Buttonhole stitch has been handed down from the days of tailors and dressmakers dependent on their own skills to complete garments. This article will show you how to do buttonhole stitch step by step for beginners. Nowadays, the buttonhole stitch 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 Tutorial
What is Buttonhole Stitch?
Buttonhole stitch is a hand embroidery stitch with 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. Originally the buttonhole stitch was used to strengthen the edges of buttonholes and prevent them from fraying.
Whether you need a hoop to do a buttonhole stitch depends on your purpose. If you are sewing buttonholes or using them as edging, then you would normally sew it freehand. For embroidery and buttonhole stitch flowers, a hoop will hold the fabric tight and prevent any puckering.
Buttonhole stitch embroidery is traditionally done with embroidery floss or embroidery thread and an embroidery needle.
To read more about the basic supplies and stitches, read how to embroider.
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 a buttonhole stitch and should see the knot or purl stitch on the edge of the stitch line.
How to Do Buttonhole Stitch for Hand Embroidery
Step 1 - Mark Guides & Enter
Draw 2 parallel lines along which to sew your 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 - First Stitch
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 the buttonhole stitch from blanket stitch.
Step 3 - Purl
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 - Next Stitch
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 - Repeat the Buttonhole Stitching
Continue to repeat the stitch, and you will see the reinforced edge appearing.
Buttonhole Stitch Flowers & Variations
You can use this stitch to make lovely round wheels.
Step 1 - Mark Circles
Draw 2 circles like a donut. After you have marked the outlines, bring the thread to the top on the edge of the outside ring at (1).
Step 2 - First Stitch
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 - Purl
Pull the needle through and then pull the thread down to form the purl.
Step 4 - Repeat
Repeat in a circle.
Buttonhole Stitch by Hand for Buttonholes
Buttonhole stitch can be used on the edge of a slit on hand-sewn buttonholes. Read my article on how to hand sew a buttonhole for more photos and instructions.
Buttonhole Stitch - In Conclusion
Buttonhole stitch is a winner for a decorative stitch and a professional look as an edging stitch in embroidery and applique.
- Embroidery Needle
- Embroidery Floss
- Draw 2 parallel lines. Bring the needle up at (1) on the bottom right line.
- Insert the needle at (2) and exit the needle on the second line at (3). The point (3) is directly above point (2
- Pull the needle through and pull the thread down. Don't pull upwards.
- Move the needle to (4) and exit at (5). Loop the thread under the needle at both points.
More Embroidery Tutorials
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Cross Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- How to Embroider
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- French Knots
- Hand Embroidery Stitches
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Running Stitch
- Sashiko Embroidery
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch | Embroidery Tutorial
- Whip Stitch