Blanket stitch is often called buttonhole stitch.
Which is a pity, as they’re very different – made in a different way, and best used for different purposes.
Sadly it’s quite difficult to find a tutorial which doesn’t say they’re the same thing.
A true buttonhole stitch has a knotted edge which makes it more able to withstand heavy wear.
Blanket stitch is better used as a decorative stitch.
Here is a figure from Celestine Leontine Schmit ‘Garments for Girls’, showing different ways of finishing an edge :
top edge – buttonhole stitch
Notice the needle points into the fabric, and the thread from the needle eye passes under the needle tip
bottom edge – blanket stitch
The needle points away from the fabric, and the thread from the previous stitch passes under the needle tip.
Thread is always passed under tip of needle in the direction of stitching – if sewing from right to left, the thread passes under needle tip from right to left.
(Stitch on left is overcasting.)
As often happens with hand stitches, there are many variations.
See separate post on starting and finishing hand stitching
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Use with decorative thread for appliqué, and for edging fabrics that don’t fray.
Many modern sewing machines have a decorative stitch which looks similar, it’s called ‘pin stitch’.
Knotted blanket stitch
There’s also a knotted blanket stitch, made by slipping the needle through a loop before the stitch is pulled taut.
This is good for sewing 2 edges together firmly.
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True buttonhole stitch has a knotted/ locked edge
There are various ways of making this knotted edge.
They wind the thread round the needle in different ways.
Here is the simplest :
Here are detailed instructions, from Chapter 9 of Kinne & Cooley ‘Clothing and Health’ 1920.
“Point the needle at right angles to the edge, and take a stitch one-eighth of an inch deep.
Throw the double thread from the eye of the needle, around [under] the point, in the same direction as the buttonhole is being worked (in the diagram from right to left).
Draw needle through, pulling the thread at right angles to and toward the cut edge of the buttonhole.
A little finishing loop called the purl will be formed at the edge.
It is this which prevents the edge of the buttonhole from wearing.
Remember all stitches are to be the same depth and to have about the space of a thread between stitches, and the purl is to lie exactly on the edge.”
The trick is to sew inwards from the edge, not outwards. This is counterintuitive, especially if you’re used to blanket stitch.
And you have to wind the thread round the needle as a separate move.
Pull needle carefully through to set the knot in the right place.
So it takes more time and more care to get a good result with buttonhole stitch, compared to blanket stitch.
Go all the way and make a hand sewn buttonhole ?
There are detailed written instructions in Kinne & Cooley ‘Clothing and Health’.
School girls used to make many practice buttonholes to get this stitch even in length, spacing, tension.
Tailor’s buttonhole stitch
Several methods for making a bigger knot at the edge. Called a tailor’s buttonhole stitch because it’s a tougher but more bulky stitch, good on jackets and coats.
Make this bigger knot by winding more thread round the needle.
Here one technique : wind the thread under both ends of the needle.
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Both blanket stitch and buttonhole stitch are best sewn very regularly.
Or blanket stitch can be irregular for a ‘folk art’ effect.
To get the stitches even, you need to use the same regular tension on the thread as you pull each stitch through.
And practice to get the stitches even in spacing and length.
Sewing these stitches well is definitely a skill !
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