How to Make a French Knot

  • 01 of 05

    Making a French Knot

    French Knot Diagram
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    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 one of the most difficult but is actually quite simple to work once you get the hang of it.

    Read through all the steps first and then try it while going through the instructions a second time with needle and floss in hand. Looking at only the diagram or the instructions can be confusing, so it helps to consider them both. Once you get the feel for it they will blend together seamlessly.

    As you practice the knot over and over again it will become second nature.

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  • 02 of 05

    How to Wrap a French Knot

    Bring your needle up through the fabric where you want the knot to place the knot. Wrap the thread around the fabric once for a small knot or twice for a larger knot. Avoid wrapping more than twice or you will end up with a lopsided knot.

    To finish the knot, insert the needle back into the fabric close to the hole you came out of (almost in the same hole). Slowly pull the needle and working thread through the wrapped loops to complete a French knot.

    Inserting the needle into the same hole that the thread comes up often results in a knot that's lost to the backside of the fabric when you pull the thread through. Placing the needle close to the original hole, even if it's only a single split fiber away, gives the stitch a bridge of fabric to stand on.

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  • 03 of 05

    Needle Placement in French Knots

    Pulling the French Knot Taut
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    The tension of the thread around the fabric should not be too loose or too tight. The wrapped thread needs to be snug against the needle. However, the needle should be able to slide through the threaded loops smoothly.

    Hold the working thread taut as you pull the needle and thread through, as shown above. Keeping this tension on the knot helps create consistent French knots every time. 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.

    Practice makes perfect with this stitch. If you have not yet worked with them, try making several sample knots on a scrap of embroidery fabric

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  • 04 of 05

    Tips and Ideas for Using French Knots

    French Knot Examples
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    Work French knots individually, in loose or dense groups as a filling, or along a line or path. Combine them with other stitches to make fun designs

    They work well for stitching eyes on designs with faces.

    As already mentioned, it's best to only wrap French knots once or twice, but you can also adjust the size of a French knot by the number of strands. Try creating a small sampler of knots worked with different strands and wrapping both one or two times. 

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  • 05 of 05

    Altering the Size of French Knots

    Another way to alter the size and look of French knots is with the tension. A knot with perfect tension will be tight. By loosening the tension, you can achieve loopy and soft French knots, like those on the right. Sometimes they're seen as flops, but they're great for creating tiny flowers and unique texture.

    French knots are notoriously difficult to unknot, and typically you would need to cut away unwanted knots. If you struggle with French knots, start a new length of thread before starting to work on your knots. That way, if you need to cut out the knots, you won't disrupt your other stitching.