Sometimes the needle we use is the difference between success and failure. It certainly made a big difference in the ribbon embroidery I did last week. For the stitches in this flower, the right needle was absolutely critical. You can see from the photo that the needle I’m using is long – over 2 inches/5cm. It’s a milliners needle. Can you guess what stitch I’m referring to? Yep, bullion knots!
Once I figured out that using a milliner’s needle made doing these knots so easy, I’ve had no fear of bullion knots. Before that however, they were just awful to work. What’s the big difference between needles? A needle is just a needle, right? Nope, it isn’t. A milliners needle is the same thickness from eye to tip whereas most other needles taper from the eye to the tip. Since the needle creates the knot, acting a bit like a mold for the thread, it’s important that it be an even thickness.
To begin a bullion knot, bring our thread up at point A. This is where the bottom of your knot will be when it’s finished. Bring the needle through to the back of the thread at point B, where the top of the knot will be when it’s finished.
Now bring the needle up again at point A but do NOT bring it all the way through the fabric. The needle now will be the mold for the thread loops that will create the knot. Because the knots I’m working for this flower are going to be very long, I used a long needle. I need lots of room for lots of twists around the needle. It’s important before you begin to wrap the needle to bring the thread up to the front side of the fabric so it’s ready for you to wrap it around the needle.
Begin wrapping the thread clockwise around the needle. Don’t pull it too tight against the needle as you wrap. For these long knots I wrapped about 25 times around the needle. Check to see if you’ve done enough wraps by carefully laying the needle against the fabric to see if the wraps are long enough.
When you have completed the wrapping of the needle with the thread, it’s time to slide the wraps off of the needle and onto the thread. Make sure that the wraps are slightly loosened by rolling them between your thumb and finger. When you begin to pull the needle upwards, if it feels stiff or difficult, STOP and loosen the wraps a bit more. If it’s too tight you will end up with a big mess!
As you pull the needle out of the wraps and the thread through the wraps, your are transferring the wraps from the needle to the thread. It’s the thread inside the wraps that keeps all the wraps in place and forms the bullion knot. Continue to pull gently on the thread until the tip of the long row of wraps slides down to meet the fabric.
Ta da! These long bullion knots were to make a slight curve in the middle of the flower. To ensure that they stayed curved, I made one small stitch to hold the middle in place.
Alternating the colors of the thread in the middle makes a good combination of color and texture. If you look closely you can see that I still have some practicing to do before I get my knots all the same thickness and nice and smooth. The amount of tension in the wrap makes a big difference and that’s very difficult to keep even from knot to knot, especially when making such long knots. Some are clearly better than others but, as an experiment, it was successful and looks as I imagined it would.
To finish the flower, I added wrapped backstitch and French knot stamens to the top and continued the buttonhole stitch around the bottom of the flower to meet at the stem.
What do you think? Do you have any tips on long bullion knots for us?