Colonial Knot or French Knot?

French knots (top) compared to Colonial Knots

The Colonial knot is an alternative to the more familiar French Knot when working a piece of freestyle embroidery. But which one should you use and what is the difference between them?

Looking at the completed stitches the Colonial Knot is slightly bigger (when stitched with the same thread), more rounded and stands higher off the fabric compared with the more dainty French Knot. It also has the benefit of being more secure and less likely to come undone when washing the finished project. This is due to the fact that there are two twists around the needle, in opposite directions. 

You can put two wraps on the needle when working the French variety, but that is not the traditional way to execute that stitch. However, even worked in this way, as they are both wrapped in the same direction it still doesn't give quite the same effect. If you want to learn how to stitch a French knot check out my page on that stitch, or read on for instructions on 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.

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. 

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?

Colonial Knots are a feature of Candlewicking, a whitework embroidery technique often used for bedspreads and pillows. This does not stop you from using it instead of a French Knot, such as in a counted cross stitch pattern.

It is ideal for the center of flowers or even as the whole bloom in tiny floral sprays. Handmade teddies or rag dolls can have Colonial Knot eyes instead of buttons, making them safer for young children.

You can also group the knots close together to form a textured area of a design, such as a bunny's tail or berries.

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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