Buttonhole bars (cutwork)
Cutwork buttonhole bars are buttonhole bars showcased by cutting away the fabric behind them.
Buttonhole bars have been used for centuries within the various European cutwork traditions: Richelieu work (popular during the 14th to 16th centuries); Renaissance work (dating from the 15th century, gaining popularity with royalty and nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries); and Reticella dating from the 16th century onwards which was popular for decorating Elizabethan ruffs.
More recently, Baldyring embroidery, a 19th century Danish development of Reticella (part of the Hedebo tradition) also features buttonhole bars.
Buttonhole bars also feature on 17th century European whitework samplers as shown by several in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection.
Bring the needle up on the right, just outside the double running stitch, and down on the left. Make two more stitches: left to right, then right to left. The three threads across the gap should be taut, even a little too tight.
Bring the needle up on the left and begin to work buttonhole stitch across the three long stitches. Pass the needle eye-first under the threads from top to bottom, leaving a loop. Pass the needle over the loop.
Pull the thread tight to complete the stitch.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 across the bar, keeping the stitches close together and trying to keep an even tension. To finish the bar take the needle down outside the running stitch line.
Repeat buttonhole stitch around the edges of the square.
Begin to trim the fabric away by first cutting from the middle to each end, and then from the middle to each side. Insert the scissors to that the flat of the blade rests against the stitches; this way the stitches will not be cut. Use small snipping movements to gradually trim away the fabric. Sometimes it is useful to turn to the back.
The finished sample of buttonhole bars.
Structure of stitch
Buttonhole bars allow you to cut away larger shapes by creating a network of supports.
Willem Vogelsang, 'Richelieu work', TRC Leiden (2016). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/europe-and-north-america/embroideries/richelieu-work (Accessed: 19 October 2021)
'V&A guide to embroidery styles', Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). Available at: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/embroidery-styles-an-illustrated-guide (Accessed: 19 October 2021)
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 'Reticella', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/techniques/lace-making/reticella (Accessed: 19 October 2021)
'1600 cutwork cover', Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O363238/cover-unknown/ (Accessed: 19 October 2021)
'Baldyring', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/europe-and-north-america/embroideries/baldyring-denmark (Accessed: 25 August 2021)
'17th century German whitework sampler', Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O70238/sampler-boten-lucke/ (Accessed: 19 October 2021)
'17th century whitework sampler', Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O359932/sampler-mason-margret/ (Accessed: 19 October 2021)