At The Button of Things

choose the right buttonsOften times, buttons are the last things sewers think about when they stitch garments. Choosing the right buttons, however, may have a big effect on how your finished garment turns out. This article will try to get to the bottom of choosing buttons for your sewing project –so let’s start by making a list of the different factors that have to be taken into account when choosing a button for a garment, and this includes function, type of garment, fabric and style.

What's the function of the button?

Generally, buttons are chosen for their function such as a fastening mechanism, but they can also be used for aesthetic reasons, or more commonly, for both.  As fasteners, buttons keep shirt sleeve, dress, collar, pocket, coat and the like closed. They may also be used to attach a piece of fabric or fold to another part of the garment. As decoration, they can be utilized to emphasize a design or used as a focal point to make your garment more interesting.

choose the right buttonsWhat's the type of garment?

The type of garment on which the buttons will be used is quite crucial in choosing the right button for your project. Buttons used for wedding dresses or junior/senior prom gowns are of course different from those that are used for children’s play outfits, business attire and casual dresses. This is because these different types of garments will be subjected to different amounts of pressure or stress and they also fall under distinct aesthetic norms.

What's the fabric type?

Fabrics also play an important part in the choice for buttons because they come in many different weights, colors and constructions. Light fabrics will make buttons seem to float on air and putting a large, heavy button on a light fabric would alter the line of the garment and might even tear the fabric when it is placed under stress. Conversely, a tiny button on a large fur coat would likely disappear into the garment and it may not be able to keep the garment closed.  Worse still, the tiny button is likely to come off and be lost.

choose the right buttonsThere are various types of fabric constructions like woven, knit or felted and each of these methods can be done differently too so that a pair of cotton twill weave trousers is deemed more firm and stable than a loosely balanced weave of linen. A fabric’s stability, fray, stretch, and strength should be taken into account when choosing a button. The type of button you use should also depend on your design and the color and texture of your fabric.

What style to you want to convey?

Aesthetics is another factor to take into consideration when choosing your buttons. Your design should convey the aesthetic you wanted when you started with your project. It could be feminine, romantic, minimalist, lavish, sophisticated or whatever you have in mind. Choosing the right size, color, style, and material of your button can help give your garment the look that you wanted.

choose the right buttonsThe bottom line is that buttons are available in a dizzying variety of shapes, colors and sizes. And when you are tempted to use a button because you like its look or color, you have to keep in mind that you also have to make sure that your button fits its function, the type of garment you are sewing, the fabric you are using and the style and aesthetic that you want to achieve!

choose the right buttonsHow big is your collection?

Most long-time sewers seem to collect a huge number of buttons.  Experience sewists are the ones who really understand the value of being able to closely, even identically, match a button that may have gone missing from your or your child's garment.  I remember when I was a child, my mother had a huge tin –or at least it seemed huge to me at the time– of spare buttons and she would always be adding new ones to the tin as she found them or they were taken off a garment that was being discarded.  When she needed one, she would always give me the task of sorting through all the buttons to find a match when she was looking for just that special button to make repair or a matching set.  I loved it and remember the treasure hunt still today!

Tell us how many buttons you've collected over the years.  How big is your stash?  We'll be giving away a free Conference Tote Bag class to who ever sends the most impressive photo and story.

Conference Tote Bag Pattern Sew-Along

If you ever find yourself short of buttons, you can find a huge selection on Amazon.  Click here to have a look.

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