Buttonhole Stitch in Crewelwork Embroidery

Before I talk about buttonhole stitch for a third week in a row, I need to introduce one of the smallest, most awesome books about crewel I have ever read: The Anchor Book of Crewelwork Embroidery Stitches (Eve Harlow, 9780715306321).   I borrowed it at the library on a rainy afternoon and renewed it so many times I ordered a copy online to keep for myself.  The book explains 48 typical stitches, with each stitch featured in an accompanying crewel piece.  Wool, silk and cotton are used in the different pieces, showing yothe impact different threads can have.  The best part of the book is the patterns at then end.  Although not every design has a pattern, it has about twenty of them represented in clear black and white outlines.  The book is an inspiration and a fabulous ressource.  Whenever I start a new piece of crewelwork, I flip through it,  looking for a cool effect or a texture that catches my eye.  Both pieces below are from the book, although I did not copy the book’s stitch choices in all cases.  The nice thing about these patterns is that they are open to interpretation and could be done in a million different ways.

First off is this pomegranate piece, in yellows, pinks and greens.  I used stem stitch on the stem and the tiny tendrils.  The outline of the big leaf is satin stitch over two lines of straight stitch.

The smaller leaves are a mix of stem, chain and buttonhole stitches.  The fruit is mostly chain stitch, with stem and backstitch bordering and satin and seed stitch on the inside.  I worked on it in a busy Starbucks on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Although the colours are a bit unconventional (I am pretty sure there aren’t any bright yellow pomegranates around), I adore how bright and juicy it looks.

This pink flower is almost all buttonhole.  The stitch takes curves so well, especially when stitched tightly, that the flower and the large leaf look super smooth, even though both curve and wave liberally.

The bottom of the stitch makes an edging that splits the colours up and makes the petals nice and chunky.

The leaf has four colours of buttonhole, a stem stitch border and the reverse of the leaf has a simple satin stitch filling.

The smaller leaf is coral stitch, which is and isn’t harder than it looks.  It’s easy to screw up, but once you get the hang of it, it goes quite quickly.  The tiny flowers are a long french knot, which is made by stabing the french knot down a small distance from where you originally came up.  It reminds me of webbed frog toes and looks dainty.  The stamen in the large flower is simple straight stitches in a single strand of floss.

Crewelwork can be intimidating, but if you plan it out, sketch out the colours and stitches you want to use, it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Crewelwork patterns are blank slates, ready to be filled in with any texture and colour imaginable.


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