Stitch a French knot embroidery piece

I have a love-hate relationship with French knots. On one hand, they add texture and dimension to fabric, transforming simple designs into works of art. But on the other hand, they can be frustrating to master.

When executed perfectly, French knots add elegance and sophistication to embroidery projects. The process of creating them can be satisfying, but it requires patience, precision, and a steady hand. One wrong move, and the knot can turn into a messy tangle of thread.

The challenges of French knots include the risk of "popping" and the time-consuming nature of creating them. Each knot requires careful attention and concentration, making it a task that demands dedication and focus.

Despite the challenges, French knots have an undeniable beauty. 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 the frustration and time spent.

Cat worked in French KnotsCat worked in French Knots

This Is How to Stitch a French Knot

In this hand embroidery tutorial, I'll show you an easy way to create perfect French knots.

You'll find these knots in various embroidery styles, including needlepoint, surface embroidery, crewel work, and counted thread designs.

They're often used for eyes, noses, flowers, fur, hair, or even a bunny's tail.

Video: French Knots

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

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

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. 

What have you used this stitch for?

If you've tried this stitch and would like it featured on the page to give other stitchers ideas, feel free to submit pictures and your story to the site. You could tell us about the project you were creating, what threads and colours you chose and why, whether you found it easy to do, or had difficulties learning the stitch.

If the same issue crops up multiple times I will attempt to help you overcome the problem.

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