Friday 21 February 2014

Blanket Stitch or Buttonhole Stitch?

While working on finishing the edges of some fused appliqué shapes recently, I started thinking about the differences between blanket stitch and buttonhole stitch.  Over the years that I have been sewing I have noticed that these two stitches are often confused and many people seem to think that they are the same stitch but they aren't.

Blanket stitch

Blanket stitch, as the name tells us, was used originally to reinforce the edges of thick fabrics, such as those that were used to make blankets.  It is worked by putting your needle into the fabric a short distance from the fabric edge, bringing it out at the edge and catching the thread round the needle at this point before moving on to the next stitch.

Buttonhole stitch: can you see the little knots at the edge?

Buttonhole stitch, also as the name implies, was used originally to reinforce and secure the raw edges of buttonholes (before sewing machines were invented that do this for us!!)  This stitch is worked by putting the needle down at the raw edge and bringing it up through the fabric a small distance from the edge, winding the thread round the tip of the needle and then pulling the needle through making a small knot which sits on the raw edge of the fabric.  It is this knot which makes the stitch strong enough to withstand the use it would get as a buttonhole, especially if the stitches are worked closely together.

These days we don't finish off many blanket edges or hand sew buttonholes but, both stitches are used decoratively in embroidery and, both can be used for finishing off the raw edges of fused appliqué shapes.

Long and short blanket stitch

Up and down blanket stitch

Blanket stitch is faster to stitch and is a very versatile embroidery stitch, as it is easy to change the look of it by creating long and short stitches, stitching it closed, stitching it up and down or using it to make flowers, etc.

Closed blanket stitch

Blanket stitch flower

Buttonhole stitch is slightly slower to work because of the action of wrapping the thread round the tip of the needle. It is generally used in cutwork embroidery such as 'Broderie Anglaise' Where the cut shapes (such as eyelets) in the fabric need to be stabilised to stop them fraying.  Or in Hardanger Embroidery where the fabric is sometimes cut away from the edge of the embroidery and, again, needs to be stabilised.

Hardanger embroidery sachet
(No buttonhole stitch in this example)

Hardanger embroidery sampler
(No buttonhole stitch on this one either!)

Neither of these examples of Hardanger Embroidery show buttonhole stitch because neither of them have been finished with a cut edge but, I thought you might like to see a sample of what Hardanger Embroidery looks like!!

I like to use buttonhole stitch to finish my appliqué shapes as I find it stays in place on the edge of the appliqué shape better and does not 'roll inwards' as can sometimes happen with blanket stitch.  It is also better at stopping the raw edge of the fabric from fraying. Of course, this is only my personal preference and, as your sewing-style is as unique as your handwriting, it is important that you do whatever feels most comfortable for you.

Two edged with buttonhole stitch and one with blanket stitch.
Can you tell which one?

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