Stitch a French knot embroidery piece

Oh, to stitch a French knot! I have a love-hate relationship with them. On one hand, they are a delightful embroidery technique that adds texture and dimension to any piece of fabric. Those tiny, intricate knots are nothing short of magical. But on the other hand, they can be quite the fickle little devil.

Cat worked in French KnotsCat worked in French Knots

Let's start with the good. French knots, when executed perfectly, can transform a simple design into a work of art. They add a touch of elegance and sophistication, making any embroidery project stand out.

There's something incredibly satisfying about pulling the needle through the fabric and watching the thread twist and turn into a perfect knot. It's like creating a miniature masterpiece with just a few simple stitches.

But let's not forget the bad.

Oh, the frustration that comes with trying to master the art of French knots.

It's a skill that requires patience, precision, and a steady hand.

One wrong move, and your knot can turn into a messy tangle of thread. And don't even get me started on the dreaded "popping". Just when you think you've created a flawless knot, it slips through to the back of your work. Leaving you feeling defeated and questioning your embroidery skills.

Let's not overlook the time-consuming nature of these stitches. They may be small, but they can take forever to complete, especially if you're working on a large-scale project. Each knot requires careful attention and concentration, making it a task that requires dedication and focus. It's not something you can rush through if you want to achieve that perfect, uniform look.

But despite the challenges, there's something undeniably captivating about French knots. They have a way of drawing you in, making you want to keep practicing and perfecting your technique. The satisfaction of creating a beautiful, well-executed knot is worth all the frustration and time spent.

They may be a bit of a headache, but I can't help but admire their beauty and the power they have to make a big impact. It's worth taking on the challenge knowing that once mastered, the result will be nothing short of extraordinary.

This Is How to Stitch a French Knot

In this hand embroidery tutorial I will show you an easy way to create perfect French Knots in your projects and put those horror stories to one side from now on. 

You will find these knots in needlepoint, surface (or freestyle) embroidery, crewel work and counted thread designs.

Often used for eyes, noses and flowers, massed together, they also represent fur (as I did for the cat in the photograph), hair, or even a bunny's tail.

Scroll down the page to watch my video on French Knots.

Top tips for perfect French knots

  1. Only wrap the floss around the needle once.
  2. Use a thicker thread for bigger knots.
  3. Use an embroidery hoop or frame to hold the fabric so both hands are free to work the stitch.
  4. Try not to use the same hole when you enter and exit the fabric. especially when working on evenweave or linen fabric

Butterfly worked in French knotsThe top wings of this butterfly are worked in multiple coloured French Knots

Let's stitch a French knot!

Bring the needle through to the right side of your work where you want to make your knot. Holding the thread near to the fabric/canvas wrap the thread around the needle once (or at most twice).

Pull the thread firmly so that the wraps tuck up snug around the needle.

Re-insert the needle one canvas or fabric thread away and . . .

... keeping the thread taut, gently pull the needle through to the back of the work. The knot should stay close to the fabric and keep nice and tight.

Where can I use French knots?

I used them for the centre of my flower on the thread painting page to add some bumpy texture. The page on embroidering small flowers also gives some ideas for use. 

French knots stitched en mass on a slip of fabric can then be attached to a piece of stumpwork embroidery to add depth and dimension to a project. 

You can stitch a French knot in combination with other stitches to decorate the seams in crazy quilt embroidery

Watch the french knot video

You may find it easier to work the knots after watching me stitch them in the video below.

Alternatives to the French knot stitch

If this hand embroidery tutorial showing how to stitch a French Knot has still not won you over, you could always substitute seeding stitch or seed beads instead! Check my page on attaching beads.

Another knotted stitch you may like to try as a replacement is the colonial knot. If you require a row of knots you might find coral knot suitable. 

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