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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stitch Study 1: Detached Buttonhole

****Warning - picture-heavy post!*****

Welcome to the first official entry in my "Stitch Study" series of posts. As I mentioned in a post last weekend, the first unofficial stitch study was the post on spiral trellis stitch.

This post features basic detached buttonhole stitch. If you're familiar with buttonhole stitch (or to be accurate, closed blanket stitch), it is typically worked through the fabric, as shown here. Detached buttonhole is detached because each stitch is worked through previous stitches, not through the fabric, so the rows of stitches form a layer above the ground fabric.

You can do this stitch on any type of fabric, either countable or non-countable. So you can see the size of my stitches, the examples here are done on 30 ct linen with size 12 pearl cotton. I've used size 12 here because it's small enough for you to see the detail of where the needle is placed. Depending on the desired look, you could use a thicker thread. We'll revisit that thought later.

This stitch is easiest to work if the fabric is held taut in a frame of some kind. If it's worked "in hand", it's a bit too easy to pull too tightly, causing the fabric to buckle. I'm using a scroll frame, but you can use a hoop, q-snaps, or stretcher bars, too. Whatever you like!

Anyway, on to the stitch!

The stitch starts with a foundation row. Here I've used backstitch, worked across the area from right to left. You could use double-running stitch, but I think it helps to have the extra slack provided by backstitch.

After the foundation row is the desired length, come up at the left side, just a bit below the foundation row. Insert the needle under the left-most stitch of the foundation, from top to bottom. The point of the needle must lie on top of the working thread, as shown. This will start the first row of buttonhole stitches.

Pull the needle through, towards yourself. The thread will form a loop. Pull the thread until the loop takes up the space between the foundation row and the place where you started this row. Be careful not to pull the loop too tightly. You'll need to work the next row of stitches into this row. Getting the tension right is one of the trickiest parts to this stitch!

Continue working to the right, inserting the needle under each stitch of the foundation row and over the working thread.

By the time you reach the end of the first row, the number of buttonhole stitches will be the same as the number of backstitches in the foundation. After you take the last stitch into the foundation row, insert the needle into the fabric. This should be the same distance below the foundation row as where you started this first row of buttonhole.

To start the next row, come up again on the left side of the area, again, just a bit below the first row. (Note, here I'm making a plain rectangular patch. We'll talk about filling specific shapes next time!)

Now, you have a choice. You'll be working into the loops between the stitches. My example shows 14 buttonhole stitches on the first row. If I only worked into the loops between the previous stitches, I'd have 13 in the second row, 12 in the next, and so on. How do we fix this? We choose to work either into the leg before the first stitch in the previous row or into the leg after the final stitch in the previous row. As you can see by the picture, I've chosen to work into the first leg. This will offset each stitch in this row to the left of the stitches above.

As you work across this row, insert the needle into the loops between the stitches of the previous row. (My apologies for not catching a picture of that, but see the next picture on the left.) When you reach the end of this row, skip the final leg, as pointed out by the arrow in the picture at right.

Come up again on the left side of the patch, and this time, skip the first leg (see the arrow at left), and immediately start working into the loops between the stitches. This will stagger all the stitches of this row back to the right. What would happen if you didn't do this? You 'd end up with too many or too few stitches on a row, or if you always put a stitch into the first leg and not the last, the patch would be really crowded on the left and sparse on the right.

Of course, when you reach the end of this row, you do need to put a stitch into the final leg. By this time, you might be running out of thread. Do not try to start and stop a thread in the middle of a row. If you have enough to do another row, keep going. Otherwise, sink your needle to the back, do an L-stitch inside the patch area, and come up a few inches away from the patch. Start the next row with another away knot and L-stitch, and keep stitching.

Continue working like this, staggering the stitches from left to right on alternate rows, until your patch is the desired size. You might find that your stitching was not always even and you have a few bumps and dips along your bottom row. DO NOT PANIC! This is OK, and it should smooth out when you finish off the patch. To do this, you'll place little tacking stitches across the bottom of the patch, catching the loops of the last row of buttonhole stitches. In my example, I spaced the tacking stitches two threads apart, which was the same spacing as the backstitches in my foundation row. I decided to make each tacking stitch come up and down in the same hole of the fabric, but they could be over a fabric thread or two (or more), depending on the look you want.

When you finish the tacking, all that's left to do is to tie off the threads on the back. This is somewhat difficult, because you really don't have much to work with. I generally use the backs of the foundation row and tacking row. If you started and ended with L-stitches, you really don't need to tie off into many stitches.

On the left is my finished patch using the size 12 pearl cotton. Notice that there are gaps where the fabric shows through? Often you don't want those gaps. I could have eliminated this problem by making my foundation stitches smaller and spacing between rows smaller, or I can just use a thicker thread. The lighter pink patch uses the same spacing, but size 8 pearl cotton. See how it fills the space?

Congratulations! You've learned the basics of detached buttonhole! For the next stitch study, you'll learn how to fill a shaped area, such as a flower petal.


The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Fascinating! Thanks, Jeanne. I knew the theory but never having stitched detatched buttonhole, I didn't know it would offset if you didn't Take Steps.

Can't wait for Part 2!

Unknown said...

I just love reading this blog, thank you for the great tutorial!

Unknown said...

I didn't realize about staggering at each end either - great! Thankyou!

Joanie said...

Thanks so much for posting this tutorial! It's so clear and the photos are great!

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

If I run out of thread during the detached button hole stitch, how do I end one thread and start another. I am doing large loops over the form of a tassel head. thanks, ann

Jeanne said...

Ann, This post does address changing threads at the end of a row. However, if I understand your question correctly, you're working in a spiral around the head of a tassel. For this, I would thread up another needle, use a waste knot in the other end of the thread, and stick the needle through the head of the tassel to bury it. Come up where the next buttonhole stitch should start, and continue stitching. After you have several stitches in, go back to your original thread and weave it under the first stitch with the new thread, then bury it in the head of the tassel.

It's somewhat hard to explain in this limited space. If you'd like, you can leave me your email address and I could try again. (I'll delete your comment with your email address afterward.)

Hope this helps!