In the mid 70s I was in college majoring in Home Economics. No, actually, Michigan State University was on the cutting edge, and it was no longer called Home Economics but rather Human Ecology. They prided themselves on NOT being a college content with simply teaching “stitchin’ and stirrin’” but instead asked you to question the value of baking a loaf of bread, over buying a loaf of bread. Not that they didn’t teach you how to bake bread, they just wanted you to be sure that you considered the components like cost, time, nutrition, taste, etc. before embarking on the actual act of baking bread. In another words… to be more philosophical about homemaking. (A bit of an aside… Perhaps as a sign of the times, this past year Michigan State closed their College of Human Ecology. The building is gone and a parking structure has taken its place. A small tear was shed!)
Still, we learned many things about being efficient, capable and creative. When I look back on it now, I suppose many things were rather antiquated. I remember a rite of passage in textiles was being able to set in a gusset! Uh, how many of you even know what a gusset is much less ever found the need to set one in? FYI… a gusset is a diamond shaped piece of fabric placed in the underarm of a garment to allow greater ease of movement and less likelihood of ripping underarm seams. You can still find them in some high end clothes. Often rugby shirts will have gussets. So, now you know! But there were many wonderful things I learned that I continue to use on a daily basis.
Today, I want to share how to make a “shank”. I’m not talking about a cut of meat, but rather an extension on the back of a button that holds the button away from the garment. These are especially helpful when you are working with thick fabrics. Creating a shank also makes the button much stronger and is great to use on buttons that receive a lot of stress, like on a waistband. (I use a shank on almost every button I sew on unless it’s being used for decorative purposes only.) Some buttons have shanks built in. These are often used on decorative buttons so there are no button holes on the surface of the button or on coats where the materials used are quite thick.
BTW… I didn’t wake up this morning with a burning desire to teach the world how to make a shank. The next project I’m sharing calls for a shank. I thought I’d add a “how to” make a shank before the other directions come out. Okay, this isn’t “cutesy” or romantic, and it’s not a project in and of itself, BUT I think once you sew a button on using a shank, you may never sew one on flat again! Maybe this is more than you ever wanted to know about shanks, but if you’re interested in learning the technique, check it out in our FREE Open Patterns.