This tutorial will show you an easy and effective way to start embroidery stitches using an away waste knot. This method is great to use when you want some tension for starting an embroidery stitch but you don’t want to permanently secure the stitch with a knot.
This technique is sometimes referred to as an “away knot” or a “waste knot”. As you can tell by the name, this particular knot is a temporary one that is made away from where you are stitching. It’s removed once you are finished with a particular piece of thread.
How To Tie A Waste Away Knot
Often times a simple overhand knot will work just fine for your waste knot.
However, if you’re using less than 5 or 6 strands of embroidery floss, you may find that the knot isn’t big enough and it slips through the fabric. In this instance, you can control the size of the knot better by making a quilter’s knot.
Beginning Stitches With An Away Waste Knot
Once you’ve made the knot, place your needle and thread down through the front of the fabric. The knotted end of the thread should be sitting on top of the fabric.
Leave at least 3 inches of thread between your waste knot and where you begin stitching. This will allow you to leave enough of a tail to end and secure the stitch later on.
Then you can begin stitching like you normally would!
When you are finished working with the strand of thread, gently pull the tail of the knot and cut the thread directly underneath of the knot.
The tail of thread will fall to the back of the fabric. Flip over your embroidery, thread your needle, and tuck the tail of thread underneath the stitches a few times to secure it. Repeat this for the other end of the thread.
When should you use an waste knot?
Here are a few benefits of using an away knot instead of a permanent knot:
- When you are working on fragile or somewhat see-through fabric where the knots and tails of thread may show through the fabric.
- When you are starting stitches where a knot may get in the way. (ex: chain stitch, bullion knots, and French knots)
- If you have trouble getting the tension right on the very first stitch.
- If the tail of thread frequently slips through from the back of the fabric.
Is it bad to start embroidery with a knot?
If you’ve been embroidering for even a small amount of time, you may have come across differing opinions on whether it’s correct to permanently knot your stitches on the back of an embroidery. In fact, maybe that’s why you landed on this page!
The short answer: it depends.
I was curious what other people’s opinion on this matter was, so I conducted a survey about it on Instagram. Out of 74 people surveyed, 68% said they knot their thread to start stitching, 8% said they didn’t use a knot, and 24% said it depended on what they were working on.
Clearly, it’s somewhat of a personal preference, but it also depends on the material and types of stitches you’re using.
Check out this post about starting and ending your stitches to learn more, and let me know in the comments what your favorite method is!
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.