V109: Do You Know the Button Trick?

Apr 18, 2012 24 comments
Don't you just hate decorative shank buttons that are all dangly and wobbly?  Wouldn't it be so much better if they were nice and flat and secure on your garment?

Well here's how to do it!

Once upon a time, shank buttons used for decoration were held onto a garment by a toggle, but these are hard to find these days.  Instead, try holding a row of buttons on with a line of ribbon or tape.  This works particularly well for lines of buttons.  Here's how...

Some tools

  • An awl
  • Needle and Thread
  • Your snazzy shanked buttons
  • A big upholstery needle
  • Ribbon or tape (I mean twill tape, not sticky tape)
  • Small scissors, if needed

I sewed a mock buttonhole for the placket of my sailor pants, but you don't have to do this, just mark where you want the button to be attached.

Make the hole with an awl.  It's important to use an awl because it does not cut the fibers in the fabric, but stretches them instead.  Not such a big deal for a bound buttonhole like this, but if you may someday remove the buttons from the garment, there will be less damage.

Now pass the shank of your button through the hole.

Thread your giant needle with your ribbon choice.

Pass the needle and ribbon through the shank of the button.

For a line of buttons, keep the ribbon in one continuous length, then just lightly stitch it into place.  You want the ribbon to be tight and flat, so the buttons don't pop out at will.

Now your non-functional buttons will be flat and lovely, and not wobble around, yay!  This trick is particularly useful for Georgian and Regency men's frock coats, and for decorative buttons on ladies' garments, such as on this spencer jacket...

The curved, smaller buttons will be sewn on using The Button Trick
Now you know the button trick!


  1. This is AWESOME! I'm sure I should know this...but apparently I don't. This will be VERY helpful for ALL the shank buttons I need to put on my 1770's mens suit.

  2. Very nice trick!
    (p.s. will we ever get an update on the 1912 evening gown? (: )

  3. Ooooh! I see! Thank you so much for this!! I've tried sewing on decorative shank buttons and then I've got annoyed that they wobbled around in a rather sorry way. Never again!!! :D

  4. OMG, that is pure genius! You deserve the Nobel sewing price for this.

  5. Cool, I would not have thought of that. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Ok, brilliant. Why did I not think of this before?!?!

  7. That is a fabulous trick. I'm ashamed that in all the costume shops I worked in we never thought of doing that. It would have saved SO MUCH TIME. *headdesk*

  8. Brilliant!!! I love learning new techniques! Thanks!

  9. oh, that is so clever! I have several button up blouses that I adore but they have shank buttons and often come unbuttoned, leaving me looking less-than-ladylike! :P Thank you soo much for the tip, I will be fixing those darn blouses next week!

  10. Glad to be of service! I did not invent this, to be sure. I learned it from Albert (The Doctor), who showed me the technique used on a coat.

  11. Wow, this is awesome. I wish I had known this when I made my double breasted waistcoat, instead of letting them wobble I made two rows of button holes. It worked but was very very hard to line up, I won't do it that way again.

    Thank you.

  12. I've done the trick of making eyelets to put the shanks in on decorative buttons but haven't tried the ribbon thing, cool!

  13. Another trick, while not period correct but works as it's not seen, I learned from my husband who's in the Air Force. He's a 19 year veteran and still uses it on his mess dress jacket's buttons. Take a safety pin and thread it through the back of the jacket, through the button and back through the back of the jacket. Achieves the same look of non wobbly buttons quickly, especially if you are in a pinch.

  14. I like to use leather for the buttons on my redcoats, I have never had any break and some of the coats are 7 years old. Granted, they have the lapels that unbutton, and fold over each other for warmth, so they need to be extra sturdy in case my guys actually do that. It is my favorite coat trick, and its so much faster then sewing the little buggers on!

  15. Love learning new things! Thanks!

  16. Coming in 4 years late, but I recently purchased an antique c. 1895 cotton bodice that uses this trick to mount the multitude of buttons that fasten up the front of it. Instead of using ribbon though, it used what looks to be be the equivalent of twill tape, which is only fastened down at the top and bottom.

  17. (5 years later I am eventually using this trick to make a quick dirty buttoned cotehardie for a medieval event - thank you AD!)

  18. Great trick! Is this the trick conventionally used on men's double breast blazers?

  19. This is a great trick! The "toggles" are called cotter pins and can be bought on military/uniform supply websites in large amounts.

  20. My whole sewing life has been changed!
    WHY did I not see this before. I even have cotter pins but didn't know what they were!
    In a pinch could a Bobby pin work if the hole is big enough? (And you can get the plastic bits off of the tips)


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