How to choose and place buttons on a knit blazer or jacket

by Christine Jonson

I never mark my buttonholes on a garment until it is finished. How in the world will I know what button I will be using? Even if I have chosen the buttons prior to finishing the garment I might change my mind. The last step in finishing a collection for my store was to take the finished garments to various places around town to choose my buttons. Many times the buttons turned into the focal point of the collection.

Right now I have a beautiful collection of button that I am eager to use. Whenever I see buttons that I love I buy them. Trying to find the right button out in the world when I need it never works for me. I also like using “non-buttons” for buttons. Favorites include beads, eastern coins, jewelry findings, buckles, keys etc…

Choosing the right button depends on many things. Even before deciding on the “look” of a button…

  • Does the garment “need” a great button to look good?
  • Should the button be the focal point on the garment?
  • What spacing is necessary for the garment to fit correctly?
  • Can buttons be used to add a design element to the garment?
  • Besides the obvious, is there anywhere else buttons would add to the appeal of the garment?
  • Is there another type of closure that would be more interesting than a button?
  • What size button will be appealing on the garment and on you?
  • What does the choice of button say about you?

 

Then there are the questions about the buttons themselves…

  • Should you try to match the color of the garment?
  • Is there a shape in the garment or fabric that you want to replicate?
  • Should it be shiny, matte, metal, bone, pearl, plastic…Does it matter?
  • Is it special enough for the time spent on the garment?
  • Does it add to the personality of the garment?
  • How does it need to be sewn on?

There are so many places to pick up unique buttons. There is no excuse to use thoughtless and boring buttons. For years my friend Lulu had a great button shop in town where I bought hundreds of special and perfect buttons. Antique shops, sewing shows and garage sales are great places to find buttons in jars, on cards and hidden in those great old tins. I have been lucky many times and found jars of Victorian glass, pearl and unique buttons for super cheap. The internet is a wonderful place to buy buttons as well. For me, stashing button is like stashing fabric, they go together. I also spend good money on buttons. Sometimes more than the fabric. Your buttons are no place to be cheap.

When you are looking through your stash of buttons another creative opportunity arises when you find the perfect button and you only have so many! OH NO…there has to be two more here somewhere…Then comes the creativity. Can I make three buttons work when the pattern says I need five? Can I find two other buttons in my stash that will work together with the three I do have? As your jacket and buttons are on the table the excitement grows just like it did when you chose your fabric. My question now becomes, what if you had marked your buttonholes already? I guess you can always change the markings but the larger point is that your thought process would have been different.

Choosing your buttons should be fun!

The length of your buttonhole is determined by adding the width of the button and the thickness of the button. I recommend that you make test buttonholes on scrap fabric and put a button through the hole before making them on your finished garment. Never make a buttonhole before you chose your buttons.

Once you have chosen your buttons place them on the garment. Depending on the garment start across the bust line. Then place one at the neckline. Now decide where to put the others. Is there a cute way to space them? How low should the bottom button be? Do you need one at the waist? I usually space my buttons around 4” apart unless I am being creative. If I am not sure of my choice or placement I pin the buttons on the garment, try it on and analyze my choices. Once I have decided where they go I put a large head pin approximately 5/8” from the edge. Then I make my buttonholes and open them with a sharp Exacto knife blade.

To determine where the buttons go I lay the garment on the table and lay the buttonhole on top of the other side so the left end of the cut buttonhole is even with the other side edge. I put a pin straight through the right end of the buttonhole and secure it there. Once I have them all pin marked I look to see that they are even. I check that the neckline and bottom hems match and if they don’t this is my chance to do a little creative button placement. Sometimes I may be off and one side of my jacket may be a touch longer than other. When this happens I move my buttons just a bit to take up the extra length.

There are variations to this depending on center fronts, fit and design but this is my usual way. I find that visualizing my buttons and their placement just one more way to express my creativity.