The Real Detached Buttonhole


Detached buttonhole

What does “real” detached buttonhole mean? Were the other lessons on this stitch fake?? Let's find out! ;)


So, the thing is... In hand embroidery you can meet plenty of confusion about names of the stitches.

One of such confusions is about blanket stitch and buttonhole stitch that I wrote about here. In short, what we call buttonhole stitch today, used to be called blanket stitch. And many stitchers who appreciate the old school nomenclature still call it that way. So, basically, today this stitch has swallowed both of the names: blanket stitch and buttonhole stitch. However, there is an original buttonhole stitch which only a few people know nowadays...

Confusion continues when you start learning detached buttonhole. Because apart from what we learned the last month – which is the technique also called needle lace, there is one more technique going by the very same name “detached buttonhole”.

How did it happen?

To be honest, I don't have answers for that.

Related posts:

In my humble opinion, the technique we are going to learn today is the “real” detached buttonhole because it can't be any more detached. If one can say that.

But who knows! The mysteries of hand embroidery nomenclature are vast and plentiful. One could possibly write a book on this topic.

Anyway, the detached buttonhole that we are going to learn today is a common technique for stumpwork and Brazilian embroidery. Naturally, it doesn't mean that you can't use it in any other of your projects.

The elements that you work in this technique are raised and dimensional and when you master it, they will look very realistic!

My level in this technique is still quite low, still requires a lot more practice and perseverance. But I will show you the basics and you can train and practice it in your spare time :)

Detached buttonhole how-to


If you are trying this stitch for the first time, and especially, if you don't have sharp eyes, I recommend using a thicker thread for practicing it. It will make it easier for you to see the loops and their “roofs” and be able to count them if you forget how many you'd done.

I'm using 4 strands of cotton floss here.

Detached buttonhole

First, make a straight stitch for the base of your detached buttonhole shape. The length of the stitch corresponds to the desired width of your shape. Then bring the needle up through the fabric at one of the ends of this straight stitch. We will be working it from left to right for the first row, so I brought the needle up on the left.

Detached buttonhole

Now, we make a buttonhole loop: slide the needle under the base stitch, making sure that the working end of the thread is behind the needle.

Detached buttonhole

By the way, if you see me using the needle with the tip forward – I'm doing it just for clearer pictures. In fact, in stitches like this, I move with the eye of the needle forward. If you have a sharp-tipped needle, I would recommend doing the same.

Detached buttonhole

The loop that we have formed. Let's make 4 more the same way.

Detached buttonhole

The first row is complete. So, notice the arrow in the picture above? It points at the “roof” of a loop. That's what I'm going to call them in this post.  This is where the needle will slide under when we start working the second row of loops.

Detached buttonhole

Going from the right to the left now. We use the previously worked loops and their “roofs” to attach the new loops for the second row. Remember to keep the working thread behind the needle at all times.
Detached buttonhole

Now, slide the needle under the second “roof” and make another loop. And continue in the same manner.

Detached buttonhole

The second row is complete. That's why I insisted on using a thicker thread – like that all the loops are on display and it is easy enough to differentiate them. I made 5 loops in the first row, and 5 loops in the second row.

Detached buttonhole

To continue with the third row, you need to attach your loops to the “roofs” of the loops below.

Detached buttonhole

So, here I made 4 rows, 5 loops in each one. Looks like a square, doesn't it?

Well, I believe the need to work a square is quite rare in hand embroidery so let's give it a petal or a leaf shape.

For that, we need to narrow it down. If there are 5 loops in the base width, we can narrow it down to 3 loops for a couple more rows and then for 1 loop at the top.

Detached buttonhole

When you narrow down your shape, sometimes you can slide the needle under a neighboring “roof” to skip one loop, and do the same for another side.

Detached buttonhole

Here I have 2 rows of 3 loops each on top of my square.

Detached buttonhole

Now I want to make just 1 loop at the top of the shape. I want to make it right over the middle loop out of the 3 latest ones. That's why I slide the needle under it from behind. Slide it in this particular manner so that the thread comes out the front.

Detached buttonhole

And then, make a standard loop.

Detached buttonhole

Here we have the tip. Now, you can anchor it to the fabric by just inserting the needle at the point you want.

Detached buttonhole

If you want to keep the shape raised and detached, then you can just cast the thread over the edge of the shape while moving it down to the fabric. Better to do it at every row to ensure there is no extra tension in the thread. 

Detached buttonhole

Then just insert the needle at the base of the shape.

Detached buttonhole

If you want to make a shape wider rather than thinner, then you can make 2 loops on top of one “roof”. In the picture above I made a narrow base for my shape: 3 loops. The next row I worked 2 loops on top of each one from the previous row, thus making it 6 loops. I worked one more row in 6 loops. And then, added 2 loops, 1 at each side, making it 8 in total for the fourth row. So, 3+6+6+8.

Detached buttonhole

I kept the number of loops the same for a couple more rows, and then made a cut for two apexes to rise. I did by making a couple of loops at one side, then slid the needle under the “roofs” that I wasn't going to use, and make a couple of loops from the other side.

Detached buttonhole

And here we end our detached buttonhole series! That was a real trip! I really love these techniques but I'm aware that it is still something I need to practice. Maybe when I do (hopefully) polish it I will come back with more tips on how to achieve better results!  

2 comments

  1. This stitch is much easier with an unstranded thread, like pearl cotton.

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    Replies
    1. I suppose so, but I don't really use it and I didn't have any at hand :)

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