Do you struggle with bullion knots? Do you cut them out more often than you would like to? Here on the blog, I show you my way of getting consistently nice bullion knots every time! Instructions and stitching by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

Step by Step – Bullion Knots

Continuing on with the theme of knots, here is a little video and some tips, on the way I work Bullion Knots. I know these guys can strike fear into some embroiderers, so I hope this will be useful, and you will see they aren’t really that scary!

Before starting at the RSN, I always worked bullion knots out of a hoop, as I found that so much easier! But when your piece is all framed up on a slate frame, that isn’t exactly an option!

Something else to bear in mind with these ‘instructions’. This is the way I work them, and the way I have found I can get consistent results. But, it is not the way Heather at the RSN showed me, I couldn’t get any respectable result using her method! So whilst the end result might be the same, there are slight differences in the way you can work them to get to that end result.

Step by step workings for bullion knots

After securing your thread, bring your needle to the front at the position you would like one end of your bullion knot to be.

Take your needle to the back – the distance away from where you first came up will be the length of your bullion knot. Leave a loop of thread on top of the fabric – this is what you are going to use to wrap around your needle!

Bring your needle back up in the same hole you started – being careful to not catch the thread. Don’t bring the needle all the way to the front!

With one hand (in my case my right hand as I’m right handed), hold the needle on the back of the fabric. With your other hand, wrap the thread around your needle. The number of times you need to wrap your thread around the needle will be dictated by the length of your bullion. To check if you have the right number of wraps, lie your needle on your fabric, and check to see if your wraps cover the distance or not. I tend to also add an extra couple of wraps – this adds a bit of ‘plumpness’ and covers me incase I wasn’t quite looking properly!

Pull the remainder of the looped thread that is sitting on top of your fabric through to the back.

Now the tricky part!

As gently as possible, but being willing to give it a good tug if necessary, pull your needle all the way through your fabric and wraps, whilst still holding the wraps in place on your needle. At times, this will feel like you’re never going to be able to pull them through. You can slightly release some of the tension on the wraps to make it a little easier.

When you’ve pulled it through, there is a good chance you will be filled with complete disappointment, and think you are going to have to cut it out – it looks a complete mess! But don’t despair, and don’t get the scissors out just yet!

Holding the wraps, make sure you have fully pulled the thread through all the wraps. Then, using your finger nail, gently manipulate the knot until you are happy with it. I find this usually doesn’t take long to do, and I very quickly go from having a disaster to something respectable!

Once you are happy with it, take the needle to the back of the fabric through the second hole you made, and you have a bullion knot all finished!

Working bullion knots can be tricky! Here are some samples worked by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

Moving on from here

You have probably seen bullion knots being used in quite creative ways. The instructions above and on the video are for a basic bullion knot, but there is so much more for you to do with them!

Just a couple of ideas:

If you want a big loopy bullion knot, when you are wrapping your needle, make the number of loops more than enough to cover the distance of your starting and finishing point of your bullion. The more wraps, the bigger the loop!

To make little insects, you might sometimes want a ‘point’ at one end of their body. When you are manipulating your knot, you can pull the thread a little tighter, and you can get this effect.

Bullion knots worked on a traditional Jacobean crewelwork piece. Designed and stitched by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

Tips and tricks

Unfortunately, it seems practice is the best trick there is with these guys!

You can however make your life easier by using a milliners needle. This needle is the same width the entire length of the needle, whereas other needles get wider at the eye. In the video below, I used a chenille needle, so it isn’t a necessity to have a milliners needle!

I would also start out with shorter bullion knots, before working your way up to larger ones.

I hope you find this useful and helpful!

If you’ve got any tips or tricks on how to work bullion knots, do let us know!

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