Saturday, March 9, 2013

How To Choose Buttons

Oh buttons, how I love thee!  If you've ever had to select a button for a hand stitched garment and been a little overwhelmed or perplexed, these ideas might help.  

Often I will finish a project and be all set for the finish work, only to find that I am up to my elbows in buttons...trying this one and that, not totally sure of what one is best.

Here's my strategy, along with some things to consider and keep in mind as you go...

I like to follow a "process of elimination" approach.  Either from my button stash or in a store, I'll have the garment handy and gather up any and all buttons that strike my fancy.  Then I'll consider these tips to help with eliminating buttons that don't cut it:

  • Washability: If your garment is machine washable, be sure to select a button that will withstand repeated washings.  Certain woods and embellishments may not hold up.  Check manufacturer's recommendations on the button packaging.
  • Weight of Fabric: A small button may not be good for thick and/or heavy fabrics, just like a large heavy button may not be good on something delicate or lighter weight and could possible sag, droop, and at worst damage the stitches.
  • Button Hole Test: Be sure your needle or threader will fit...I cannot stress this enough...often I get attached to a special button, only to find it was not the right button after all.  However, there are a few ways to get around that.  Here is a more detailed explanation: A Word About Button Holes
  • Shank or Holes? There are generally two types of buttons, ones with holes, those you normally think of with two or four (or more) holes in them.  There are also shank buttons...these buttons have a loop (usually metal) underneath them.  See the wood toggle button below in the lower right hand corner?  That is an example of a shank button.  These buttons allow for more clearance for a thicker fabric to go underneath.  A great choice for hand knitted and crocheted pieces.
  • Visibility: Do you want your buttons to be utilitarian and kind of blend in to make your garment take center stage? Or, do you want your buttons to speak for themselves?  If so, try experimenting with unusual buttons, or perhaps trying an unexpected pop of color.  You could also use a couple of different buttons on one garment too for a unique look. 
  • Finally, check your pattern.  Often a picture will be enough to give you an idea of the best button.  Sometimes a pattern will give specific button recommendations (often on sweater patterns).  Always helpful to check with the designer if you're still unsure.

This should help a bit next time a button is in order.  Here are some places where you can find your own fabulous buttons:

  • Fabric Stores
  • Craft Stores
  • Antique Stores
  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Craft Fairs
  • Repurpose from a garment in your closet
  • Interesting buttons on garments in vintage and thrift stores
  • Try trading with a friend or family member too (my Nana gave me a huge lot of vintage buttons a while back, check out the amazing buttons here)
  • Garage/Yard Sales
  • Online (there are tons of amazing stores that sell nothing but buttons, one Google search is all is took to reveal hundreds of specialty shops)


  1. Choosing the buttons is half he fun ... Andyourbtips are such good ones. I like to choose buttons to reflect the personality of the person I am making the garment for. On visiting Hong Kong the highlight of my trip was a visit to the button and ribbon markets .
    Kindest regards linda

    1. Thanks Linda! And how lucky to visit button and ribbon markets in Hong Kong! That would be like a dream come true. :)

  2. I inherited some lovely vintage buttons from my Nan too! When my daughter came back from her gap year she had bought me gorgeous buttons back! Thanks for your great button choosing tips!

    1. Luck you! I have a thing for vintage buttons, they are so special. :)

  3. Lovely buttons and useful info :)


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