Bullion Stitch 101:
Learn the Basics and Beyond

How to work bullion knots - Bullion stitch roses - Bullion strawberries

Bullion flowers - Starfish - What went wrong?

Ah, bullion stitch.

Those little bundles of twisted thread that can either make your embroidery project sing or have you pulling your hair out in frustration!

Let's look closer at these intricate little devils, shall we?

Photo showing various ways to use bullion stitch

Starting with the good stuff, because there's something deeply satisfying about focusing on the positives.

Bullion knots can add this incredible texture to your work that's hard to achieve with any other stitch. They're like the cherries on top of an ice cream sundae – that little extra that takes something from good to great.

When you get them right, they can form perfect little roses. Or they can mimic the look of a caterpillar or a wriggly worm, giving life to your fabric that's almost magical.

And when they're part of a larger design, oh boy, do they stand out! They can give a 3D effect that makes your embroidery pop. It's like your textile is reaching out, begging to be touched, and who doesn't love that?

Plus, the sense of accomplishment when you nail these bad boys is second to none. 

The Trials and Tribulations of Bullion Stitch

But, and it's a sizeable but, bullion stitch or knots can be the bane of your existence when they don't play nice.

They're fiddly. They're persnickety. They demand patience and a steady hand, and even then, they might decide to be uncooperative.

You think you've wrapped your thread the perfect number of times. You've pulled your needle through with the care of a newborn's mother.

And yet, you end up with a knotted mess that looks more like a bird's nest after a storm than the elegant stitch you were aiming for.

And let's not even talk about the tension.

Too loose, and your knot is a floppy, sad thing that doesn't hold its shape.

Too tight, and it's a stiff, unyielding lump that refuses to blend in with its fellow stitches.

It's a delicate balance that can drive even the calmest of crafters to the brink of madness.

The Thread Dilema

Then there's the thread. Oh, the thread! Some threads are just not made for bullion knots. They split, they fray, they break, and they can make you question all your life choices that led you to this point.

And if you're using metallic, rayon or silk threads? Prepare for a challenge that should probably come with its own warning label.

It's All Worth While!

But you know what?

Despite all the potential pitfalls, there's something undeniably alluring about bullion knots.

They're like that high maintenance friend who drives you up the wall, but you can't help but love. They push you to grow, to improve, to develop a level of finesse that you might not have reached without them.

So, bullion knots, you're a tricky beast, but the satisfaction of getting you right is a joy like no other.

You keep us embroiderers on our toes. While you might cause a few gray hairs along the way, the beauty you bring to our work makes all the trials and tribulations worth it.

Here's to the love-hate relationship we have with you – long may it continue to challenge and delight us.


I Learned a Trick From an Expert

Years ago, I stood hypnotized by the rhythmic movements of an old woman's needle. She was creating bullion stitches with astonishing ease. Seeing my interest, she beckoned me over.

"My dear," she began, her eyes twinkling with the wisdom of years, "it's all about how you hold your fabric and a milliner's needle." Her fingers, gnarled with age yet delicate as a pianist's, showed me the slimmest needle I had ever seen. 

That was when the puzzle pieces clicked into place, my own hands echoing her movements, finding the rhythm.

Let me share that dance with you, that secret handshake between the needle and the cloth.

It might take a tad more effort than your regular stitch, but trust me, it will open up a world of possibilities. It's a stitch worth every ounce of your patience. 

How to Work a Bullion Stitch

Bullion knot step 1

Use a single strand of embroidery floss.

Start by poking your needle up through the fabric at one end of your stitch. Then, take a small bit of fabric onto your needle a little ways away, but come back up through the first hole you made.

How long you make this stitch depends on the thread you're using and how big you want the knot to turn out.

Bullion knot step 2

This picture shows how I learned to hold the needle and cloth to make nice, tidy bullion knots.

Push your needle almost all the way through the fabric, but not completely. 

If you're a righty, use your right thumb to press against the front side of the fabric, right near the needle.

Then, put your index finger behind the needle. It should stick straight up towards the ceiling, like a little flagpole. Keep it simple, and you've got this!

Use your index finger to keep the thread wraps steady.

Bullion knot step 3

Hold the thread with your other hand.

Now twist that thread around the needle at least six times.

After you do that, you're going to gently nudge those loops you made down onto the fabric.

Make sure you keep them in place with your right index finger; you don't want them slipping away. Keep going with the wrapping part until you've got enough loops to make the stitch as long as you need it to be.

To make sure you're doing it right, just place the needle along the path where you're going to stitch. This helps you see if you've got enough thread wrapped around it. Better to have a bit too much than not enough, so if you're not sure, wrap a little more thread on there.

