Bullion Buttonhole Stitch

Bullion Buttonhole Stitch

milliners needles

Bullion Buttonhole an interesting variety of buttonhole. This stitch consists of  buttonhole stitch where the upright bars are worked as a bullion stitches. Since it is based on buttonhole you can use it to edge items or as a interesting border. Bullion buttonhole can look very interesting if you thread a thin ribbon or novelty thread under it.

Tip: For all bullion stitches use milliners needles as they are the secret weapon in creating wonderful bullion stitches. People either love or hate bullions, but most of the problems associated with working them is that people use the wrong needle.

I recommend milliners or straw needles because most embroidery needles have an eye that is wider than the shaft of the needle. 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.

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 at no extra cost to you. That is not why I recommend them!)

How to work Bullion Buttonhole

This is a version of buttonhole that has a bullion as the vertical stitch. It makes sense to be familiar with both basic buttonhole stitch and bullion knot stitch before you embark on this. So if you need a refresher work a few of both stitches on some scrap fabric and attempt this when your hands have a bit of muscle memory.

Samples worked in DMC perle #5 cotton using a #3 Milliners needle on 26 cnt linen.

bullion buttonhole step 1The same as basic buttonhole bullion buttonhole stitch is worked from left to right over two imaginary lines.

Bring the thread out on the lower line. Insert the needle on the upper line making a straight downward motion and then loop the thread under the needle point as you would with regular buttonhole.

Wrap your needle 5 or 6 times. Make sure the wraps side side by side. Don’t wrap too tight as that will make it hard to pull your needle through. On the other hand loose wrap will make for a sloppy knot.

Pull your needle through while loosely holding the wraps between your thumb and forefinger. As you pull your needle through the bullion stitch will point towards the top imaginary line.

Some of the wraps may be a little wobbly. Tickle the bullion’s tummy with the point of your needle. Run it  smoothly up an down the underside of the bullion. Do this a couple of times as this will even out wobbly  wraps.

bullion buttonhole step 2Your thread should emerge from the bottom of the bullion. Move along the row, repeating the same stitches.

bullion buttonhole step 3By altering the lengths of the upright bullion stitches this variety of buttonhole can be very decorative

Like regular buttonhole stitches, rows of the stitch can be built up to create patterns.

bullion buttonhole step 4Bullion buttonhole is a fun stitch to work once you establish a rhythm and if you want to add even more texture it looks good when you add beads.

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My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results  shares detailed practical methods about how to design and make a crazy quilt. From fabric choice, to balancing colour, texture and pattern, in order to balance and direct the eye around the block.  I cover how to stitch, build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be practical and inspiring.


  1. I am new to crazy quilting, and while I want to do it, I have a few questions and don’t know anyone who can answer them. Do you sew the pieces of the blocks together first by machine before you start the crazy quilting? I have a block that I did put together, but haven’t started the crazy part yet so I was just wondering if I am starting the right way. Thanks!

  2. Sharon,
    In your link to the buttonhole feather stitch, there were some comments about the dyed threads. You provided a link to a weaving site. When purchasing thread where it is not listed as #8 perle cotton or #12 wool…..what are the numbers we look for. For example I have seen thread listed as 16/2…how do those numbers compare to embroidery threads?

    1. Deb for many fibers the thread sizes are slightly different and I have never found a chart that directly translates weaving sizes to the thread sizes embroiderers use -for me it has always been a case of taking the risk buying the yarn and using it!


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