Candlewick Embroidery Tutorial

Working a Candlewick Embroidery Design Using Colonial Knots

Candlewick Supplies and a Finished Design. © Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to

Candlewick embroidery is a type of whitework or white-on-white embroidery. Large knots are embroidered in heavy thread on heavier-weight cotton or linen embroidery fabric using the Colonial Knots.

Popular for use as bed and window coverings in Colonial America, this type of embroidery is easy to learn and quick to stitch. It is commonly used in quiltmaking.

Originally, actual unwaxed candlewick thread was used to work this type of design, as it was a plentiful and inexpensive type of thread at the time. While today it is often worked in multiple colors, candlewicking was originally worked in natural colored threads on unbleached heavy linen or cotton.

Selecting embroidery threads for a candlewick project depends entirely on the finished size of the knot. Projects that are smaller in scale and worked with smaller knots can be stitched using #5 or #8 pearl cotton or regular embroidery floss, separating the six strands into the appropriate-sized groups.

In this sample, I am making larger knots for clarity, using all six strands of stranded cotton embroidery floss.

Starting a Colonial Knot

Working a Colonial Knot - Wrapping the Thread. © Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to

Candlewicking is worked using sturdy Colonial Knots, as opposed to French knots, which are smaller and less sturdy.

The biggest difference between the two knots (besides the size) is that the Colonial knot features a twist, which makes a denser knot that the single- or double-wrapped French knot.

When working a candlewick design, always use an embroidery hoop, as this keeps the fabric taunt and you create well-formed stitches.

To work a Colonial Knot, bring the thread up through the fabric at one of the pattern's dots.

Referring to the Colonial Knot Stitch Diagram (if needed), wrap the thread around the needle towards the back.

Next, wrap the thread around the tip of the needle in a figure 8 motion. The thread should hug the needle without being too tight.

Completing a Colonial Knot

Working a Colonial Knot - Pulling the Tail Through the Fabric. © Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to

To complete the Colonial Knot, insert the tip of the needle into the embroidery fabric near its original entry point - but do not use the original entry point, as the knot can be pulled through to the other side easily, ruining the knot. Instead, insert the needle tip a fiber or two further away in the fabric.

While holding the thread tail with your opposite hand, gently pull the tail through the wrapped knot, releasing the tail.

You've now made a Colonial knot and are ready to stitch a sample. I've included a sample pattern for you to try this technique yourself on the next page.

Stitch a Candlewick Embroidery Design

Pattern for Candlewick Embroidery. © Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to

Patterns for candlewicking are composed of evenly-spaced dots - each dot on the pattern represents one colonial knot.

Candlewick embroidery patterns can be very simple, featuring geometric shapes or small motifs, or elaborate incorporating intricate floral or geometric designs. Patterns for ​candlewicking can be marked on the fabric using transfer methods or can be purchased as iron-on transfers.

This is the design I used to stitch the candlewick embroidery sample, which features a simple floral design with a radiating center. I have provided the pattern full-size, which is approximately 4x4 inches.

To stitch the sample, mark the design on your embroidery fabric using a water-soluble fabric marking pen or pencil, centering the design.

Work the Colonial Knots using a length of six-strand cotton embroidery floss, having all six strands of floss threaded through a large embroidery needle.

This particular sample used almost an entire skein of embroidery floss. Designs worked on a smaller scale with smaller knots should use the appropriate number of strands of floss, depending on the size of the finished knots.