This is an installment in a series on mending techniques. For a full index of posts in this series, please click here.
I have a six-year-old who LOVES to wear button-down shirts, but isn’t always careful when taking them off. Sometimes he seems to think buttons are snaps, and if he just pulls hard enough…well, you see what I mean.
Most of the time the threads tacking the button down are the first to break, and this is a relatively easy mending job. But sometimes, especially on older garments or fragile fabrics, the fabric that the button is tacked to will tear through, leaving a small, usually round, hole through one or more layers of the button placket.
Here’s what I do to mend a button that’s pulled through the placket.
You will need: needle, thread, scissors, tweezers, the button in question (or a replacement if the original has been lost), and twill tape that is at least 1/2″ wide.
- Cut a small piece of twill tape, roughly 1″ longer than the hole to be mended. I usually use a piece that’s barely 1.5″ long, but it depends on how fragile the fabric is and how much the tear has spread.
- Use the tweezers to push and pull the twill tape through the hole, into the placket itself. It should be lying flat, sandwiched between the layers of the placket, almost like interfacing.
- Slide the twill tape around in the placket with your fingers until the hole is nicely centered on it.
- Thread the needle with doubled thread but DO NOT knot the ends.
- Use one arm of the tweezers to tuck the fabric around the hole under itself until all fraying is obscured. A circular motion usually works best. If the button tore the inside placket fabric, repeat this step on that side of the hole before proceeding.
- Bring the needle down through the right side of the fabric just at the edge of the tear, stitching through all layers of the placket and the twill tape itself. Be careful to leave a thread tail of at least 2″.
- Needle up on the diametrically opposite edge of the hole.
- Take a stitch across the exposed face of the twill tape, catching the edge of the tear as you needle down.
- Repeat steps 7 and 8 around the tear in a star or asterisk shape until the edge of the tear is well-secured. On larger holes or more delicate fabrics you may want to continue until threads nearly cover the twill tape.
- Needle up through the center of the twill tape.
- String and tack the button to the twill tape as usual.
- Wrap the working thread 3-5 times around the core of tacking threads between the button and the twill tape.
- Tie the working thread and the thread tail from step 6 together with your choice of joining knot (the tailor’s knot is a good choice here, but the square knot will suffice).
- Trim and bury thread ends within the placket.
A very similar twill tape patching method can be used to repair other structural fabric tears, such as when the edge of a patch pocket pulls through or the mitered corner seam on a fitted sheet begins to fray. In these repairs, instead of trying to slip the twill tape between existing fabric layers, I simply apply it to the wrong side of the mending.