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 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 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.


Have you seen my book?

holding my book in front of quilt

My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results  shares detailed practical methods on how to design and make a crazy quilt. Topics such as fabric choice, tricky challenges like balancing colour, texture and pattern, and how to create movement to direct your viewers eye around the block are covered in detail.

I also explain how to stitch and build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be practical and inspiring.

using my stitchers Templates set 2Stitchers templates

My templates aim to help you take your stitching to the next level. Designed by an embroiderer for embroiderers. With them you can create hundreds of different hand embroidery patterns to embellish with flair. These templates are easy to use, made of clear plastic so you can position them easily and are compact in your sewing box.

These are simple to use. You simply position the template in place and use a quilter’s pencil to trace along the edge of the template. Stitch along this line to decorate the seam. I have a free ebook of patterns to accompany each set which illustrates how they can be used.

TO ORDER your Stitchers Templates

Crazy Quilt Templates set 1 you will find here 
Crazy Quilt Templates set 2 you will find 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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