Sewing Vloggers

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hints for Bullions

Back to the insert - This bullion daisy/chrysanthemum is complete. I am far from the best on making bullions and being good at them comes with years of practice. But I do have some hints to help you get a handle on them. There are patterns, Chado Ralph Rucci specifically from Vogue, that have you use bullions, lots of them. So this stitch is travelling from the heirloom world to the couture world! Actually, not really. This is an ancient stitch that has been all over the map and you really should consider adding to your repertoire. In that vein, I thought I would pass on a few hints that help me.

Bullions can be really hard to grasp, no pun, at first. It really helps to see someone else make one, but many of us are lonely bloggers and don't have that peer interaction available. I took some pictures here. I ask you to click on them and enlarge them to see just what I mean. they get much clearer once enlarged. It was not easy taking these pics. DH was outside covered with stain from staining the deck so I wasn't going to have him anywhere near my work. For a couple of pics I leaned back in my chair and nestled the camera on my boobs. The center of my bra held it in while I used the remote to click and then hurriedly grabbed the thread/needle. These are the best of many pics taken.

* First, once your needle is inserted and before you start wrapping your thread on the needle, grasp you lower part of the needle with your right hand and push it back and forth thru the fabric three or four times. This creates a channel for the thread to go thru. Bullion flowers can get quite thick on the back and hard to stitch thru and this action helps that.

* Turn your fabric so the needle is facing at 12:00 o'clock. Then start wrapping. I wrap clockwise, SLOWLY. This is not a race. Did you hear me? No? I will say it again "SLOWLY".

* The picture above shows a sloppy wrap, probably from not going slowly. You really can't go further with your stitch until this is fixed.

* Next wrapping rule - DON'T WRAP TOO TIGHT. Your needle won't go thru. I can't tell you how long it took me to figure this out. Save yourself the frustration I had and lightly but closely and evenly wrap your thread around the needle. Try and keep the thread at a 90º angle to the needle when you are done wrapping.

* The needle must be a straw or milliner's needle or you will go crazy. Why? Because these two types of needles do not have eyes that bulge out. If you run your fingers up a threadless needle you will feel the bulge as you get to the eye. With a straw/milliners needle your fingers slide evenly up the needle. Took a while for this one to sink in too! A needle bulge will prevent the needle from smoothly going thru the wraps.
* Before you pull your needle thru the wraps, with your right hand grab the threads coming out of the bottom of the needle. Pull them so they are straight in line with the needle. This way when you pull the thread thru the wraps you won't be dead ended by the thread going into the eye which can sometimes loop up, go wonky, or even knot, and it won't let you pull thru. So line those threads up before pulling.

* In the fourth photo down you can see how the needle points north, the wraps are even, and they are not tight. Now you are ready to pinch your stitch. Hold your stitch tightly. Pull your thread thru. Towards the end of the stitch use your fingernail to hold the wraps down and pull the thread thru. Pull until the bullion kind of loops or the fabric underneath makes a teensy pleat. In other words pull like you are overcompensating, not trying to get the exact length of the stitch, but a little tighter. Once you let go, the stitch will automatically spring to where it is supposed to be.

* After that little spring you can now coax you wrap into cooperation with your needle. Your stitch is done but don't hesitate to use the needle to smooth out the wraps and move them where they need to go. You can also use one thread in your needle to do a tiny couching stitch on your wrap and force it into compliance. Don't let these little buggers intimidate you.

* Before you commit to stitching bullions on your garment, stitch lots of them on the same fabric as your garment, flat or pleated as it will be on the garment. Expect to feel frustrated at first. But, like riding a bike, all of a sudden you will get it. That is when it is time to move to your garment.

* Do your first bullions in the least obvious places and move toward the most obvious. Did I do that here? No, and good reason why. I needed to get one flower done to space out the rest of my flowers. So the most obvious flower was done first and now all the rest are marked and will follow with the least obvious being next.

This wasn't meant to be a complete treatise on bullions as I don't feel I am the one to do that tute, but I did want you all to have a few tools in your sewing box to pull out when you want to try them, tools that acquired the hard way.....Bunny

Oh, those are three tiny Swarofski crystals in the center of what I have now decided are mums. They are just too voluptuous to be daisies.......Bunny

One more ETA: if my piping looks wonky it is not. This piece is curved so the piping does not follow the smocking stitches. ..B.


  1. amazing, is an artistic process. thanks for showing Bunny.

    greetings, Paco

  2. I will be referencing this tutorial when I make Christmas dresses for my grands this year. Thanks

  3. Beautiful bullions---I love the beads in the center of the flower.

    I had my first take at bullions when I made my turquoise Ralph Rucci dress ( I loved making the bullions and they added a special touch to the dress

  5. Beautifully done, Bunny! I learn so much, watching over your shoulder.

  6. Beautiful. I don't think that I have the patience to master this!

  7. Wonderful tutorial, and great photos. Sometimes that 'shelf' is pretty handy, no? :)

  8. Hi there Bunny,

    Due to my smocking, I have learned about bullions and echo everything you have said about them.

    Wish to cry about the Chado dress, which is a Vogue Pattern..............waited to long to decide to buy the pattern and of course, can't get it hoo.


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