If you’ve just started learning to embroider, you may have come across a French knot and decided to try your hand at it. This stitch can be somewhat frustrating and challenging. When I first started practicing this stitch, the thread would get tangled and the knot often times would end up looking loose or have a big loop on the surface of the fabric. In this tutorial, I’ll explain to you how to do a French knot the easiest way I know how to avoid these problems and making learning a breeze. If you enjoy this tutorial, check out this page to learn more embroidery stitches.
Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own!
How To Do A French Knot
Here are some pointers to help you out:
- Come up through the back of the fabric with your needle and thread.
TIP: I recommend not knotting the end of your thread before you get started, because a lot of times the needle will snag the knot when you come back down through the fabric. Instead, hold the tail of the thread behind your fabric with your middle finger.
- With your middle finger still holding the tail on the back of the fabric, take the thread you just pulled through in between your index and thumb finger. Wrap the thread around the needle ( depending on what size you’d like the french knot to be, I normally do 2-3 times).
TIP: when you wrap this around the needle, you want the wraps to be snug, but not too tight. You’ll see in a moment when you pull the thread through how it can get stuck if it’s too tight
- Keeping the wraps snug with your fingers, take the needle back down directly beside where you initially came up. Start pulling your thread through the wraps you made.
TIP: the trick with this is to not lose tension of the wraps. When you first start pulling the thread through the back of the fabric, still keep a hold on the thread you’ve been holding with your middle, index, and thumb. Once your thread is almost all the way through you can let go.
If you’d like to see this in action, I have a video on YouTube that goes into the basics as well as the tips that I touched on above! Hope this helps!
Like any new skill, this stitch will take some practice. But once you’ve learned how to master this knot, you’ll be able to use it in all sorts of different ways, from filling in large areas, so using them for the center of flowers. They add a lot of dimension to your embroidery keep things interesting!
French Knot Tips For Fixing Tension And Tangles
If you are having trouble with your French knot tangling or not forming into a tightly formed knot, here are some extra tips you can try.
- Try making an away knot (aka waste knot) through the front of the fabric a few inches away from where you want to make the first French knot. This is a temporary knot that will serve as an anchor for your thread. This way, you won’t have to worry about holding the tail of thread on the back of the fabric. The away knot will do some of the work for you, providing an adequate amount of tension on your working thread as you’re making the stitch!
- Use an embroidery stand – this will free up your non-needle hand so you can focus solely on getting the tension right while making the stitch. (This is the stand I personally use)
- If you are using stranded thread, make sure that all of the strands are smooth and equal in length. I usually do this by pinching the thread and running it between my fingers. Then trim the ends and re-thread your needle. You can also use thread conditioner which will help keep the strands together.
- Make sure you are are using the correct needle size according to how many strands of embroidery floss you are using. Using the incorrect size may make it harder to pull the needle and thread through smoothly. Check out this post for a needle size chart.
30+ Embroidery Stitches
Learn over 30 hand embroidery stitches with step by step photos and instructions as well as some extra helpful tips sprinkled in so you can perfect them even more.
Why Does My French Knot Pull Through?
Have you ever made a French knot and instead of it sitting nicely on top of the fabric when you pull the thread through, it gets pulled to the back of the fabric, leaving a hole?
If this is happening, then you are making the stitch through the same hole you came up through. This can also happen a lot easier with fabrics that have a looser weave / have larger holes in the fabric. When you make the knot, make sure that the tip of the needle is going back down directly beside the hole you came up through. This will anchor the knot on top of the fabric and prevent it from slipping through to the back.
The size of the stitches you make depend on two things:
- how many times the thread is wrapped around the needle
- how many strands of thread you are using
Below shows how the size of the knot corresponds to how many times the thread was wrapped around the needle. (These were stitched using all 6 strands of embroidery floss.)
French Knot Stitch Flower
Small flowers are easily made using only French knots.
- Make one French knot.
- With another color add five more surrounding the first stitch.
You can also fill in the shape of a flower with little French knots. This is great for flowers with small buds like lavender. To add more dimension, make the knots smaller towards the top by making fewer wraps around the needle.
Patterns For French Knot Practice
All of the patterns below use the french knot, and would be great to practice with!
I hope these tips help you to create the perfect French knot. Once you practice and get the hang of it, I guarantee it will become one of your favorite embroidery stitches!
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.