How to Make a French Knot

French Knot Examples
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Total Time: 60 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The French knot is one of several knotted stitches used in surface embroidery and produces a knot similar to a colonial knot. This stitch has a reputation for being difficult, but persist in your efforts. Once it clicks, you'll be sprinkling French knots all over. They look great as eyes on designs with faces!

Read through all the steps first, then try it on your practice cloth. Looking at only the diagram or the instructions can be confusing, so it helps to consider them both. As you practice the knot over and over, the movements will become more natural.

French knots are notoriously tricky to unknot; don't even try. Just cut away any unwanted knots. If you struggle with French knots, begin with a new length of thread before starting to work on your project's knots. That way, any French knot mistakes can simply be cut away without affecting your other stitching efforts. 

Notes

Practice on a small square of cotton or other fabric of your choice, using needles of type and size appropriate to the fabric. As you stitch, move your stitching hand from the back of the fabric to the front of the work as needed.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Embroidery hoop sized for practice cloth
  • Embroidery needle, size between 1 and 5
  • Small sharp scissors

Materials

  • Small square of cotton fabric for practicing
  • Six-strand embroidery floss

Instructions

  1. Getting Ready

    Place the fabric in the hoop. Cut a 12 to ​14-inch length of six-strand embroidery floss and thread it through the embroidery needle. Knot the other end.

  2. Working the Knot

    Bring your needle up through the fabric where you want the knot to place the knot.

    • Wrap the thread around the needle once for a small knot, twice for a larger knot. Avoid wrapping more than twice or you will end up with a lopsided knot.
    • Take the needle partway down into the fabric, close to the place where the needle came to the front. Gently tug thread to eliminate any slack and snug the knot close to the fabric surface.
    • Slowly pull the needle and working thread down through the wraps to complete a French knot. The needle should be able to slide smoothly through the loops of thread.

    Hold the working thread taut as you pull the needle and thread through; this tension helps create nice, even French knots. You may also want to try keeping the tension a little looser as you pull the needle through, then tighten it as the rest of the working thread passes through. You may hear a "pop" as you finish the knot; that's normal!

    Tip

    Inserting the needle into the same hole that the thread comes up often results in losing the knot to the back when you pull it through! Make sure you don't take the needle down in the same place it came up.

    French Knot Diagram
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

     

    Pulling the French Knot Taut
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson
  3. Practice and Explore

    To practice, work some more French knots individually, and in loose or dense groups as a filling, or along a line or path.

    It's best to only wrap French knots once or twice, but you can also adjust the size of a French knot by using more or fewer strands of floss. Try creating a small sampler of knots worked with different strands and wrapping both one or two times.

    Another way to alter the size and look of French knots is with the tension. A knot with perfect tension will be tight and compact. By loosening the tension, you can achieve loopy and soft French knots, like those on the right. The look might be just right for your project.

    French Knot Examples
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson