French knot

French knot

French Knot Tips and Tricks

milliners needles

A french knot is a difficult stitch for some people but I have a tip or two in this tutorial. I am putting them upfront so you 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, don’t put your needle back into the same hole.

Stitchers problem #2 Your wraps get stuck on the needle

The second tip is to use milliners needles. They are the secret weapon in creating not only French knots, Bullion knots, and many other knotted stitches.

You will find it easier to work all of the knotted stitches with milliner’s needles, or straw needles, because of their design. Most embroidery needles have an eye that is wider than the shaft of the needle. Milliner’s 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 Your 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 1

Bring the needle out through the fabric. And holding the thread taut with your left hand, twist the needle around the thread two or three times.

step by step instructions on how work French knots 2

Still 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 3

Brush 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 4

Use 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 5

Some samples

The 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. I used hand-dyed cotton perle # 5 and #8 in the sample below, and I made the white French knots using Metallic Madeira braid 9808.

ideas for French Knots sample 4

In this sample, I have used an acrylic knitting yarn blended with a metallic thread to create the ‘grapes’.

using French Knots sample 1

I created the next sample using a similar design with hand-dyed 4mm silk ribbon.

ideas for French Knots sample 2 wisteria

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 5

This is another example of French knots used in Contemporary embroidery used in combination with beading and eyelets. I used a mix of thread, including cotton perle #5 and #8, silk, stranded cotton floss, cotton broder, chainette thread and rayon ribbon floss.

ideas for French Knots sample 3

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

French Knot sample

You will find that French knots have several names, such as French dot, knotted stitch, twisted knot stitch and wound stitch.

Thread Twisties!

Experimenting with different threads can be expensive. You would normally have to buy a whole skein of each type of thread. My thread twisties are a combination of different threads to use in creative hand embroidery. These enable you to try out stitching with something other than stranded cotton. For the price of just a few skeins, you can experiment with a bundle of threads of luscious colours and many different textures.

These are creative embroiders threads. With them, I hope to encourage you to experiment. Each Twistie is a thread bundle containing silk, cotton, rayon and wool. Threads range from extra fine (the same thickness as 1 strand of embroidery floss) to chunky couchable textured yarns. All threads have a soft and manageable drape. Twisting them around a needle makes experimental hand embroidery an interesting journey rather than a battle.  Many are hand dyed by me. All are threads I use. You may find a similar thread twist but no two are identical.

You will find my thread twisties in the Pintangle shop here.


  1. I finally finished my french knots, tedius little devils! Maybe not as bad if you only do a few here and there. If you look at my sample which in the blog post titled “It began on I-65” you’ll see why I don’t love french knots today!

  2. i feel better about this stitch thanks to the tips.

    i managed to create a fat little bumble bee~!



  3. I previously stitched a small piece on a fabric print of a Springtime photo taken in our local park.
    I was disappointed to see that the French Knots were
    quite open and had tails – but in that piece they were OK, as opening buds! So – a happy accident.
    However I do have a lovely embroidery with many, many, French knots. I have no idea who stitched it – it was bought by my late Aunt in a house sale about seventy years ago,
    I have recently come home from hospital and need to catch up on three TAST weeks – hopefully soon. Connie.

  4. Hi Sharon
    So pleased you have chosen French Knots as I wanted to share with everyone some of my relatives work. I think my grandmother did these, but cannot be sure of exactly who did. These pieces are done on silk with single thread.
    I will have a go myself this week and post again.
    My blog
    Thank you Sharon for this chance to show some wonderful work and ideas.

  5. I love french knots and find them easy to do, but then Mom taught me decades ago! I had already done them on this area of a crazy quilt block. I was behind on the stem stitch and there is a french knot on the bird I embroidered for it, but there are more french knots on the crazy patch.

    This week I have a lot to do to get ready for a trip, so glad you picked a stitch I already had done! : – )

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