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!


CQ detail 360

Seam decoration 360 on crazy quilt block 53:

This decoration is found on block 53 of the I Dropped the Button Box Quilt. Lace is edged with chevron sttich worked in perle #5 thread.  In the vallys I have a bullion rose bud work in silk.


What is the story?


This regularly published series aims to illustrate and document the hand embroidered seams, embellishments and decorations on my crazy quilt I dropped the button box.


All articles are categorised in the projects under Crazy Quilt details which enables readers to browse back through the series.


Free Crazy quilt block patterns


In the process of documenting the seam decorations on this quilt, as I get to each block I am diagramming it out for readers as a free crazy quilt pattern. Links to these free pattern pages are listed on the CQ details FAQ page.

For the Love of Stitching Sampler – Band 436

hand embroidery band sampler detail
This band of stitching on Section 32 of the For Love of Stitching Band Sampler  is based on a foundation of 3 rows of herringbone. The top and bottom rows are tied and in the hills and valleys I have worked bullion roses in a hand dyed wool thread.

hand embroidery band sampler detail


Hand dyed cotton perle #5 and hand dyed wool


26 cnt linen


This section of the sampler was worked during April and May of 2008.


The For Love of Stitching Band Sampler is 15 cm (6 inches) wide. It consists of different strips of fabric which are are stitched together to form one long strip. It currently measures 24.8 yards or 22.75 metres long and I have more bands to add.

Sampler FAQ
For the full back story on this piece visit the Sampler FAQ page.

All posts in the series are in the category  the Love of Stitching Band Sampler.