Colonial Knot or French Knot?

If you find French knots frustrating, try the colonial knot as a slightly larger, more rounded alternative. 

Colonial knots are also more secure and less likely to unravel when you wash your embroidery project. This is because they use two twists around the needle in opposite directions, while French knots traditionally only use a single twist.

French knots compared the the coral knot stitchFrench knots (top) compared to Colonial Knots

How to make a Colonial knot

The following step-by-step photos show how I worked Colonial Knots as part of the decoration on a crazy quilt block

Bring the needle through the fabric in the position you wish to create the knot. Arrange the thread so it forms a backwards letter C to the right of the point where the thread comes through the fabric. Slip the needle under the thread from right to left as shown in the photograph.

Stitching a colonial knot - step 1

Take the working thread and lay it over, then under the needle point, to create a sort of figure eight. Pull the thread towards your body firmly but gently. 

Stitching a colonial knot - step 2

Angle the needle straight down into the fabric, while keeping tension on the working thread. Push the needle down through the fabric, not letting go of the thread until the last minute. This will ensure the colonial knot is tidy, not loose and floppy.

I embellished this printed fabric by stitching a Colonial knot on alternate green dots to form a ring around the rose. It somehow reminds me of a string of pearls. I could use this in a crazy quilt block. The thread used was again Pearl cotton number 8.

What are Colonial Knots used for?

I have created a list below giving some examples of where you can use Colonial knots. If you think of others, let me know and I will add them. 

  • Candlewicking on bedspreads - a whitework embroidery technique
  • In a counted cross stitch design - instead of French knots or beads
  • For the centre of flowers
  • Tiny floral sprays
  • For eyes on soft toys or rag dolls - safer than buttons or glass eyes
  • Grouped together to form bunny tails
  • Berries in autumn flower arrangements

The difference between the two knots

On the crazy quilt block photographed above, I used Colonial knots for the top flowers and French Knots for the smaller stitches in between the leaves. For both types of knots I used the same thread - Pearl Cotton number 8. 

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