Bullion knot step 4

Take the sharp end of the needle in your left hand. Now, with your right hand, use your thumb and pointer finger to ease the needle through the thread wraps. Be gentle and let those loops you made slide off the eye end of the needle.

If the wraps are tough to move, you might have to press down on them with your thumbnail to get them to budge. (Sorry, I couldn't take a picture of this part because I was holding the camera and I only have two hands.)

Alright, let's make this super simple.

Once you've got an empty needle, gently pull it until the little knot you made sits right on top of the fabric.

Lay the fabric down flat and just nudge that knot into the perfect spot with the needle. Make sure the thread you're working with is all the way through the knot.

Then, poke the needle down through the fabric right next to where the thread comes out. That's it!

Making a Bullion Loop

If you want to make a bullion loop, what you do is wrap more thread around the needle.

You want more wraps than the space where the needle goes into and comes out of the fabric. When you pull the needle through, the thread bunches up into this neat, twisty loop.

People also call this the coil stitch because it looks like a spring or a coil.

And get this, another fun name for it is the caterpillar stitch. If you make this stitch long and then hold it down at the ends, it puffs up in the middle and totally looks like a tiny caterpillar laying on your fabric. Pretty neat, huh?

How to Make a Bullion Rose

Bullion rose step 1

Pick three toning coloured threads and start with the darkest. Work two bullion knots side by side.

Bullion rose step 2

Take your medium-colored thread for the next few knots.

You're going to make these stitches longer, and you'll be focusing them around the two stitches in the center.

Picture a brick wall in your mind – that's kind of the pattern you're going for. Each stitch should be like a brick, slightly covering the end of the one next to it.

This way, you won't have all your stitches starting and stopping in a straight line. It's all about that staggered, interlocking look. Keep it going, and you'll see how it all comes together!

Bullion rose step 3

Work your way around the centre creating overlapping knots. The knots in this "round" will have more wraps than the centre two.

As you work your way around the rose, each bullion stitch will grow with you. A few more wraps each time. Keep them snuggled up close together. 

Your rose will take on a natural form, no longer regular like that brick wall. Each knot a victory. You're not just making something; you're a part of it. 

Bullion rose step 4

When you're ready to add that final touch to your rose, it's time to switch up the thread. Go for the lightest tone you have. It's like adding that last stroke of paint that brings everything to life.

For this third round, keep going just like before. But here's a little personal twist I love: I use two strands of floss. It might seem like a minor detail, but trust me, it makes a difference. It adds just the right amount of thickness and texture to make your rose bloom on the fabric.

Now, as you wrap the thread for each stitch, think about creating a delicate bullion loop. These loops are going to nestle right outside the stitches you've already made, like petals unfurling in the morning sun. It's a beautiful effect that adds dimension and a bit of whimsy to your work.

Completed bullion rose

And when you've finished, step back and admire your work. The loops, the layers, the colors – they all come together to create something that's more than just a stitched rose. It's a little piece of your heart, a moment of peace, captured in thread and fabric. Isn't that just the best feeling?

Wait! You don't like the way it is just floating there? Take a pencil and sketch in a nice, sturdy stem. Give it a gentle curve; nothing in nature is perfectly straight, after all.

Make sure your stem is thick enough to hold up your gorgeous rose, but not too chunky. Don't forget the odd thorn or two. Tiny straight stitches will do the job here. 

You might also want to add a leaf. There is a whole page on stitching leaves here.

Bullion Stitch Strawberries

Completed bullion strawberries

Oh, let me tell you about these adorable little bullion stitch strawberries I added to my strawberry-themed crazy quilt block. They're the cutest things ever, and honestly, they've got me feeling proud of my handiwork. 🍓🍓🍓

Just one strand or red thread, that's all you need. Now, you start off with two bullion stitches, snuggled up end to end, like they're best friends hanging out on a summer day. This is the start of your juicy little strawberry.

Keep going, adding more "rows" of these snug bullion stitches, working your way down to the tip of the berry. It's like building a mini pyramid of yumminess, except it's all thread and no calories!

Now, here's the trick to making these berries look plump and delicious: make sure each stitch overlaps right in the center. You don't want any sad, empty channels running down the middle of your strawberries.

Aim for about 6 to 8 bullion knots for each berry, and before you know it, you've got yourself a whole patch of embroidered deliciousness.

It's a simple technique, but it adds such a charming touch to the quilt. Every time I look at it, I can't help but smile. Those little red berries pop out, and they're just begging to be admired.

Adding the Strawberry Tops and Seeds

I added a calyx - that's the little leafy cap thing on top of the strawberries - using a single strand of green floss. Just three or four bullion loops. 

