How to work Bullion Knot Stitch

Bullion knot stitch sample 7People either love or hate bullion knots  but I am in the love them camp! They are one of those hand embroidery stitches that can be tricky to work so if you have trouble with them do take time to read my tips.

packet of milliners needlesTips before you start Bullion Knot stitch 

Most of the problems associated with working bullion knots is that people use the wrong needle. I suggest you try  milliners or straw needles. Why these particular needles? Most embroidery needles have an eye that is wider than the shaft of the needle which means any stitch that wraps the thread around the needle often runs the risk of getting too tight to pull the thread through.

Milliners or straw needles have an eye and shaft that are the same width which makes sliding the wrapped bullion knot along the needle easy. Try it as it does make a difference!

Where do you get Milliners needles?  Specialist needlework shops will or should stock them. If you are not near a needlework store, you can buy Milliners Needles online (this is an affiliate link which means if you shop here I get a small commission but that is not why I recommend them!)

Another tip is to wrap your thread in a clockwise direction. For most threads this will mean you will follow the natural twist of the direction in which it was spun. If your thread untwists as you wrap  your bullion, it means the thread was spun in the opposite direction to most threads on the market. This would include some rayon threads. In this case wrap your bullion in an anti clockwise direction.

Simply put, wrap clockwise most of the time but if for some reason this untwists your thread wrap anti clockwise.

If you have trouble with stranded threads getting a tangle try a twisted thread like cotton perle #8 0r #5.

Some people get a little tense and wrap too tight. Then, while still on the needle hold the bullion between thumb and first finger and gently rub the bullion back and forth in your fingers to loosen the wraps slightly before you pull the needle through.

Also stretch the fabric in a needlework hoop or frame so that you have both hands free to work the knot. If you need advice on wrapping a hoop and what size to choose skip over to this tutorial on how to bind and us an embroidery  hoop.

When you start to use bullion knots in your embroidery start with a simple 4 or 5 wrap bullion. Then as you master those add more wraps.

Bullion knot stitch sample 1Bullion knot is also known as bullion stitch, caterpillar stitch, coil stitch, grub knot, knot stitch, post stitch, Porto Rico rose and worm stitch.

How to work Bullion Knots

step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 1Bring the thread from the back of the fabric and insert the needle a short space away pointed towards the place that the thread emerges from the fabric. The distance between these two points determines the length of the knot.

step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 2Wrap the thread round the needle five or six times. Do not cross the wraps on the needle, instead make sure the thread coils up the needle. The coil of thread on the needle should be the same distance as where the needle emerges and exits the fabric.

step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 3Pull the needle through the coil, while holding the coil between your first finger and thumb. See the photo below. This grip of the coil will keep the bullion knot smooth and prevent it from knotting in on itself. Pull the working thread up and away from you.

step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 4As the coil tightens, change the direction that you are pulling the thread and pull it to towards you.

step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 5If the bullion bunches or looks untidy pass the needle under the bullion and rub it up and down the length of the bullion to smooth the coils out. Stitchers call this rubbing the belly of the bullion.

step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 6When smooth take the needle through the fabric at the point where the thread first emerged. step by step tutorial on how to work bullion stitch 8The coil of thread which is the bullion knot should now lie neatly on the surface.

Bullion knot stitch sample 3There are many applications for this stitch the body of this praying mantis is made up of Bullion knots.

Bullion knot stitch sample bullion rosesYou can also make hand embroidered bullion roses. These are worked in wool.

Bullion knot stitch sample 4When you combine bullion knots in floral sprays they can be very effective.

Bullion knot stitch sample 6They are ideal to tuck into the fork of feather stitch and its varieties

Bullion knot stitch sample 8Crazy quilters love this stitch as it can add texture to a seam or band of embroidery.

Bullion Knot is one of those hand embroidery stitches that is fun and interesting. Once mastered they are fun. I know they do take a little practice but they are well worth learning and enjoying!


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67 Responses to How to work Bullion Knot Stitch

  1. Lynn Manchester says:

    Conquered the bullion stitch!!! Thank you so much. I switched to a size 9 milliners needle ( I had avoided that needle because of the tiny eye, but the right threaded solved that problem) with my 12 wt. floss and my bullions are gorgeous. I ‘be been able to get up to 15 wraps so far.

  2. Yuma Tatter says:

    I used the bullion stitch to create Dragonflies over Cattails for my TAST sampler. I really like the effect of the stitch. See my work here

  3. Dianne says:

    I have really enjoyed stitching my little bullion garden. It is posted up on my blog:

  4. Ann says:

    Was hoping that my first try with the bullion stitch wouldn’t be the embarrassment that it is:

  5. Hi Sharon, sorry this is late….been away on holiday………..
    This is my sample for week 20 bullion stitch !
    hugs chris richards

  6. Brigitte Otto says:

    Forgot to tell you that I uploaded my bullionknot sample to stitching fingers:

  7. Pippa says:

    Hi Sharon
    Here is my efforts on the bullion.

  8. Annet says:

    I stitched a few bullion knots to one of my TAST samplers. I wrote about it here:

  9. I was late for the challenges,, 17,18 and 19.
    But able to catch up 20.
    I tried out a little flower design with this stitch.
    Thankyou Sharon, i am happy doing all the stitches given by you here.
    my little work can be seen

  10. Kathleen says:

    I mixed Bullions with french knots and Button Hole flowers, and made a design for the letter J.

