Starting and tying off embroidery stitches is an important part of the hand embroidery process. The way you begin and end stitches can either help or hinder you. This post will show you a few best practices that will set you up for success.
This post is a part of a series about how to embroider for beginners.
How To Start Embroidery Stitches
Embroidery stitches can be started with or without knots. Deciding whether or not to use one depends on your preference and also what kind of fabric and threads you are using.
Here are a couple of reasons to avoid using a knot:
- Knots can leave bumps behind the fabric – this may be more visible with fabrics that are thin or delicate, or fabrics with a looser weave that would require a larger knot.
- Knots can show through to the front of the embroidery when thin or see-through fabrics are used.
- They can get in the way/tangle in your stitches – this is especially true for chain stitch and french knots
A few more things to keep in mind:
- If you are working on fabric that will require frequent washing, such as clothing, you’ll want the threads to be more secure. You may want to consider using knots.
- Make sure when you are stitching that you are not carrying the thread over long areas in the back of your embroidery, especially if you are using see-through fabrics or darker thread colors that could show through the fabric. When in doubt, secure the thread and start with a new piece of thread.
How To Start Embroidery Without a Knot
The good news is that starting embroidery without knots is actually really easy to do! Here are several methods you can use the next time you’re beginning your embroidery.
Away Waste Knot
This method involves a knot, but it’s only temporary! First, you’ll tie a knot at the end of your embroidery floss and go through your fabric from the front, away from where you’ll be stitching. Make sure this knot is far enough away that it will leave a 2-3 inch tail when you cut it.
Start stitching, and when you’re finished, cut the knot and secure the tail.
Leave a Tail
Leave 2 to 3 inches of embroidery floss as a tail on the back of your work. Make sure to keep a firm hold on the tail of the floss as you’re starting your first few stitches. After you’ve made a few stitches, the thread will be secure enough that you can let go of the tail.
Once you’ve finished stitching, tuck or whip stitch the remaining tail under the embroidery stitches you made on the back of the embroidery.
Running Stitch Method
This last method only works if you plan to cover the area where you make these running stitches.
Make several running stitches and then cover with other embroidery stitches. This will hide the running stitches and also secure them so no knot is needed. You can just trim the tail that is left if necessary.
Starting Stitches With Knots
If you are working with embroidery fabric that is sturdy and not see through, using a knot to start embroidery stitches is a great option. It’s also a quick and simple way for beginners because you don’t have to worry about the tail of your thread slipping through the fabric.
Overhand or Half Knot
This kind of knot is the kind you’d think of if someone asked you to tie a knot in something. Make a loop in the thread and pull the tail through to form this knot. This knot works well when you’re using fabric with a relatively tight weave and 6 strands of embroidery floss.
If you’re using less than 6 strands of embroidery and you want to tie a knot, the quilter’s knot is the way to go! This is because you can make a larger quilters knot than you would be able to make using the overhand knot.
- Take the tail of the thread and your needle and point them towards one another.
- Twist the tail of the thread around the needle. The more twists, the larger the knot.
- Pinch the twists in between your thumb and forefinger and pull the needle through. This will form the knot!
How To End An Embroidery Stitch
Just as there are ways to start stitches with and without knots, the same is true with ending your stitches. Whichever one of the two methods you chose to start with, you’ll want to respectively end your stitches the same way.
Ending Without a Knot
Once you are done stitching, bring your thread to the back of the embroidery, then tuck and weave the tails of the thread under nearby stitches.
How To Tie Off Thread
You can knot together tails of thread on the back of your embroidery that are close together to secure them.
However, if you have a single tail without another tail to knot it with, you can use this method to tie it off.
- Tuck your needle and thread under the stitches and leave a loop.
- Set your needle aside.
- Then, pull the thread through the loop, forming another loop.
- Finally, pull the thread all the way through the loop, which will form a knot.
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.