"Bullion Knot"

Bullion Knot

I use a new Millinery needle for this stitch, because the shaft of the needle is the same size up and down its length including the eye and also because it is a long needle. You might want to read through the instructions before you get started to get a map in your head. I freely admit that I have to reread most things several times before I 'get it'. I think it might be because my eyes have a notion of what I am going to do, and so I have to get the instructions that are from someone else's eyes and my eyes to converge so that my hands will know what to do. And that can take a bit of rereading! But I digress, to continue.

"Arrowhead Stitch"Bring the threaded needle up at 1 and take it down at 2 as shown in the diagram above. Come back up at 3 and leave the needle in the fabric as shown. Make sure you are not splitting the sewing thread!! Later when you pull the needle through the wraps to complete the Bullion stitch, most likely any problems that occur will be because you split the sewing thread at this step.

In the second diagram at 1 I grasp the thread just above the needle where it emerges from the fabric and start wrapping it around the needle. Then take the thread down, under, and on the back side of the needle back up to the top of the needle.

Wrap carefully in a spiral around the needle toward its tip and also make sure each wrap is not overlapping any of the others. I usually leave a little space between each wrap. This takes practice to figure out the amount of space but it really helps when you try to pull the needle through to complete the stitch. I find that if I haven't been practicing a lot of Bullion stitches that I have a death grip on the needle and thread at this point. And what happens later as I try to pull the needle through the wraps is that if I left the spaces between the wraps it compensates for the tight wraps I made because I was out of practice. I can shove the wraps down the needle and that causes the circles of thread to get a little larger and then I can pull the needle through more easily. Again I digress.

When you have all the wraps you want or need place your right forefinger over the wraps on the needle and grasp the needle with your right thumb against the needle and your right forefinger. While holding the wraps pull the needle through the wraps with your left hand. After you have pulled the needle all the way through the wraps, you want to pull through any excess thread and slide the wraps down the sewing thread close to the fabric. Then take the needle back down through the fabric at step 2. I might add here, that the death grip on the needle and wraps really needs to be relaxed, all you need to do is just keep the wraps together so they will slide off the end of the needle neatly and in the order they were wrapped.

To determine the number of wraps count the number of fabric threads the stitch is suppose to cover on the chart, then check this against the threads of the fabric as you wrap. For instance, say the design shows the stitch over four fabric threads. As you wrap this stitch check its length against the fabric threads by holding the wrapping thread taunt and laying the needle down against the fabric and seeing if the wraps on the needle are enough to cover four fabric threads. If this is new to you and you used a spaced spiral to wrap the thread around the needle you will need to shove the wraps down to the point where the needle emerges from the fabric to judge accurately. Then wrap more or remove wraps if necessary. Later write down the number of wraps for the next Bullion stitch. You may still need to check to insure the counted wraps are sufficient to cover the necessary space.

A Little More

I have found several other little tricks for making really nice Bullion stitches. First, do not use more than one thread, no matter how small the thread. The reason for this will be discussed further down the page. If you want to make a bigger stitch simply wrap the thread around the needle more times.

Secondly, always wrap with the twist of the ply of the threads. Watch what you are doing in a little experiment on a doodle cloth. Wrap the needle going over the needle first, then examine the thread to see if the plies are still twisted or if they are untwisting. Now wrap the thread going under the needle (or the opposite direction from the first experiment). What is happening to the thread? If the thread is twisted tightly then you are going to have a nice Bullion stitch. Always watch this when wrapping the thread around the needle and go in the direction that will keep the twist of the thread plies tight. And if you think about it for a moment you can visualize why. A tightly twisted thread has more shine and will lay down evenly. It is that simple.

And now we come to some designer's suggestion to use two strands of floss. Keep in mind that this is advanced or intermediate work and that the designer is only suggesting ways to do stitches for the design. This discussion is for a beginner and has to have a beginning with some rules. So a beginner would probably be more successful using a perle cotton thread to learn this stitch. After practicing with perle cotton size 8 or 12 and then going onto try two strands of cotton floss. This will make a lot more sense than trying two threads to begin with. At that point the stitcher will want to insure the additional threads are running in the same direction so the plies of each thread will tighten as they are wrapped around the needle.

I would like to add that I know there are a lot of stitch diagrams around, but most of them do not seem all that helpful. That there is no standard way to do stitches. There is a reason for this. Back in the late 1970's someone started patenting all the stitches. So that every time a designer wanted to use a stitch like the Bullion Knot they would have to pay the patent holder. The patent holder did not invent the stitch they just applied for the patent and would have gotten it except the designers countered this by including stitch diagrams in every book or pattern. This worked because patent law states that you can not patent something that is in common everyday usage, hence the diagrams in every book and pattern. Thank the designers for doing something about that event! Where would we be today without their foresight? We would not be learning these stitches over the internet freely. ©2001, Linda Fontenot, www.AmericanFolkArts.com