Here's a nifty trick – if you let some of those knots just casually overlap the berry part, it looks so much more lifelike. 

Wrap that thread enough times to make a loop that's not too snug. You don't want to strangle your berry with a tight stitch; it's got to have a bit of room to breathe, you know? If you go too skimpy on the wraps, the whole thing just looks squished, and nobody likes a squished berry.

Next up, seeds!

I went for this light yellow thread that glimmers like tiny little suns, but you could go classic with black too. I used French knots, but Colonial knots or teeny seed stitches work great too. Just dot them on top of the bullion coils, and it's like magic – instant strawberry seeds!

And to tie it all together, I did a stem stitch in green.

It's like drawing with thread, connecting all those strawberries in a sweet little line. And just like that, you've got yourself a berry delightful piece of embroidery! Sorry I couldn't resist. 🍓🍓🍓

Bullion Stitch Flowers

Bullion stitch flowers

Oh, I just love exploring crazy quilt embroidery! It's like each piece tells its own unique story.

Take this photo, for instance. Those white bullion knots fashioned into delicate petals are just captivating. They're not just knots; they're tiny masterpieces, each twist and turn meticulously crafted to mimic the soft curves of flower petals.

And then, surrounding them, you've got these adorable detached lazy daisy stitches. A tiny pearl seed bead makes a striking centre to each flower. 

The bullion flowers sit between mother-of-pearl buttons. 

And those buttons, they aren't just sitting there looking pretty. Oh no, they're attached with green thread and have a little bead perched on top to mimic another flower. It's like a secret surprise, a bloom within a bloom, and it makes my heart do a little skip every time I see it.

But wait, here's a thought – why not use bullion stitches to attach the buttons themselves? It's like doubling down on the floral fantasy, making the entire piece a celebration of stitches and creativity. It's playful, it's clever and it's just so satisfying when you step back and see how those minor elements come together in harmony.

If you're itching for more ways to stitch up some tiny floral wonders, there's a whole garden of ideas waiting for you here. 

Bullion Starfish

Bullion stitch used to create mini starfish motifs

These little spirals of thread can transform into almost anything with a bit of imagination. 

I had this idea for an under-the-sea themed quilt block. A whole ocean floor of textures and colors, and right there in the middle, cute little starfish made of bullion knots.

I started playing around, arranging five stitches in a circle, and it was like they were meant to be starfish all along. They just fit together so perfectly, creating this adorable starfish motif.

And let's talk about the thread for a second. I went with crochet thread, which kept everything nice and smooth. 

Every time I looked at that quilt block, it was like I could almost smell the salty sea air and hear the waves lapping at the shore. Those little bullion knot starfish might just be my favorite part. They're a reminder that sometimes, it's the simplest touches that bring a piece to life.

What Went Wrong?

Mistakes when making bullion stitches

Oh, the bullion stitch. It's supposed to be this beautiful, textured thing that adds a pop to your embroidery, right? But look at that photo. See those wonky threads just hanging out there, ruining the party? That's my doing. I goofed up.

You see, with the bullion stitch, the needle's direction is everything. It's like a magic wand – point it the wrong way, and the spell goes haywire.

That's what happened here. I was supposed to bring the needle up through the same central point, like a starfish reaching out its arms evenly from the center. But nope, I got it all twisted and came up from the outside. And what did I get? A hot mess of loose threads.

It's a little embarrassing, honestly. You spend all this time trying to get your stitches just right, and then something like this happens. It's like the stitch is mocking me, saying, "You thought you had me figured out, huh?"

But hey, that's how you learn.

Ready to Give Bullion Stitch a Try?

When you first look at bullion stitches, they can seem like this super intimidating mountain of thread and needle gymnastics.

But hey, if you've been following along, I bet you're starting to see they're not the beasts we made them out to be. It's like discovering that the monster under the bed is actually just a pile of socks.

If you've ever found yourself in a tangle or your stitches looking more like a hot mess than a hot masterpiece, don't sweat it. Now you've got the know-how to sidestep those little pitfalls.

It's all about practice, a bit of patience, and maybe a couple of deep breaths here and there.

Do Share Your Results!

Seriously, I'm all about sharing the crafty love, so if you've been stitching along and have something to show, throw it my way!

I'm genuinely excited to see the magic you're creating with those bullion stitches. Whether it's your first wonky attempt or you're already whipping up something that will make my jaw drop, I'm here for it.

Share your results and let's celebrate every loop, twist, and pull. After all, it's about having a blast with it and making something that's uniquely yours. Keep at it, and let those stitches shine!

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