I wanted to title this “Dreaded French Knots”, but that’s a bit harsh. Even though I hated them for years and had several almost-finished projects complete except for the French knots that I always saved for last. And then never did.
I learned embroidery from my grandmother and, strangely enough, learned crewel embroidery first. It’s just like standard embroidery but uses wool and a heavier base fabric and lots of satin stitches. I picked up all the stitches very well until I came to French knots. I don’t know why I had so much trouble but they were always too loose or too tight, or the thread would knot just when I was pulling it through. My fingers felt clumsy and the results were always awful.
When I started to do embroidery again a few years ago I decided that I would finally master French knots – even if it killed me. It took a while but I figured out a way to hold the thread taut with my left hand while pushing the needle through with my right. Maybe that’s how I should have been doing it all along, but it felt like a new discovery and it works for me. And, best of all, I can finish my projects.
Here are some examples of French knots from a vintage pillowcase I plan to make into a pillow some day. I love how they look when densely packed together.
Here’s a how-to diagram for French knots. The only difference is that I wrap the thread around the needle three times, which makes a denser knot. Do what looks best for your particular project.
The second diagram is for a pistil stitch, which is sort of a French knot with a tail. I hadn't heard of this stitch but I can see how useful it will be. If I can master French knots surely I can learn this one, too.