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Bullion Stitch

Watch editor Jennifer Keltner demonstrate the bullion stitch.

Fri, 30 Sep 2011|

 Hi, I'm Jennifer Keltner with American Patchwork & Quilting. Embroidery stitches are becoming wildly popular again and one of my favorites is the bullion stitch. I used to think it was a difficult stitch to master until Sue Spargo shared with me some of her tips for making the bullion stitch and now I'm a believer. I'd like to share those tips with you. The bullion stitch looks like this--it creates sort of a scalped edge around an applique. It's not the stitch that's holding the applique piece in place. I've already done that with a matching thread. In this case green thread is attaching the green circle to the background but the bullion stitch–I used a variegated size 8 pearl cotton thread and a size 1 milliner's needle. Now, designer Sue Spargo suggests the size 1 milliner's needle when making bullion stitches because it has a long shaft on the needle that's of equal size from top to bottom; it doesn't really taper like an embroidery needle might where you have a big eye and a very narrow tip. The size 1 milliner's needle is the same width all the way down and for the bullion stitch that's the perfect choice. Let me show you how to do the stitch step-by-step. To begin, you want to bring your needle up right next to your applique shape or wherever you want your stitches to lay, I work with about 12–15 inches of thread of my needle and I don't go through the applique, I just go right next to it. Then I'm going to take a stitch about a quarter inch away, again right next to the applique and go down and come back up right next to that first stitch that I brought up. This is the key to the bullion right here, you want about quarter inch distance between where your thread came up and where your needle goes back down and then you just want to push your needle through about half way, don't pull it all the way out.  At this point you're going to wrap the thread clock wise around the needle and this is why the number 1 milliner's needle that Sue Spargo recommends is so great because you have all this length and you're not trying to work with a little short needle, so I'm going to wrap it around 9 times; 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 and you can see all those stitches are lined up along the shaft of the needle, now here I'm going to hang on to this tail where I wrapped it around and I'm going to use my thumb and finger to sort of pinch those stitches, keep them close and lined up along the edge of the applique and I'm going to push the needle through and hold those stitches in place, this is where the magic really happens. So you can see here where the stitches are lined up but I've still got a big length of thread here to the right and I just want to pull on that and you really can manipulate it. I was sort of afraid at this point that if my stitches didn't line up nicely I had messed up the stitch, but you can really manipulate it: tug on it, scoot them down with your fingers and when you're happy with how they're lined up put your needle back in close to where you went down in the fabric the first time and that completes your stitch. Now, I'm going to go up for my second stitch about a quarter inch away from where the first one was, pull thread all the way through; again down in the fabric about quarter inch away and back up right next to that stitch where my thread is coming up, push my needle about half way through, wrap my thread around nine times, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9, hold the stitches in place with my thumb and fore finger, pull the thread through and sort of adjust my stitches with my thumb nail to push those tightly down.  The stitch has sort of a natural curve to it put my needle back in and I've got another bullion. Now it's time for you to grab a needle and thread and start making bullions. Have fun!