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April 9, 2010

Sewing impossible-to-remove buttons and other stuff likely to win me another not-Pulitzer

I love buttons! I have a collection of buttons. One of the concerns people have with baby stuff is of course the keen ability small children have to remove and swallow everything like the little Hoovers they are. My cat Bob is permanently in this baby state, his first response to any new object is to see if he can eat it. My brothers were remarkable at swallowing Legos, coins and Barbie shoes. It's a talent that's admirable, really.

When I was a little girl I learned from a master seamstress how to properly sew a button and it was one of the best life lessons I ever received. I can affix fasteners that can only be removed with a seamripper, pointy detail scissors and an investment of time ... and sometimes even then they stay hanging on for dear life. As Mr. T would say, I pity the fool who needs to switch out the buttons on something I made! Because Mr. T is all about the details.

First, you must use the correct thread. I prefer Coates & Clark "Dual Duty" thread. It's the right thickness to be doubled, and that's the second step to a bulletproof button: double the thread and knot it. Do not sew the button on with a single strand of thread. Pull your thread through the eye of the needle bring the tails together and make a knot.

(Imagine that I was not currently killing all technology and had an illustrative image here of a needle and thread.)

Once you're threaded up and ready to sew, begin by attaching the thread to the fabric with a knot -- yes, you already have a knot at the end of your thread tails, but now you knot onto the fabric. Do this by making a single stitch where the button will go and as you pull the loop of thread through the fabric, dip your needle inside the loop and pull tight. It's a slipknot, really. At this point you can snip any little ends hanging off the knotted tail. I do this on the right side of the fabric where the button will go and the button hides your knot.

Then sew on the button. Simple, no? Knot, tie off and snip the thread. I hide my knots underneath the button (again, on the right side of the fabric). Try to keep the stitches neat and even so it's not too noticeable on the other side of the fabric.

Here is the super secret: Repeat that entire process. At the end you have sewn a button with thread twice, using two separate sets of thread. Even if one round of thread and knots becomes unhinged, the other is a backup. For buttons with four holes this means you do one diagonal with one set of thread, knot, tie off, snip. Do the other diagonal with a new set of thread. (You can kind of see that in the close-up below ... one diagonal has thread on the bottom, the other has all the thread on top. They are from separate sewing. Yes, it takes more time. But your notions will stay on forever.) (Also this is an image I took months ago with my old camera, hence the poor quality.)


Your buttons will withstand a hurricane, a tornado and a two-year-old.

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And now, let's end the week with some Frankie belly, courtesy of my iphone (which is the only appliance I still have under warranty):


Fuzzy love.

Posted by laurie at April 9, 2010 7:27 AM