6 Tips For Sewing Buttons To A Quilt

July 06, 2018

Happy Friday friends! Welcome to week 6 of the Friendship Quilt Along. Today we are sharing the Warm block!

We are so excited that the Friendship Quilt from the quilt along has a coordinating JABC button pack. This week I added a button from the coordinating button pack to the middle of my Warm block and it inspired me to share JABC’s best tips for sewing buttons on a quilt. Read on to improve your button-sewing skills!

Tips for Sewing Buttons to a Quilt

1. Prep your quilt

Sew your quilt top, press and then quilt it.  You might be tempted to add the buttons to your quilt blocks as you sew, but it will make the quilting harder.  Pressing would also be more difficult–you don’t want to touch your buttons with a hot iron. It would melt the buttons and make make you sad. So save all of that button-y goodness for after pressing and quilting are completed–add buttons as the very last step.

2. Choose the right tools

You’ll want to use a “sharps” needle. I like size 5 or smaller for our handmade (polymer clay) buttons or up to a size 3 for our hand-dyed buttons, since most of them have larger holes. I use the John James Sharps Pebble (pictured above) because it has a variety of sharps from size 3-9 in a safe container that’s easy to take along wherever I go.

Let’s talk threads. For sewing buttons to quilts I prefer Aurifil 50wt. It’s nice and strong but not too bulky so I can sew through the button several times without getting a mess of threads on top.

3. Keep your buttons in the right spot

At JABC we have a special trick for holding our buttons EXACTLY where we want them while we sew them on. Lay the button in the desired spot on your quilt and then tape it in place with clear tape. You can sew right through the tape. When your button is attached, simply tear off the tape and your button will be in the perfect spot! For the best results, sew the buttons and remove the tape the same day.  You’ll avoid sticky spots.

4. Hide your knots

If you prefer not to see knots on the back of your finished quilt, try this tip. Use a double strand of thread and take a small stitch on the quilt top where the button will be attached. Just catch about 3 threads of fabric. Before you pull your knot against the fabric, pass the needle between the two strands of thread next to the knot. Then pull the thread so your knot is against the fabric. This anchors your thread to the front of the quilt. Clip the thread tails to about 1/8″.  Now sew up through one button hole from the back of the button. Holding the button against the quilt, sew down through the other button hole through to the back of the quilt. Then sew up from the back through the first button hole. Sew from front to back again (down through the second hole) coming out in the same spot you did the first  time so the back looks neat. The button is now attached.  Finish off with a hidden knot by sewing up one more time, angling the button so the needle comes through the quilt behind the first hole, but not up through the hole. Then wrap your thread around the button twice and take a couple of stitches through the threads under the button to secure your thread. Hold the button to the side to trim the tails of your thread so they’re hidden under the button.

5. Match thread colors

I think the best looking buttons are the ones sewn on with matching thread colors. If you don’t have a large thread collection you can still achieve this look by coloring your white cotton thread with colored pencils after your button is sewn in place.  This works great for art quilts, but if you wash your quilt, you’ll need to reapply the color.

6. Use your sewing machine

If you’re sewing on our hand-dyed buttons you can use your sewing machine. It’s a nice quick way to attach lots of buttons! Lower or cover your feed dogs and attach an open-toe foot to your machine. Position your button and quilt under the presser foot so that the needle is centered over the right button hole. With your machine set to straight stitch, sew down through the right button hole a few times to anchor your thread. Then switch your machine to zig zag stitch. Now slowly lower the needle with the hand wheel and make sure it’s centered over the right button hole. Keep turning the wheel until the needle in the highest position again and it pops to the left. Adjust the width of your zig zag until the left position of the needle is centered over the left button hole. Only use the hand wheel until you’re certain that the stitch width matches the width of the button holes. Then take a few stitches going back and forth between the left and right button holes. Finish by taking a few straight stitches through the left button hole to anchor the thread. Clip the thread tails behind the button and on the back of the quilt and add a drop of fray check to the threads on the back of the quilt for extra security.

I hope these tips and tricks help you add buttons to your Friendship Quilt!

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