Do-It-Yourself Man’s Guide to Clothing Alterations

Take care of loose buttons and long cuffs yourself, and keep your clothes looking nicer, longer, for less.

Like many other guys, you probably learned to sew during rainy days at summer camp where you were more busy trying to find creative ways to get out of it than actually focusing on learning. But those days are long gone. Unless you’ve managed to hone your mending skills over the past couple decades, chances are good that you’ve probably forgotten even the simplest of sewing techniques. Luckily, even though sewing isn’t quite like riding a bike, attaching buttons and hemming pants are easy to learn. Whether you need to fix a suit before a big interview or reattach buttons to your favorite shirt, we’ve got you covered.

Replacing missing buttons

If you’re guilty of walking around town with one or more missing buttons on your favorite wool coat or suit, it’s time to make a change. Remember guys: you are responsible for your own appearance. And adding a new button is a fairly simple fix that will take you about five minutes once you learn how. While replacing missing buttons isn’t rocket science, the process does require some knowledge of basic sewing skills. Here’s our simple five-step process for do-it-yourself button replacement.

  1. Thread your needle with about two feet of thread, and double it over. Doubling it is a fancy way of saying “fold it over.” You’ll want about a foot of folded over thread to work with. Tie the ends of the thread together in a triple knot to create a big loop.
  2. Start the mending process on the back of your fabric where the button will be positioned so that the knot will remain hidden. Push the needle through the back to the front of your first button hole and through the opposite hole, then add a spacer such as a second needle or a toothpick in the loop that you created. You’ll want to do this so that you don’t sew the button on too tight, which will make it difficult to fasten.
  3. Pass through the button six times with your needle, following the process outlined in step two.
  4. Once you’ve made six passes to ensure that the button is on the garment securely, make a final pass through the back of the fabric, as if you were sending the needle through the button hole. But simply go through the fabric and pull the needle under the button. You’ll want to create a shank that will help keep your button securely fastened for the long haul. Wrap the thread around underneath the button a few times, and then pass the needle through the back of the fabric to secure the shank.
  5. Tie off the thread, making sure the knot is tight against the fabric, and cut off any excess that remains.

Following this process for a four-hole button will almost guarantee that you’ll never have to sew that button on again. With six passes of thread and a shank to secure it to your garment, that button will be on there for the long haul.

Hemming your pants

Perhaps you’re the type of guy who likes to wear his pants a little bit longer than usual, for one reason or another. Telltale signs include fraying hems where the heel of your shoe catches the back of your pants while you’re walking. Over time, the bottom of your pants will start to look shoddy with all the wear and tear. If the thread along the bottom hem of your favorite suit pants is starting to come undone, here’s a quick four-step fix that will leave your pants looking new in no time.

  1. Put your pants on inside out and have someone help you pin the bottom hem up to the appropriate length, making sure the pins are pointing vertically. Positioning them vertically will make it easier to sew the hem. Remove your pants carefully to avoid sticking yourself with the pins.
  2. Use a tape measure to make sure the hem is pinned evenly all around, and on both legs. It’s good practice to measure twice so that you don’t end up with pant legs that are different lengths.
  3. Once you’ve evened out the hem, use an iron to crease the bottom. This will make it easier to sew and create a cleaner look. Remove the pins and fold the unfinished edge down ¼ inch and pin and iron once more. Measure again to make sure that both hems are even, and leave a few of the pins in until you’ve finished sewing to ensure they stay that way!
  4. Begin stitching vertically along the folded edge only pushing through slightly to the outside of your pants for a clean look. Make sure that your stitches are even as you go along, and tie off the thread on the inside of your pants once you’ve made your way around the entire hem.

If you’ve got a favorite garment that needs to be repaired with some basic sewing skills, you can probably tackle it without scheduling a trip to the tailor. Whether it’s sewing on a button or mending a hem, these simple processes will help you get the job done in no time. All you need are the proper supplies and a few minutes out of your day. So get to work, and let us know how you do!


Read more in Hands On on The Good Life.

Image credit: bark/Flickr

About Ted Corbitt

Ted Corbitt writes about men’s fashion and tailoring your own clothes. Ted is a writer for Balani.


  1. Ted Corbitt says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Very nice tutorial., these can help a lot., thanks author


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