How to embroider French knots

milliners needlesA french knot is a difficult stitch for some people but I have a tip or two in this tutorial. I am putting them up the front so people notice them before they embark upon learning the stitch.

Stitchers problem #1  Your knot pops through the fabric to the back!

If your knot pops through the fabric, you are not leaving a large enough gap where the thread emerges from the fabric and where it goes back into the fabric. When you follow the directions take a look at the third photo and make sure you take the needle back into the fabric a couple of threads away from where it came out. Put simply dont put your needle back into the same hole.

Stitchers problem #2 my wraps get stuck on the needle

Second tip is to use milliners needles as they are the secret weapon in creating not only French knots but also Bullion knots and many of the knotted stitches.

Any of the knotted stitches are best worked with milliners needles or straw needles because of the way they are made. Most embroidery needles have an eye that is wider than the shaft of the needle. Milliners or straw needles have an eye and shaft that are the same width which makes sliding the wrapped bullion or French knot along the needle easy.

Stitchers problem #3 my work just gets puckered and messy

If your work is puckering the problem is tension. Stretch the fabric in a needlework hoop or frame so that you have both hands free to work the knot. I explained how to bind and use an embroidery hoop here

I hope these  tips lead to pleasant stitching experiences when you learn how to work French knots!

ideas for French Knots sample 6How to work French Knots

step by step instructions on how work French knots 1Bring the needle out through the fabric and holding the thread taut with your left hand twist the needle round the thread two or three times.

step by step instructions on how work French knots 2Still holding the thread firmly take the needle back into the fabric one or two threads away from where the working thread emerges. Insert the needle.

step by step instructions on how work French knots 3Brush the knot down the shaft of the needle with the nail of your left thumb so that it is sitting firmly on the fabric as illustrated. Pull the thread through to the back of the fabric. As you pull keep the working thread tensioned firmly but not too tight.

step by step instructions on how work French knots 4Use your left index finger and hold the thread against the fabric as you pull the thread through the knot. This helps prevent tangles.

step by step instructions on how work French knots 5The thickness of the thread and the number of wraps on the needle will determine the size of the finished knot. You can use all sorts of threads to create interesting effects. In the sample below I used hand dyed cotton perle # 5 and #8 and the white French knots is Metallic Madeira braid 9808.

ideas for French Knots sample 4In this sample I have used an acrylic knitting yarn that was blended with a metallic thread to create the ‘grapes’ in this piece of crazy quilting.

using French Knots sample 1

The next sample is a similar design that is created using hand dyed 4mm silk ribbon.

ideas for French Knots sample 2

You can use them in contemporary hand embroidery too. Here they are uses in combination with small straight stitches and bullion knots.

ideas for French Knots sample 5Another example of French knots used in Contemporary embroidery used in combination with beading and eyelets. A mix of threads were used including  cotton perle #5 and #8, silk, stranded cotton floss, cotton abroder, chainette thread and rayon ribbon floss.

ideas for French Knots sample 3The last sample is of french knots worked in cotton perle #5. It is a small detail on a crazy quilt block.

French Knot sample

French knots are also known as French dot, knotted stitch, twisted knot stitch and wound stitch.