Tuesday, November 30, 2010

French Knots

I've almost completed my 'House of the Seven Gables' needlework pattern from 1940.  A few of you were asking about needlework stitches and I thought I would show you how to make a French knot which is used extensively in this pattern.

It is used for these Larkspur flowers:

And as the center in these Daisies:

First you will need to determine how many strands of thread to have in the needle.  The patterns from this time period are very specific.  I am to use six strands of thread for the French knots.  This is the standard number of strands in embroidery thread:

I am really happy that all the thread came with the pattern!  So if you use all six strands then just put the end of the thread (as pictured above) through your needle.  If it says to use only three or four strands then you'll need to separate off two strands of the thread.  Hope that makes sense.

Your threaded needle will have the longer thread and a short tail (just keep enough of a tail to work comfortably without fear of your needle losing the thread!):

Then you can either knot the end of your thread or leave it loose and just not pull it all the way through the fabric (whichever way you prefer).

Step 1: Start from back to front.  Bring the needle through the mark on the pattern for the French knot:

Step 2: Bring the thread all the way through the fabric:

Step 3: Hold the thread taut with your left hand and bring the needle up against the thread:

Step 4: Wrap the thread around the needle (from top to bottom to back to front) the number of times indicated on the pattern.  I've wrapped it twice around the needle:

Step 5: Continuing to hold the thread taut, reinsert the needle into the fabric very close to where it originally came through the fabric (but not in the same place):

Step 6: Continue to the hold the thread you wrapped around the needle with your left hand as you pull the needle through the fabric.  You'll need to pull a bit tougher at the beginning as you are pulling through all the thread (it will be easier once the tail goes through the fabric).  You can hold the thread less taut when you first pull the thread through the fabric as that will make it easier to get all the threads through the knot and you can then hold it more taut as you get closer to pulling all the thread through.  In this photo the needle has just gone through the fabric and you can still see the tail thread on the right:

Now the tail has gone through and it is just a small amount left to pull through:

Et viola!  Once you've pulled all the thread through, you should have a French knot:

You can change the size of the knot by the number of times you wrap it around the needle. The orange knots in the picture above were wrapped twice around the needle.  My pattern says to wrap the thread once around the needle which gives a smaller knot (the right one below):

I'm not using an embroidery hoop in these photos (sometimes I use them, sometimes I don't).  Overall, they are very helpful for keeping the fabric taut as you embroider but you can also embroider without one.

Hope that was helpful--it's definitely less daunting then it appears and it's fairly easy to correct mistakes (just cut the thread and pull it back through and start over!)  This is actually my first time making French knots--so if you have other techniques, please share!

I'm super excited that I'm almost finished!  I am going to wrap it up as a family present for Christmas (my family is doing the pick a number and choose a gift thing this year!)

What about you?  Do you embroider?  Have you ever wanted to try some of the vintage needlework patterns?


  1. This is looking so lovely, Debi. I reeeeally want to learn embroidery. Imagine some of those flowers as a border for a cardigan. Swoon!

  2. Thanks for the lesson - you're right, it doesn't look too tricky. What a lovely gift for the lucky person in your family that picks the right number!

  3. That's so pretty! I keep getting inspired by seeing everyone's forays into embroidery, I haven't embroidered in years. There's a half-finished garden sampler on my UFO landing strip... Beautiful work, thanks for the inspiration.

    I just love french knot flowers...

  4. I used to embroider a lot! And French Knots were one of my favorites (along with the lazy daisy). I love the piece you're doing --thanks for sharing.

  5. Almost done? Wow, you're fast! It will be gorgeous! You inspired me to put up my own embroidery post... Maybe even today!

  6. That piece is so pretty, the colours are amazing. Great job!

  7. Watching your progress tempted me to pull out a needlepoint project that has been languishing for years the other day.

  8. It's looking wonderful! Such quick progress you're making.

    I just finished a cross stitch project, for my mom's birthday. It still needs framing. Cross stitch goes very slowly!

  9. This is turning out so beautiful!

  10. Oh, Debi! It's so pretty! I envy the person in your family who gets this for Christmas! Thanks for the great tutorial, too. I have wanted to try embroidery for a while.

  11. Gorgeous! French knots plagued me for years when I tried to embroider; they just never came out right. I think I hit an "aha!" moment last year though, and use a technique similar to yours. At least I finally can do them without having them come out loose and messy. lol.

    ♥ Casey | blog

  12. Yes ma'am I embroider. I've embroidered a really pretty 1940s Mexican blouse. I keep meaning it post it on the blog . . . darn camera- I need a remote so I can take my own pics. I can't wait to see your finished embroidery piece!

  13. How beautiful! It makes me want to start a project for the winter.

    For years I struggled with French knots, and one day it just clicked! I do mine pretty much the same as you.

  14. I would love to know where I could get that larkspur pattern??
    So pretty!


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