Buttonhole stitch has been handed down from the days of tailors and dressmakers dependant on their own skills to complete garments. Nowdays, it has become a piece of decorative embroidery used for ‘cut work’ like Hardanger and for edging in some embroidery designs. It can also create lovely flower wheels like those pictured below.
Buttonhole stitch has a knot created at the end of each stitch, known as ‘purling’. It has a very firm edge and is perfect for fabric embroidery and stitching around the shapes in applique to prevent fraying.
Buttonhole Stitch vs Blanket Stitch
Buttonhole stitch and blanket stitch are often confused because they are similar but not the same.
The easiest way to differentiate between buttonhole and blanket stitch is the entrance and exit points of the needle. If the needle exits at the edge of the fabric you are creating a blanket stitch. When the needle goes in towards the center of the fabric then you are creating buttonhole stitch and should see the knot or purl stitch on the edge of the stitch line.
How to do Buttonhole Stitch
Step 1: Draw 2 lines along which to sew your buttonhole stitch. Once you have practiced a few times you will probably not need these lines.
Bring the thread to the top of the fabric on the bottom right at (1).
Step 2: Insert the needle along the same line as (1) at (2) and exit the needle straight up on the second line at (3).
Make a loop with the thread passing under the needle both at points (3) and (2). This is the important part that differentiates buttonhole stitch from blanket stitch.
Step 3: Pull the needle through and pull the thread down to form the purl. If you pull the thread up you get a strange double loop.
Remember: pull down!
Step 4: Move the needle across to (4) and exit at (5). Once again, loop the thread under the needle at both points (4) and (5).
Step 5: Continue to repeat the stitch and you will see the reinforced edge appearing.
Buttonhole Stitch Flowers
You can use this stitch to make lovely round wheels.
Step 1: Draw 2 circles like a donut. Bring the thread to the top on the edge of the outside ring at (1).
Step 2: Insert the needle at (2) which is a short distance across from (1) and exit the needle horizontally on the edge of the smaller inner circle.
Loop the thread underneath the needle at the tip and back.
Step 3: Pull the needle through and then pull the thread down to form the purl.
Step 4: Repeat in a circle.
Buttonhole stitch is a winner for a decorative stitch and a professional look as an edging stitch in embroidery and applique.