Types of Sewing Buttons

    by Natasha Lawrence

    About the Author

    For over 25 years, Natasha Lawrence has written for publications from "Alaska Business Monthly" to "Savannah Magazine" and provided destination content as Florida city editor for Wcities. Her expertise in arts and crafts includes calligraphy, painting, mosaics, jewelry making, paper crafts and home decor, often offering workshops in museums and art centers.


    There are many types of buttons used in sewing for closures in clothing or for decorative purposes. They include different sizes, colors, materials, themes and ways they can be secured to a garment, bag or craft. Some designer clothing has buttons made with semiprecious stones or rhinestones. Some buttons are imprinted with manufacturers' names, such as Levi's or Dockers and used specifically on the clothing they were made for like jeans or pants. There are also antique and collectible buttons such as those made with tortoiseshell, handmade buttons or historical military buttons.


    No one really knows who invented the button as we know it today, but it came about during the Renaissance period as a functional and decorative means of closure on clothing. A button made of any material only needed to be slipped through a buttonhole of proportionate size. If a button was lost, it could be replaced. Before buttons, clothing was kept on and secure with the use of ties made with fabric or leather. Not only did buttons service a functional purpose, but over time they became ornate and decorative, created in different shapes and colors. Some buttons have become popular collectibles for their historical and intrinsic value.


    The prime purpose of buttons is to keep clothing on securely and to enable the ease of opening and closure. Buttons are also used to on bags or purses and as decorative embellishments on craft projects such as frames, boxes, greeting cards and jewelry. In addition to being a convenient solution to opening and closing garments, they also serve to enhance those garments.


    Materials used to make buttons include bone, antler, ivory, plastic, wood, metal, fabric, glass, stone, leather and clay. Button craftsmanship and manufacture were determined by the garment on which they would be worn. Considerations included wear and tear, decorative value, enhancement, color and design. Military uniform buttons are often made of metal for durability and stamped with insignias and images. Buttons for women's clothing reflect the decorative trends of the time and have been made with pearls and abalone shells, which are iridescent with the colors of the rainbow.


    In addition to functionality, buttons have been designed to enhance the garment on which they be used, whether it's a heavy coat or a child's dress. They also come in shapes that include round, oval, square and novelty such as stars, birds and animals. They can have loops on the back to secure them to garments and some have two or four holes in the center where a needle and thread will crisscross with coordinated thread to attach them to a piece of clothing. They are simple to use for their purpose; they are slipped through a buttonhole for closure.


    There are tiny, delicate buttons that are sewn onto doll clothing or young children's shirts or dresses. Then, there are large, sturdy buttons that are used on coats or medium-weight buttons used on shirts and pants. The most common shape is round; however, button sizes are determined by their purpose and are often made in decorative and themed shapes.