Sunday, 12 July 2015

Blanket v buttonhole

This week I had hoped to be posting about my latest 'proper' (as opposed to reissued pattern) entry for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, but unfortunately four large hand-stitched buttonholes are taking longer than planned to sew.

Buttonholes on a late 1780s frock coat, © Victorian and Albert Museum, London

This did remind me that for ages I've been meaning to write a post about the difference between blanket stitch and buttonhole stitch, so here it is. (Note to anyone reading this who knows that I'm left-handed - I've flipped all of the images so that they don't completely confuse right-handers!)

Blanket stitch - the needle is inserted from front to back, pointing upwards, towards the edge of the fabric. The thread is passed round the back of the needle, and then the needle is pulled through.

The stitches can be spaces out, or close together.

The thread runs along the fabric edge in more or less a straight line.

Until quite recently i.e. when I made my embroidered camisole, I thought that buttonhole stitch was just blanket stitch worked close together. In fact, it is a different stitch.

Buttonhole stitch  - the needle is inserted from back to front, pointing downwards, away from the edge of the fabric. As with blanket stitch, the thread is passed round the back of the needle, but it is then passed under the point of the needle as well.

Once the needle has been pulled through the fabric, it is then pulled upwards. The thread forms a loop around itself.

This gives a thicker and therefore stronger edge to the buttonhole than would be achieved with blanket stitch, however closely it is worked.

It also explains the slight ridge visible on hand-worked buttonholes.

Archery coat, 1830-1850, © Victorian and Albert Museum, London


  1. This is really helpful. I'll have to practice that buttonhole stitch to really get it, but it's a great exolanation. I too thought these were the same stitch. Guess it's hard to know what you don't know!