Buttonhole Stitch

A nice, neat buttonhole stitch is the best way to attach an applique motif. It seals the edges from fraying and just looks so nice and tidy. I like that! You can use a whipstitch but it just doesn’t compare with an even buttonhole stitch for charm and purpose.

The Stitch

The buttonhole stitch is the first stitch I use in applique work. I like using the stitch for two reasons. 1) It is attractive when evenly spaced and 2) it gives a little edge to the motif fabric which encases all raw edges. Kind of pops it off the ground a little bit. Here is a drawn diagram of the stitch. The two things that make this stitch most attractive are even spaces between each stitch and making sure that the stitch is at a right angle to the edge of the motif. This means that sometimes the stitch will be closer to the top of the previous stitch if you are working around curves.


I have never found a book yet that actually tells you how to begin the button hole stitch although the diagram above does imply it. I like to bring my thread up through the ground fabric at a corner or edge then put my needle down into the applique motif and bring it back up where my needle first came through.
Continue working around your motif, making sure that your thread is always behind the needle.
When I get to a point I like to make it very tidy. The way I do this is to not make another buttonhole stitch around the point but to end my stitch and go down into the ground at the point to anchor the stitch. On the wrong side of the fabric I catch my thread in the ground fabric then come up and begin working around the other side of the point.
I like to bury my threads in the back of my work as often as possible. You can see that I do tie a knot at the beginning (to the left and below the point of the needle in the photo). When I’m done with the color I’m using or have completed my motif, I bring my needle and thread to the back of the work. Doing a shallow running stitch (make sure you don’t pierce the motif and have your knot show in the right side of your work) I work the needle through the ground fabric a couple stitches.
I turn my work and stitch back along those same few stitches so that I sew the thread to itself. This is a very sturdy tie off.

1 thought on “Buttonhole Stitch

  1. What a thfoghtuul post, Lovely, thank you. And your elemental quilt is looking stunning already. I look forward to seeing it again, as it evolves towards completion.

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