button. Reuse the old holes if you can. If you’re changing more than one button I recommend starting in the most hidden place on the garment while you get the hang of it. Also, if you’re using a button back (like I am here) this is the time to attach it so that you don’t have to deal with two loose buttons.

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4a. Decide if you will be stitching with a “X” or “II” pattern (I use the first) and begin sewing. I find it easiest to do all stitches in one direction and then switch to the other. I used 4 stitches in each direction for these large buttons but 3 should be plenty for a smaller one, and perhaps even less if the button is not strained during use (like cuff buttons).

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4b. Stitch over a second needle to give yourself some slack for later and to hold things in place.

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5. Come up through the fabric but bring the thread out the side instead of moving through a button hole. Remove the temporary needle and wrap the thread around the base of the button 6-10 times. This helps secure the button as well as raise it off the fabric for buttoning ease.

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6. Thread back through to the base and tie it off however you see fit. I usually thread under the existing loops and then loop through the remaining slack.

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7. Repeat until you’ve changed all of the buttons. Marvel at your own handiwork. A lot of people pay big bucks for things like hand-stitched horn buttons and you just did it yourself. Nice job.

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