Mend & Make Do: Simple Button Revamp


One of the biggest reasons that items can languish unworn in the back of the closet is missing buttons. These simple additions to our garments often seem to be the most shoddily attached and they are frequently lost. This isn’t a major issue if you’ve kept hold of the spare button that was attached to the swing tag, or if you’ve found the button that has fallen off. All you need for your repair is a hand sewing needle and some coloured thread, as closely matched to the colour of the thread used for the other buttons. For sustainability considerations, try to get organic cotton thread if you can. But if this isn’t available in a suitable colour, then polyester thread is fine to use- it is better that your garment is mended an worn, rather than going to waste at the back of your wardrobe! If you are unsure about how to go about sewing on your button, this simple tutorial from How To Sew gives an introduction suited to even the most inexperienced sewer.

If you don’t have your matching button, or you’ve lost two or more buttons, then it can be really difficult to find buttons that match. This is especially the case if your garment is an usual shade or has unusual buttons, and even more so if your garment has fabric covered buttons which match the rest of the garment. In these cases it can be impossible to match your buttons, so what should you do? I had a beautiful tailored suit jacket which was made for me years ago when I lived in China. I had specifically requested fabric covered buttons, as they looked far more elegant than the ordinary plastic they first included on the garment. After a few wears I lost one button from the cuff. At this point I had already returned to Australia so there was no chance to could find the exact fabric to replace the button. Not to worry, I thought, there were three buttons on each cuff, so I could just remove one from the other cuff and have two instead. But soon after I lost two more buttons from the cuff, and one from the front of the jacket. After that happened I felt completely at a loss. The lovely jacket went unworn in my wardrobe for 3 years. Not long ago I pulled this jacket out again and the solution stuck me- replace all the buttons, of course! And because I can’t match the exact fabric of the garment, I can make the buttons a feature of the garment by choosing a contrasting colour that stands out.

Changing the buttons on an item is also a simple way to revamp an item to give it a new look. The number of times I have passed over a great vintage buy because I didn’t like the buttons is ridiculous. When I was vintage shopping in Japan, I nearly passed over a gorgeous reversible black cardigan simply because I didn’t like the sparkly buttons. Thankfully at the time I realised that this was easily solved, so bought the cardigan. Changing ordinary plastic buttons for striking feature buttons is a great way to personalise a garment and make it stand out. For the sustainably conscious, there are a few great sustainable alternatives to ordinary plastic buttons. These include wooden buttons, buttons made from coconut shell, or buttons made from sea shells such as mother-of-pearl. You can also track down vintage buttons to suit your taste. Charity and second-hand stores can be a good place to look, as is Etsy, where you can easily search for vintage buttons. Some Etsy stores I like include I’m A Button GluttonPymatuning Crafts and House of Twinkle.

Kimono covered buttons cardigan

Making your own fabric covered buttons offers endless possibilities for colours, patterns and textures for your buttons. In the photo above, I’ve chosen to personalise my cardigan with striking red and white kimono fabric. You can find covered button kits at your local fabric store, or try Etsy seller Cover Button City. The kits come with detailed instructions to guide you through the making process. This is a great way to use up small scraps of fabric from other projects or to salvage usable fabric from a ruined garment such as a stained tie or scarf. I am a big fan of using scraps from second hand kimonos, which come in very striking patterns and hues. Try buying a 1 pound bag of vintage kimono pieces if you’d like to use these stunning fabrics in your garments.

So don’t let those missing buttons stop you from wearing a garment- get sewing and wear it once again! Don’t forget to keep the buttons you are replacing, these may be useful for future projects. And if you don’t think you will use them again, pop them in a little bag and give them too a crafty friend or donate them to your local charity store. The key to sustainable fashion is not letting anything go to waste!

Feature image photo credit: Wiki Media Commons photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK

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