You will need:
- a coat on which to replace your buttons
- a seam ripper
- a needle for sewing
- buttons (mine are from Fishman’s Fabric in Chicago)
- strong thread for sewing
- pins (optional)
Last spring the boyfriend purchased Banana Republic’s classic trench for me for my birthday (replacing a seriously outdated H&M jacket). It’s a great trench–fits well, good material, nice and warm, relatively water resistant–however it really fell flat in the button department. Not only were the buttons a boring flat black, they were sewn on so loosely that within the first few wears they were nearly falling off. And in fact, I haven’t worn the trench that much (Chicago goes from too cold for a trench to too hot for a trench pretty darn fast) and already one of the buttons has fallen off. It fell off while I wasn’t looking too, so I have no idea where the little bugger ended up. It was in a pretty prominent place, so I had to do something. With a little convincing from the boyfriend I decided to replace all the buttons in a much more attractive/interesting tortoise-shell and feather print.
How it looked when I started. Note the threads coming out of the top button. I’m pretty displeased with BR’s quality on these.
The missing button escaped from here.
I started out using this tutorial on Youtube. I worked first to replace the button that had already fallen off. I used her method of putting in pins to create enough room beneath the button for a shank, however what I found was that the needles didn’t really help–there was enough space for the shank without them. They more got in my way than anything, and I ended up with slightly bunched fabric. Also, I tried sewing in a square pattern rather than in the traditional “x”. Not a good plan. Here’s some pics from the initial endeavor:
After this failure I decided to do away with the pins and work really hard to use the holes that already existed in the fabric to sew through. I just did a traditional “x” shape and it worked out great–no bunching of the fabric this time. The other key was to use backing buttons. The coat came this way–with small beige buttons on the inside to which the outer buttons were sewn. Essentially you just sandwich the coat’s fabric between the two buttons. Here’s a shot of them from the inside of the coat:
All of the non-decorative buttons on the coat were sewn on in this fashion, and it worked really well. For the decorative buttons, I just followed the method by which they were already on the coat–I sewed them on to the top layer of fabric but not all the way through to the inside of the coat. This way, unseemly stitches were hidden entirely out of sight. It wasn’t too challenging, I just pushed the needle through the top fabric and back out the top fabric in one stroke.
In all, I replaced 14 buttons–12 large and 2 small ones on the epaulets. My method was to remove the old button with my seam ripper and sew on a new one using the method I described above. It worked like a charm and only took a few hours. The buttons are now sewn on much more securely as well, so I’m pretty pleased overall.
The finished product!