Wednesday, April 27, 2016

To Knot or Not - Lesson Three Embroidery School

Knotting the end of embroidery thread is considered bad form in the traditional world of embroidery. Competitions at state fairs, needlework guilds, or farm and craft shows judge as much by the back of the work as by the front.

There are some excellent reasons (other than competition) to avoid knots all over the back of the work. 
  • If the fabric is light colored, the thread dark, and the fabric is either very lightweight or "holey", as Aida or even weaves can be, the bit of threads that hang off the knots can show through or create unsightly bumps when the fabric is laid flat.
  • If the embroidered work is to lay flat against a matte for framing, bumps from knots will show up.
  • If you are going to teach embroidery, you'll want to learn traditional methods to pass on to the next generation.
Using no-knot methods can be a bit more time-consuming, but if done right, can make the back of the work look almost as amazing as the front. It's a skill worth practicing.

First, let's look at stranded thread (embroidery floss) and see how it looks when we use varying numbers of strands. These lines are worked in back stitch using 2, 3, 4, and 6 strands of DMC stranded cotton embroidery floss. It's important to know how the number of strands affects the bulk of the work. 

I am using 4 strands to show no-knot methods.

No Knot Method 1 

In this method a knot is made at the end of the thread. The needle is inserted from front to back of the work a couple of inches away from where the actual stitching will begin. Then the needle comes back up where the work begins and continues to create the line or element of stitching.

When the line is finished, the knot is snipped off. 

Using a very small crochet hook, the loose thread left at the start is woven into the back of the work.

No Knot Method 2

In this method, the thread is passed through from back to front and a tail is left at the back. This is just a view of what's happening at the back of the work.

As the work progresses, this tail is trapped by the stitching at the back. So you make a stitch on the front, and then trap the tail as you bring the needle to the front again.

The result is the same as the first method as the tail has been woven in and trapped at the back.

No Knot Method 3

This method is used for making french knots without leaving two knots at the back of each one (the beginning and the end of the thread) or when you don't want to lay the thread against the back of the work running from stitch to stitch because it will show through, such as with lightweight fabric or very dark thread in a very light colored fabric.

Bring the needle to the back, leaving a tail a little ways away as in Method 2. Bring the needle up where the french knot will be and make a tiny stitch over one or two threads. Bring the needle back up....

...and make a second tiny stitch.

Now make a french knot directly over those tiny stitches.

On the back, insert the needle under the tiny stitching and pull through the loop made by the thread to secure it

Pull the tail end through and snip both threads to leave one french knot on the front with a secure knot at the back.

Ending Stitching Neatly

This is pretty much the same method you've been seeing. To avoid knotting the the thread at the end of the line of stitching, weave the remaining thread in and out of the stitches on the back of the work and then just trim the thread.

This is the end of a back stitched line. The first photo is the front; photos 2, 3, and 4 are the back view.



It's not called Embroidery "School" for nothing! 

This quiz will test your ability to distinguish between stitching with knots and without.

First is a bit of back stitch. 

And how about these french knots?

 In both samples, the top stitching has knots and the bottom one does not.

Which is precisely why I knot my threads and leave the extra work for stitchery that will be framed.

To knot or not? The answer is up to YOU.

If you have suddenly stumbled upon this post, you should know this is lesson three of Embroidery School. There's a lot more! For all the lessons, check out the tab at the top of the page or click here: Embroidery School.  Tomorrow, I'll be posting the links to the free downloadable sampler patterns you can use to learn and practice the 12 basic stitches you'll be learning here at Embroidery School.

1 comment:

  1. This is great! I had no idea how to avoid knotting, so it's really useful. :) Lisa