Make a Colonial Knot

An embroiderer prepares a colonial knots.

Petri Oeschger / Getty Images

A Colonial knot is one of the surface knots used in embroidery and is most commonly used in candle wicking or candlewick embroidery, or combined with other embroidery stitches.

A Colonial knot forms a tight knot that holds up well to wear and can be worked on any type of embroidery fabric.

Like its cousin, the French knot, a Colonial knot takes a bit of practice to make, but once you understand the mechanics of the stitch, you'll find it's easy to work. Some may even find it easier than the French knot to get right.

Making a Colonial Knot

To make a Colonial knot, bring the thread up through the fabric and let the working thread rest on the fabric, so it forms a backward ​C. Bring the needle into the C, so the thread is over the needle near the point and under the needle closer to the eye.

Next, bring the thread around the tip of the needle, making a figure 8 as you wrap.

Insert the needle into the fabric near your original starting point, and gently pull the working thread taut, tightening the knot around the needle. Hold the working thread and keep the knot taut as you pull the needle and thread through, forming the knot tight against the fabric.

Holding the working thread as long as possible guides the thread tail through the knot and prevents it from knotting back upon itself. It also keeps the knot from loosening and becoming oddly shaped as you pull.

How to work a colonial knot
Mollie Johanson

Colonial Knot Example

A completed Colonial knot looks almost identical to a French knot, although a side-by-side comparison reveals a few differences. The biggest thing you'll spot is that it's a little smaller than the French knot. That's primarily due to the fact that it's tighter and more compact. That also makes it less likely to catch on things.

To adjust the size of a Colonial knot, use more or fewer strands of floss, or switch to a different type of thread entirely. Many types of threads will work for this, including sewing threads, perle cottons, and more.

Although this knot stitch is most commonly associated with candlewick embroidery, it works any place that calls for a French knot. 

Completed colonial knot in action.
Mollie Johanson

Using Colonial Knot in New Ways

For a colorful and modern twist on candlewicking (which is also a great way to practice your Colonial knots), try rainbow hoop art.

Try working this stitch in tight clusters as a fill stitch or small groupings for the center of a flower. Of course, it also works as the middle of a simple lazy daisy. 

For a combination of patterns and techniques, work Colonial knots along a line similar to how you would in candlewicking. Instead of spacing them apart as with traditional candlewick patterns, place them a little closer together on the outline to any pattern you like. It would even work well on designs created for Japanese sashiko embroidery.

Practice this knot stitch, and you'll be ready to use it in all of your favorite embroidery patterns and projects!

Colorful candlewicking embroidery
Mollie Johanson