  11. Ms Sharma says:

    My attempts of the Stitch:
    Thank you Sharon for giving us this opportunity . For people like me who juggle between work and home and constantly travelling, TAST is one thing which keeps me away from depression and loneliness. I always look forward to next challenge hoping to do something more than what I did before.
    Yes many a time I may not be able to do much, but looking at others work motivates me and gives me many ideas.

  12. Diane says:

    Thanks for another week of inspiration to everyone who posted here and on flickr and facebook.

  13. Lucy Landry says:

    Sorry I missed the last 4 weeks. But I’ve jumped back in again with the bullion knot.

    I even managed to squeeze in two of the stitches that I missed.

  14. Suztats says:

    I had fun with the bullion! You can see pics on my blog:

  15. I attended a Brazilian Embroidery group recently and have since been practicing bullions so a very timely challenge – Thanks Sharon! You can see my example here

  16. Christine says:

    I really don’t like bullion knot… so I stitched something I don’t like …..

  17. Isabelle says:

    here is my project for this stitch.
    This challenge learns me a lot. In one hand, I learn new stitchs that I had never tried earlier, and in the other hand, the TAST forces me to be creative, to think outside the box, and to try new thinks.
    Thank you very much Sharon !

  18. julie says:

    How ’bout that?! I finished my blog post. Kept it shor and sweet. If you didn’t know you could click on my name to find my blog, you can copy or click on this link:

  19. Crazyqstitcher says:

    I have posted my Bullion stitched tree and also used all previous stitches except Satin stitch.
    If you should be kind and check, please take a cup of coffee as Mr WordPress stretched the details of the work and you may be grateful for the drink.

  20. julie says:

    An image of my bullions can be seen here:
    I’ll be blogging about it tomorrow.

  21. Debbie says:

    I finally caught up!! I’ve posted Week 19, Half Chevron and Week 20, Bullion Knot here…
    Thank you to Sharon and all the other stitchers who keep inspiring me with their wonderful work.

  22. Anna says:

    Thank God I finished it!!! First time trying Bullion knots….
    Thank you for tast! still my favorite time in the week!

  23. Liz Figures says:

    only a small piece this week. hope you like it. thank you for doing this every week.

    xx liz xx

  24. Sandy Jandik says:

    I’ve posted my Bullion samples on my blog

  25. Karrin Hurd says:

    My examples, which I have done in the past are here:

  26. libbyQ says:

    love the wrapped bullion stitch~!
    for a look at the latest on the christmas stocking project go to:

    thank you again Sharon. it’s been a fun learning experience for me to participate in TAST.


  27. I like this stitch even if I’m not well to do it. Here you can see my sampler

  28. Hi Sharon,
    till now I have tried escaping from this stitch, can’t run any more now, started my trials are here-

  29. Mariainez L. Ribeiro dos Santos says:


    My work is very simple.I´m still learning to do bullions perfectly.

  30. Bonjour sharon ,
    Voici ma participation …
    Bonne fin de semaine

  31. Jane says:

    Thanks Sharon, I had great fun with Bullion stitch, the tip about winding the thread clockwise was really helpful. I have not finished the brooch yet, but the stitching is all done, you can check it out here

  32. Christina says: Keeping up on Tast, but didn’t like this stitch. Looking forward to week 21.

  33. Annet says:

    I stitched a few bullion knots with cotton a broder. I had trouble with them, but remembered your tip about wrapping the thread counter clockwise. Thanks! I wrote about it here:

  34. Claudia says:

    Hello Sheron, hello everyone,
    I go to Germany for a few days but I did not want to miss this stitch. So I had a long night 🙂
    Here is my attempt:
    Happy Stitching

  35. Not enough time this week to work the stitch, but I had done this flower the same week we did french knots 🙂

  36. konnykards says:

    I enjoyed Bullions in the 2007 challenge – now, as with all my stitching, I need to wind the threads more evenly ….

  37. Debbie M says:

    How’d you know this was one of my favorite stitches, Sharon?! Better than the French Knot. Here’s my post:

  38. Angela says:

    I am so glad to get finally learn this stitch. I have wanted to for quite a while! You can see my start here

  39. Annet says:

    Here’s my weekly post with old samples:
    I already planned to stitch bullion knots on my white cloth, so I’m glad it’s this week’s TAST stitch.

  40. Cyndi L says:

    Would you like to see a starfish that somehow turned into a flower? 🙂

  41. Christine T says:

    Hi Sharon, this is my bullion knot stitch,

    Wheat is my favorite cereal.

  42. I have done a lot of knots lately, Bullion knot stitch was new to me when I started. Here is my Bullion knot page:

  43. Had a funny feeling this would be the next stitch 🙂
    Just finished!

  44. Hi Sharon,
    I posted a piece last week with bullion Agapanthus flowers.It doesn’t have a link back since it is a week old.
    Another old Brazilian embroidery piece

  45. Rita says:

    I have subscribed to pintangle via email and also Take a Stitch Tuesday. Each time I do, it says I am already subscribed, but I never receive the information. Any help would be appreciated.

    • sharonb says:

      Sorry to hear you are having troubles Rita. There is only one subscription via the email link in the right hand margin. Have you checked your spam filter as it possibly going there. I have also written you an email

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