Friday, July 16, 2010

Hardanger 101~Lesson 3~Buttonhole Stitch

The other night I started thinking that if our roles were reversed, I would not want to wait an entire week for the next lesson. I would want to keep moving. So, I'm going to try to post several lessons each week--at least until we finish this first piece. The beauty of the internet is that if I start moving too fast, you can always come back to it when you're ready. Again, you might want to read through the entire lesson before beginning.

*Note: I have gone back a made a couple revisions to the last lesson, to include a few tips that I forgot. I have marked those in a different font so that you can identify the changes if you have already gone through the lesson. This will be my practice from here on out: different font, and notify you that changes have been made.

Without further blabbing...

The Buttonhole Stitch:

Buttonhole stitching is perhaps even more foundational to Hardanger than the Satin Stitch. It is how you finish the edge of your piece securely so that everything doesn't fall apart the moment you cut it from the fabric. Arguably, you could even do a piece with only this one stitch.

This is a tiny cross bookmark that I made for my youngest, using just the buttonhole stitch.

The Buttonhole Stitch is highlighted in blue on the chart.

Take a few minutes to study the chart, paying special attention to the relationship between the satin stitch that you have already finished and the buttonhole that you will be starting. By noting where the buttonhole starts, stops and turns in relation to the satin stitch, you will be able to self correct very quickly should you make a mistake. Again, this is where that Rule of Four should be cementing itself in your mind. (Romana, are you hearing The Master's drumbeat in your head yet?)

Buttonhole Stitch is very similar to the Satin Stitch, with one important difference. When you are bringing your needle up through the holes along the outside edge of the piece, you will pull it through the loop of slack thread, creating a ridge of knots around the outside edge of fabric.

Your first stitch will not appear to have the ridge. Don't worry. It will show up when you come full circle. If, like this piece, the buttonhole stitch is in small sections all the way around, then you can finish by simply taking your thread down for the final time in the same hole that you began the ridge with in the beginning. This will be the first "up" hole on the outside edge of the buttonhole stitching.
If your piece has long continuous lines of buttonhole stitching, then you can finish the series by making one final buttonhole stitch directly on top of the very first stitch, so that there are no gaps. There may be another way of doing this, but if so, I've never learned it.
Also, some people prefer to secure the buttonhole by sewing just inside the ridge before cutting the piece out. Again, we're back to the problem of not being able to carry a machine around in your purse, and so I've never done this. In spite of this neglect, my pieces have never fallen apart, even through being washed. (care instructions will come later)


There are two ways to do your buttonhole corners: Square or rounded. If you use five stitches on each corner, the look will be more blocky and square, which is the more traditional look. If you omit the middle stitch, and only use four stitches, your corners will be more rounded and feminine. I prefer the rounded corners, but for this piece I am sticking with the traditional and making the square corners.
Take a close look at the chart above. In some places, there are 4 stitches drawn and in some places there are five. The chart is very inconsistent. Choose one way and use it throughout your piece. Unless it creates a specific design element, there is no reason to go back and forth between the two on a single pattern.
If you'd like to try both just for kicks, you could do square corners around the outside of this piece, and rounded corners on the buttonhole in the center.

Here is a close up diagram of a buttonhole corner:

For rounded corners, you would eliminate stitch 3.

Joining Threads

It is very easy to end one thread and begin another with the Satin Stitch. It takes a little more forethought with the Buttonhole, for two reasons. First, you want a continuous line, so that there is no weakness in your pieces. Second, you're keeping the back in mind, right?
With buttonhole, it is best to end a thread halfway through a stitch, just after you have changed directions. I think a picture is in order, because I can see your furrowed brows from here.

I completed the series of stitches to the left, and changed directions. I will now be stitching down. When I ended my thread, I went down through the fabric, but never came back up to complete the stitch. Instead, I tucked the thread under and started a new thread. Then I came up in the hole of the last completed buttonhole stitch, passed my needle under where I left off and finally completed the stitch.

If you have sections of buttonhole stitch that are too long for one thread, you end your thread as I did here, without changing directions, but leave the last stitch a little slack. After you have started your next thread and completed several stitches, you can go back and pull the slack out using the tail of thread on the back side. You should not need to do that on this piece, however. The sections are short enough, that you should be able to plan your threads to end between sections. Just keep in mind that buttonhole eats up thread more quickly than satin stitch.

When you have completed the outside buttonhole, you can go ahead and stitch the inside buttonhole as you see it on the chart. You will be stitching clockwise now, instead of counter-clockwise as before. You will notice, there are four sections where the stitches are 8 threads wide instead of the usual 4. Stitch them the same way, but be extra mindful of your tension.

After you have finished all of the buttonhole stitch, you may go back and finish up the satin stitching that we left for later (the orange highlighted bits).
You are now finished with the size 5 thread and ready to move to the smaller stitches.
This is what it should look like now:

As you can see in the photo, and probably on your own piece, the fabric begins to get wrinkly as you work with it. Once you are finished, you will wash and iron it and all of that will be corrected. So ignore it for now.


It's getting to be quite the hairy mess on the back now, isn't it? Since I am finished with the middle, I have already trimmed a few thread tails from the center, or it would be even worse.

How are we doing so far?