Buttonhole Wheel is simply a buttonhole stitch worked in a circle. So, obviously, it is part of the buttonhole family of stitches. These are also known as wheel stitch, buttonhole rings, buttonhole flowers, buttonhole disks and disk stitch.
Buttonhole wheels are a fun, if undervalued, little stitch. Many people are introduced to buttonhole wheels as a beginner’s stitch but do not realise how versatile they can be. You can do so much more with them! They are often used to form small floral sprays. This makes it a useful stitch for contemporary crazy quilting and surface embroidery.
It stands to reason that in order to work this stitch with ease, you need to know how to work regular buttonhole stitch or, as some people call it, blanket stitch.
If you have problems with the rim flicking up and not sitting flat, it just means you need more spokes in the wheel. Add a few more spokes and they will sit flat to the foundation fabric.
How to hand embroider a Buttonhole Wheel
Using a disappearing marker or pencil, mark a circle and make a dot in the middle on your fabric.
Bring your thread from the back of your fabric on the outer line. Insert the needle in the middle of the circle and bring the needle’s point out on the outer line. Loop the thread under the needle’s point.
Pull the needle through the fabric to form the first spoke of the wheel.
Repeat this process around the disk.
This stitch can be used in both contemporary and traditional stitching.
Here above I have worked half buttonhole wheels in combination with an area of couched novelty yarns, on a foundation fabric of hand-painted Aida cloth.
Below I have used buttonhole wheels in a more traditional way, along with quarter wheels in a floral motif.
Half and quarter buttonhole wheels
You can work this stitch in units that are half wheels or in quarter wheels.
It is fun to create patterns by arranging units in rows such as this example on a piece of crazy quilting.
Here is another example of half wheels used on crazy quilting. Although both are half buttonhole wheels, they can look very different depending on their spacing, placement and size.
Another way of using half buttonhole wheels is to flip or mirror them along a seam.
For another approach, once you break the wheels up into units — such as quarter wheels — you can flip them along a seam and create different arrangements and combinations. This example is used in crazy quilting, but a line of quarter wheels can make an attractive decoration as is.
Buttonhole wheels in Pulled embroidery
In pulled embroidery, buttonhole wheel is worked on a fabric such as even-weave linen, something that has ‘give’ and will ‘pull’ or pucker. You also need to use an embroiderer’s hoop to control your tension.
As you work Buttonhole wheel, tug on each stitch slightly so that the stitching pulls in the threads of the foundation fabric. It is not a tug of war — just give each stitch a tug and then move on. Make sure your needle always goes back into the same hole in the middle and a neat hole will form. You can increase the size of this hole by using a stiletto or you can use a knitting needle. Basically, you push the end into the hole to make the hole bigger or in my case more even.