The Colonial Knot--a Substitute for the French Knot

French knots give nearly everyone trouble. For years I fumed and fussed over making them. They always came undone or pulled through to the back of the work. They were uneven in size. Occasionally, one would turn out correctly, but I never could figure out why. I finally decided it was some kind of weird alchemy that I could never hope to fathom. Meanwhile, charts kept asking for French knots!

I heard about the Colonial knot, but the diagram of how to do one was very unclear. Finally, a friend taught me how to do Colonial knots. I have never done a French knot again. If you're having trouble with knot stitches, try the Colonial knot. I'm betting it'll be your choice, too, and you can laugh with perfect confidence when a chart calls for dozens of knots! You can even do these knots easily with metallic and other "balky" fibers! I promise you can make these knots. If I can, you can!

Send the needle up through the fabric. Put your work on the table on in your lap. You'll need both hands.

How to Make the Knot

Also see the diagram.

I suggest you practice making a Colonial knot until you can do 10 in a row without a mistake. (Knots are very hard to rip.) Remember to pull the coils down to touch the fabric and keep your thumb on them as you pull the working thread through.

On your piece, if you have a row of knots I suggest that after every 3 (or fewer) knots, on the back of the fabric run the working thread under a thread and tie a tiny, very tight knot. If you have to remove knots, you can cut out only the ones that you have messed up and not remove all of them. The tiny knots will not show, plus they'll be directly under each knot.

How to Make Bigger Knots

Do not put extra wraps on the needle! Use more strands or a thicker thread. More wraps make a taller knot, which will fall over and be out of place where marked on the chart.

Needle to Use

To further ensure success with knots, I suggest a needle with a small eye. Look at a #24 tapestry needle: you will see that the eye area is fatter than the barrel of the needle. When that "fat eye" passes through the knot - - especially when it passes quickly - - it disrupts the coils. Therefore, a needle with a small eye (and working slowly when passing the needle through and keep your thumbnail on the coils) will yield a noticeable improvement in quality and quite sizable increase in number of "good" knots produced.

I suggest a:

Some of these are fairly hard to thread, so I suggest you try the #28 first.

Substitutes for a French Knot

The most obvious substitute is a bead. Sew it on by making a cross stitch through the hole. This will keep it in place.

Put a cross stitch where the knot should be. Stitch another cross stitch directly on top of it. That will give it a little "height."

Use a fancy stitch, if there is room. A Symrna cross or a rice stitch are good choices.

Tie a granny knot in the middle of a 6" length of floss. Run the two ends to the back of the work and finish off. Depending, you may need to use two strands. You might even need three strands. Don't leave the granny knot loose. It will be floppy. Do a mockup.

copyright 1996-2013, Martha Beth Lewis
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