This section is from the book "Text-Book On Domestic Art", by Carrie Crane Ingalls. Also available from Amazon: Textbook On Domestic Art: With Illustrations And Drafts.
Four-holed buttons are fastened to material either by crossing the threads or by making the threads parallel, either horizontally or vertically. The crossed threads are used for underclothes. Parallel threads are used for coats, outer garments and men's clothes.
Use coarse cotton. No. 36 or linen not doubled. Begin with the knot on the wrong side, or on the right side, with a back stitch and no knot. The button can be made to stand out from the goods, as on coats, by putting a small pencil or penholder between the button and cloth, sewing on button, then drawing away pencil and winding the extra fulness with thread. Before fastening on wrong side, always wind the thread under the button four or five times to give extra strength. Sometimes a small button is put on the under side and worked thru at the same time.