How to hand Embroider a Buttonhole bar

hand embroidered buttonhole bar sample 1Buttonhole bar is often used in traditional pulled and drawn needlework or in combination with needle weaving. However it is an underestimated stitch as if you use it in a freeform manner it is interesting, fun and I find it highly addictive!

hand embroidered buttonhole bar sampleButtonhole bar is also easier to sew than most people realise. The main trick is to keep your tension even, so stretch the fabric in an needlework hoop or frame while you work.

In order to work a buttonhole bar you need to know how to work buttonhole stitch so if you are beginner make sure you know basic buttonhole first.

How to work a Buttonhole bar

Start with two or three horizontal straight stitches across the area you wish the bar to lay.

buttonhole bar step 1This forms the bar on which you sew.

buttonhole bar step 2Work from left to right. Bring the thread out on the lower left hand side of the straight stitches you have just created.

Work a buttonhole stitch over the bar of straight stitches. You do not pass the needle through the fabric, just under the bar.

buttonhole bar step 3As you work nudge the stitches long the bar so that they are snug but not so tight they twist the bar.

buttonhole bar step 4Take your needle to the back and secure it.

buttonhole bar step 5


Here are a few more samples of contemporary hand embroidery that contain Buttonhole bar stitch.

hand embroidered buttonhole barhand embroidered buttonhole barhand embroidered buttonhole barWhen you first learn this stitch use a thread such perle #8 or #5. When you have mastered it experiment with other threads such as metallic, novelty or textured threads.

Hand dyed multicoloured threads can also look interesting as with this type of thread the colour shifts along the bar.

Since it is important to sew the buttonhole stitches over the foundation threads without entering the fabric use a blunt ended needle such as a Tapestry needle of suitable size for the buttonhole stage of the stitch.

I hope you enjoy the stitch!

A book review of Portuguese Whitework by Yvette Stanton

I spent a very indulgent weekend drooling over the pages of Yvette Stanton’s new book, Portuguese Whitework: Bullion Embroidery from Guimarães. I am sure hand embroidery enthusiasts will love this beautiful whitework technique. I have always been attracted to the the mix of drawn thread embroidery and surface embroidery but this book had me really itching to stitch which is a sign of a good book!

Portuguese Whitework: Bullion Embroidery from Guimarães includes full size patterns, detailed project directions and step by step stitch instructions in its 104 colour pages. Materials and supplies required for this type of embroidery, tasks like turning corners, securing threads, starting new threads, etc are all covered well. Guimarães embroidery is introduced, set in context, and has an interesting historical overview of the technique which illustrated with beautiful examples of embroidery. Each project has a difficulty rating. At the end of the book there is a small section of finishing techniques too.

The instructions are diagrams and text which are presented in a clear, well illustrated manner. I know many people do not like diagrams, but this is because for years the publishing industry has tried to save space by condensing the information. This meanness does not apear here. There is no assumed knowledge, or steps omitted. Everything is clearly explained. The acid test for me is how well an author explains the dreaded bullion knot, as many stitchers really fear this stitch. Not only does Yvette Stanton explain how to work them clearly, she also trouble shoots problems like lumpy bullions and tapered bullions. I cant stress enough how well explained everything is.

Projects in the book meet a range of skill levels and time commitments meaning there is something of interest for everyone. The embroidery projects themselves range from smaller items that could be worked in a weekend, to large complex projects that require more time. No matter your needlework skill, or how much time you have to explore a different style of embroidery you will find projects of interest.

This You Tube Video made by Yvette Stanton will whet your appetite…

What are my favourite projects in Portuguese Whitework: Bullion Embroidery from Guimarães?

I find this biscornu very appealing.

biscornu project

My favourite is this sampler. I would love to work this. Or at least incorporate some of the motifs on my band sampler. I might just go on my needleworkers bucket list.


How adaptable is this style of embroidery to 21st century?
I always look at traditional embroidery techniques and see how they may be adapted to today. The typical motifs of this style of stitchery are very adaptable to today. I think the projects in this book are very modern but some people may not think so. However one of the design principles of this technique is that it sets up a contrast between the control and flatness of drawn work and the texture and shape of surface embroidery. If you look at the surface embroidery motifs they could be applied to all sort of situations.

Ok you have to step away from traditional Guimarães embroidery and of course it would no longer be Guimarães embroidery, but inspired by the technique. I can see this type of embroidery being very attractive if you use variegated or space dyed threads. The colour shifts would be very attractive.

Some traditionalists would not like this idea, but think about how some of these motifs could easily be used as patterns in crazy quilting, or adapted and used on projects made on other everyday fabrics such as twill or denim (such as bags etc)

As you can perhaps sense I see the book a valuable addition to any stitchers needlework library.
You can find Portuguese Whitework: Bullion Embroidery from Guimarães through Vetty Creations

Note Apart form receiving a complimentary review copy, I do not gain financially in anyway from this review.