Buttons & More Buttons: Choosing the Right Button

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 of 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 do 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 a 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?  Don't be shy.  Tell us all about it and even share a pic below in the comments.  We'll be giving away a FREE Conference Tote Bag class to whoever 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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5 Responses to Buttons & More Buttons: Choosing the Right Button

  1. Kathy says:

    This is a slightly amended post from a blog I’m setting up. Not public yet owing to Life getting in the way.

    Buttons…..

    I finished my cardigan, sewed it up, (am I the only person in the yarny world who doesn’t mind sewing up?), and all it needs is six black or grey buttons. Now I know I have buttons – masses of them, but a year after moving house I still haven’t organised everything and where were they? Hmmm.

    I am someone who starts a job, which part way through throws up another job so I start on that, and part way through another job crops up, and part way…… Well, you get the picture.

    Right, so I found a box full of loose buttons fairly quickly. Consternation – the collections of buttons I knew I’d already strung together weren’t there in the box, and I knew I’d strung the black larger ones.

    No problem. There are bound to be six black or grey lurking in this pile of loose buttons. So I started sifting through them sorting as I went. Fatal move! Sorting buttons is quite addictive. So I sorted, and sorted, and sorted. Blue, green, yellow, glass, metal, wood, novelty, vintage, and so on.

    A friend arrived, walked into the sitting room and exclaimed, “Ooh! Buttons!” So while I made the tea she started sorting, and sorting.

    So although I now have a pile of roughly sorted buttons I didn’t find the six I need. After a quick unsuccessful search for the rest I reluctantly continued with other demands.

    The photo shows about a quarter of them.

    Three days and eight charity bags later I was looking for some photos, which I didn’t find, but I found the rest of the buttons.

    Guess what? I still haven’t six matching that I would like to use on the cardigan. Off to the charity shops it seems. Isn’t life wonderful?

  2. Darline da Silva says:

    When I do find older buttons or as they will call them “vintage or antique “ they want an arm and a leg for a mayonnaise size jar. Then I have hundreds of dollars in buttons. I don’t know if I can ask this here if not just delete it. I opened up a big plastic (about 1 gallon)
    Container of buttons I have and it smells not like regular mold but like a nasty perfume mold smell and some buttons are corroded and green. Those will go in garbage but how can I GET RID of this smell? I didn’t put perfume in it we don’t use that in our house

  3. Jen says:

    I have to agree with Sarah, you just can’t find good buttons anymore. I’ve been grateful for Etsy, where I’ve been able to find a few and are an excellent resource. I just get an idea in my head of what I need and then can’t find it anywhere. I think the best advice is just to do a google search viewing images, which has helped me a lot. I even found a place that will let you email them a photo and they’ll find it for you!
    (https://www.lotsofbuttons.com/en/button-finder).

    I have such a huge (HUGE!) stash of buttons. They fill 8+ jars and are sorted by color. I was fortunate enough to purchase a cabinet full at an estate sale for just a pittance, so I doubt I’ll ever run out! The irony is that when I finish a project that needs buttons, I will inevitably find only one or two that are just perfect – but I need 7 or 8. I have to shake my head and insist to myself that out of all those buttons, surely I can find what I need. We have this argument often, me and my inner sewing self. Usually my sewing self wins.

    Like Sarah, I’m not above purchasing a thrift-store garment just for the buttons. Most times it’s the less expensive route anyway, since an entire garment can often be the same price as one card of buttons from a fabric store. Thrift stores can also be a great place for finding vintage carded buttons.

    Finding just the right button can be time-consuming and tedious – but when you do find the right one, the result is a perfect project. It’s always worth the time and effort to search.

  4. Shari Jaster says:

    Yes indeed Sarah. Peruse the Internet for buttons. Etsy is a great place for vintage buttons, which I love. I have accumulated decorative containers for buttons. So many ways to accumulate them. Retail buttons are the pits. Hate to say it, but it’s true.

  5. Sarah Testa says:

    My biggest gripe is you can’t find suitable buttons anymore! Searching on the web is difficult because you can’t get a good color match. The retail industry seems to have chosen to cater to the Craft people who use buttons for ‘cutesy’ decorations not functionality.

    Do I hang out at Thrift stores and buy used garments just for the buttons?

What do you think?