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The Trick to Sewing on Pillow Buttons

Pillow Button CollectionSewing a pillow button is nothing like sewing on a shirt button. There is a professional trick that upholsterers use to tie buttons on that is faster and easier in that you only pass the needle through the pillow once. Also,  in the event a button  has to replaced,  say on a chair, in most cases, it can be done without opening the back.

In my Etsy store and icraft.ca store I will be making buttons available for many pillows as an add on option. Buttons will be sold as a set, in varying sizes, with a needle pre-threaded with upholsterer’s thread / string. Here is a step by step tutorial on how to sew pillow buttons on.

Firstly, just so you know, buttons are made with a professional upholsterers’ button press. Each button size, requires it’s own cutter and die and although it is an investment, professionally made buttons are 100 times better then the kits from a fabric store that make buttons with a plastic form and hammer. This machine (pictured below) handles thin, leather or heavy weight upholstery fabrics and produces perfect, long wearing buttons.

Professional button making machineStep 1 – Measure and mark with a pin, front and back, where you want the button attached.

Measure where you want the buttons on your pillowStep 2 – Cut your string length about 24 inches and fold it in half. Using the folded end, slip it through the shank of the button, then push the button up through the loop making  a “cow-hitch” knot as seen in the following 2 pictures. You can see just by using this loop, a button can easily be replaced without cutting any cords.

Cow hitch knot the button

Looping the thread through the button shankStep 3 – Thread both ends of your thread through the needle and stab it into the pillow where you have marked it in the front. Push it through, coming out where you have marked it in the back.  It  may be hard to pull the needle through because  4 threads are pulling through the pillow stuffing. Its handy to have a 6″ needle but a darning needle will work if you can grab on to it with a pair of pliers and pull it through.

Sewing a button into a pillowStep 4 – Once the needle is through to the back of the pillow, pull the needle off the threads. Guide one thread through the shank from the left and the other thread from the right (as seen below).

Sewing a pillow ButtonStep 5 – Start cinching the button down to the depth that you want it.  Wrap the thread around the button once or twice, or lightly tie a single knot just to prevent it from sliding up.

I like a  2 – 4  inch depth between the front and back buttons. If you are sewing more than one set of buttons on a pillow, it is important that you start out with the same length of thread so that you can get each set of buttons to the same depth by measuring the length of thread to be cut off after your final knot. Before tying the final knot get all the buttons to this point first. Check for consistent depths.

Button tyingStep 6 – Tie a reef knot or square knot (as seen below),  pulling the threads as tightly as you can. Cut the threads off short enough to be hidden by the button.  If you think you may want to untie them one day, thread your needle and stab the needle into the base of the button and pull the needle out in a side seam burying the thread in the stuffing. Trim thread. Warning… once the thread is pulled tight it is difficult to open again as this special thread/string is  non-slipping.  Voila! You have professionally tied pillow buttons.

Step 6 Pillow ButtonAt PillowThrowDecor 4 sizes of buttons are available, with 3 types of backings depending on its function. Watch for another tutorial on using buttons in your draperies and other home decor items.

Custom Pillow Buttons

10 comments… add one
  • Robyn June 9, 2010, 5:00 am

    This is great. I recently sewed buttons into the tufts on a pillow and the tufts have all popped out, along with some of the buttons. Thanks for the tutorial.

  • Karen October 25, 2012, 6:42 am

    These instructions were very clear, pictures were a big help, and the finished results were very professional. Thanks.

  • Linda November 27, 2012, 9:39 am

    Thanks for posting this.  It was very helpful and worked great.

  • Deb June 8, 2013, 10:41 am

    This answers all the questions I didn’t know how to ask. My kitchen chair cushions have popped their decorative buttons, thanks to my squiggly daughter. I was trying to transfer my OK shirt button skills, and that wasn’t cutting it. You rock!

  • Andie July 28, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Thank you! I have a big, orange, circular pillow from World Market, and over time the buttons came loose! These instructions are very clear and I am so happy it is actually easier than I thought it would be. I appreciate the tutorial. You are a great time saver!

  • Zip Tang December 12, 2014, 4:23 pm

    Thank you for posting this. My buttons look nice and even now. What is the big spool of white thread in the third picture from the top? I’m looking for something like that, and I don’t have the right name to search with. When I search for upholstery button thread, I get something much thinner than that.

  • Frances Runnels July 10, 2016, 11:25 am

    Wow!! I never dreamed attaching a buttons on a pillow could be so simple. This will be my first try and am confident by following your steps my pillows are going to turn out just the way I want them to. Thanks so very much!

  • Kathy July 24, 2016, 2:09 pm

    Great tutorial. I just replaced buttons on porch cushions. It went very smoothly. I did not have a 6″ needle–did it with a 4″. I think it would have been super easy had I had a 6″. Many thanks!

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