I have nearly 15 years of needlework under my belt and an education in embroidery from both my grandmothers, but it was none other than Martha Stewart who taught me how to master the French knot!
It is by far my favorite embroidery technique, and its addition to an embroidery project instantly adds beauty, dimension, and interest. I use it in nearly all my needlework projects, from modern wall hangings to monograms and decorative borders. The French knot is the most popular stitch technique in my Intro to Embroidery Classes, and I’m always surprised to find that most of my students have struggled with it in the past. At its core, the French knot is actually one of the simplest embroidery techniques — and in my classes, I stick to using Martha’s quick tutorial found here.
When getting started on any embroidery project, the right supplies are key. Here’s what you need to have on hand.
1. Embroidery thread. I like DMC cotton thread. It’s strong and reliable.
2. Embroidery needles. You can find these in small packs at your local fabric or sewing store.
3. Embroidery hoop. Not everyone uses a hoop for embroidery, but I love using one. It keeps the fabric tight and smooth, and I find it easier than going it without a hoop. Most craft and fabric stores carry embroidery hoops. Pick one that properly fits your piece of fabric: about 2 inches smaller than the fabric you are using.
4. Fabric. This is where the French knot can get really fun. Not only is it a beautiful embroidery technique on its own, but with a gorgeous fabric it makes for a lovely project. My favorite fabrics by far are from Minted. I use them in my classes, and they are the patterned fabrics shown in this post. They come in limitless beautiful patterns and the cotton canvas is the perfect weight for embroidery projects.
5. Scissors. Any pair with a sharp point works well.
How to Make a French Knot:
1. Cut a piece of square fabric two inches larger than your embroidery hoop. We use 4-inch hoops in my classes, so I cut the fabric to 6 by 6 inches.
2. Separate your embroidery hoop by loosening the screw at the top. Pull apart the two hoops and lay the full hoop (the one without the opening) on a hard flat surface.
3. Place your square of fabric on top of the full hoop, being sure to center it. Then lay the hoop with the opening on top and push it down around the full hoop. Once your fabric is tight, tighten up the screw on the hoop to secure it in place.
4. Cut a piece of embroidery thread (not too long) and thread your needle. I like to knot my thread at the bottom.
5. Bring your needle through the bottom of your fabric so that it comes through on the patterned side. Once your needle is on top, just like Martha says, put it close to the surface of the fabric, wrap the embroidery thread around twice and put the needle back through the fabric very close to where you originally pulled it through. Here’s that Martha link again to help.
6. Once you get the hang of this addictive little technique the sky is the limit! Try using a different number of threads, variegated thread or even pulling the knot tightly or keeping it loose. Your tension on the needle will create different effects!
Here are some examples of how you can use the French knot in different ways.
There are so many fun ways to switch it up, I’m sure you will be inspired to master the French knot. And with a little practice, you will be knotting along in no time!
All Photography by Lisa Anderson Shaffer