How to start embroidery without a Knot

How to start embroidery without a Knot

Some people worry about knots on the back of their project. In some cases there is a good reason. In other projects if you use knots to start a thread it is your business alone. Often people are embroidering a project that will have batting between the top layer where the embroidery is and the backing. For instance wall hangings, decorative items like tree decorations, crazy quilted projects, or items such a bags and totes. These items are seldom if ever washed. If your project will have batting used when you assemble the project no need to worry.

However if you are embroidering clothing or something you plan to have framed I suggest you use one of the traditional methods of starting embroidery without a knot. Knots can make the back side bumpy and if you frame or stretch the item you can often see or feel them on the front side. That is a bit of pity when you have invested so much time and energy in creating it. Also if items are to be laundered since knots can unravel with use your stitches can come undone.

There are a number of techniques to start without knots but these are the methods I use.

Start embroidery without a Knot by Anchoring your thread

You can anchor your thread by working a very small back stitch at the start of your embroidered line. The trick with this technique is to make sure you pass your needle through the working thread to make it secure. Some people swear by this method, but I have never been able to bring myself to trust it completely. I only use it for items that will be used lightly. I feel lots of wear and laundering might unravel these stitches.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 1

On the back of your fabric start by taking a very small bite. This can be one or two threads. Pull your thread through leaving a tail of about an inch.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 2

Make a second stitch. When you make this stitch make sure you pierce the working thread.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 3

Pull the working thread through and the first stitch will look like the photograph above.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 4

Make a second stitch on top of the first once again piercing the thread.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 5

Pull the working thread through and snip the tail off close to the double stitch.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 6

Take your thread to the front and start your embroidery.

Start embroidery without a Knot by using an Away or Waste knot.

These techniques are similar. An away knot is worked with the knot situated on the front of the fabric, 3 to 5 inches away from the your stitching area. After working that area you clip off the knot.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 7Take the tail of thread to the back of your work, re-thread your needle with the tail and weave it through the stitches on the back. With this method you need to weave in as you work. Otherwise it is easy to to cross your threads at the back stitching in the tail of the away knot while working which means when you come to cut away your knot and weave in the tail is caught up in other threads. If I am using this method, I weave my tail in the back every time as I have finished that thread.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 8The waste knot method is similar as you have a knot on the front of the fabric placed in such a way that as you stitch your stitching will cover the tail.

The illustration above is the tail of the thread on the wrong side of the fabric.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 9You work your line of stitches. Then once you are near the knot you clip it off.

How to start embroidery without a Knot 10This technique is ideal for stitches such as Satin stitch but can be tiresome for some of the linear stitches as with each stitch you have to flip your work and check the back to see if you have caught the tail.

Ending your Embroidery Thread

Ending a thread is much more simpler than starting. You simply take your thread to the back of your work. Next weave your thread in to the back of your work by running your needle under the last couple of stitches. Clip the thread close to your work taking care not to clip any of your embroidery.

How to end embroidery without a KnotIf you feel you need more security take the thread over and under a couple of times to loop it around the embroidered threads. Just do this a few times but not so much it makes a huge bulky knot! As you can see in the illustration above here is line of embroidery without a knot.

Interested in what hand embroidery supplies you needed to start stitching? I have an article on this topic here. Another article of interest to beginner level hand embroiderers is How to Transfer Embroidery patterns to fabric. If you are looking for my Stitch Dictionary you will find it here

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Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery

book cover
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned embroiderer, my book Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery: Visual Guide to 120 Essential Stitches for Stunning Designs gives you techniques to encourage a fresh and creative embroidery style. Discover play points in your embroidery. Explore variations in height and width, stacking stitches, or using repetitions of the same stitch to create areas of texture and shape. All these techniques and more will give you creative variations. I have included numerous demonstrations of small tweaks that create big effects to send you down your own creative path.


  1. My favorite knotless start is the loop method if I’m using 2 strands, otherwise I use one of the methods above. Amazon delivered your book to me this week so I’m hoping I’ll have time this weekend to sit and scour over the pages. Have a great weekend

    Sandra D in Joliet
  2. Hi Sharon: I got your book for Christmas and I love it !!!. I hope that you will consider doing another book with some of the stitches that are left in your stitch dictionary. Thanks a lot have a Happy New Year and stay covid safe. Kim

    Kim Workman
  3. Dear Sharon
    Firstly, a very happy New Year and certainly better than 2020. Mary Corbet gave such a lovely glowing review, in her newsletter, for your book Creative Embroidery that I have purchased a copy. Can’t wait for it to arrive!
    I do hope Australia is in a better place than UK with regards to Covid. It is pretty grim. At least Peter and I are having the inoculation this Saturday which is good.
    Best wishes to you and Gerry
    Andy LW

    Andy Lloyd Williams
      1. Dear lady, I pre-ordered your book on November 8th. Apparently it is ‘winging’ its way to Limousin France in the next fortnight. Looking forward to receiving and enjoying its content. Bonne Annee 2021.

        Helene Dallison
  4. Finally received your book and what a wonderful book it is. I did tast for about 3 years and still check that I have done the stitch of the week. I have printed off all the tutorials and have a very fat file of them

    Lea Dishot

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