Sometimes, certain embroidery questions pop up with more frequency in my inbox than others do. Lately, I’ve had a few questions about the bullion knot.
Several readers have expressed some frustration over the stitch, and after a recent exchange with a very determined beginner, I decided to write about it here, in case others are facing similar frustrations.
I’m here to tell you today that you don’t have to use bullion knots! The bullion stitch is a lovely stitch, but if you’re a beginner and the stitch is putting you completely off embroidery, don’t use it! Substitute other stitches, and as your confidence grows, tackle the bullion later (if you want).
This very determined beginner told me quite bluntly, I’m boycotting the bullion stitch forever. I hate it! Can you suggest other stitches I can use on [the name of a project by a specific designer – she also attached a picture] in place of bullion stitches? Sincerely, Bummed by Bullions
Since my first advice in situations like this – to contact the designer – yielded no results, I felt ok about helping her tweak the design.
There are loads of embroidery stitches that you can use in place of the bullion knot. Some are textured. Some are… knot.
When texture is desired, as far as simple stitches go, my favorite recommendation for beginners is the ribbed stitch – ribbed stitch wheels, if you’re constructing flowers.
This stitch is a two-part stitch. You begin with a foundation of any number of spokes, and then, passing around the circle of spokes, you wrap them using (more or less) a backstitch technique.
Since Bummed was comfortable with daisy stitch flowers, and since her design focused on a floral cluster that had a more natural look to it, I suggested a mix of daisy stitch flowers, straight stitch flowers, and ribbed stitch flowers, so that all the floral elements didn’t look quite the same. The variation would lend a little more life and a little less “structure” to the bunch of flowers. (A whole bunch of ribbed stitch wheels would look somewhat stilted, but mixed with other stitches, they add texture and are simple to stitch.)
In such cases where you’re clustering a lot elements together, start with the elements that will take your needle the most room to stitch – in this case, the ribbed stitch flowers – and then stitch everything else around those. That way, you’re not snagging other stitches in the process.
Another stitch that works well, but that is slightly more labor intensive than even the bullion is the cast-on stitch. It makes great textured florals!
Even though it is more work than a bullion, some stitchers have greater success with cast on stitch than they do with bullion knots. I think this is because you have more control over the cast-on wraps than you do with the basic wraps of the bullion.
If you want to make roses with the cast-on stitch, you can make beautiful ones!
And you can make simpler flowers with overlapping petals, too.
And you can go even simpler, with cast-on loops to make single bud-like, small flowers.
There are lots of options with the cast-on stitch! If you want to learn this stitch, you can find my video for it here. I also offer a Cast-on and Double Cast-On Stitch downloadable tutorial that you can find here, which takes you step-by-step through creating all three of the flowers above with the cast-on stitch. By the time you work through that printable, you’ll be a pro at this stitch!
Other Textured Stitches
The two stitches above lend themselves well to floral elements (and other embroidered elements), but there are loads of other textured stitches available in the embroidery world.
This article offers sixteen stitches to add dimension and texture to embroidery. While they might not all work for floral elements, you can always play around with them to see what they can do. Most are quite simple!
I hope that Bummed by Bullions is well on her way to completing her first ever needlework project. She chose a rather advanced project to jump into embroidery with, but I think she’ll do great because she’s determined – and because she’s willing to seek out other options for the areas that trouble her.
That’s an approach that will guarantee her success!
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