One of the most frequently asked questions I receive via e-mail is “How do I begin my embroidery thread without using a knot?” Way back when Needle ‘n Thread first started, I wrote a post (with a really corny title) about waste knots. But sometimes, it’s better to see it in pictures, so…
I worked up a series of photo tutorials on starting threads when you embroider. There are several ways to begin your embroidery thread, and I’ll be covering my favorite ways with these tutorials over the next week or so. I’ll also categorize them in an easy-to-find index.
The Waste Knot
We’ll start with the easiest one (in my opinion…), the waste knot, which is great to use when you’re stitching along a line. It’s very convenient to use when you’re beginning a thread that is not adjacent to any other embroidery stitches, although I sometimes like to use a waste knot even if I am adjacent to other stitches, too.
You begin on the front of your fabric, and yes, you do use a knot! Put a small knot at the end of your thread. Then, with the top of your work facing up, take your needle down into your fabric about an inch or so down the line from where you will begin stitching.
You want to head towards the waste not as you stitch. I’m going to use a stem stitch here.
Take your first stitch forward, then turn your work over:
I’m turning the work over here, so you can see the back. Usually, when I use a waste knot, I don’t turn the work over. I use a finger to move the thread on the back up and down, to make sure I’m crossing over it. Once you get used to the whole concept of a waste knot, you’ll also get used to manipulating the thread on the back up and down, so that you don’t have to turn your work over.
Each time you come up to the front of your work from the back, you want to cross over that thread that’s lying across the back of the line you’re stitching, so that you are, in a sense, couching that thread down.
Alternately, some stitchers like to pierce through the line of thread on the back, rather than cross over it, stitching through the back thread down the line. I don’t really like doing that, especially if I’m using a thread that has any “fuzz” to it, because the fuzz can pull back up with your stitching. Also, I think on some threads, splitting the thread tends to weaken it or fray it, which would make this whole concept somewhat useless!
On the front of the work, you want to stitch up to the knot, checking the back to make sure that you’re crossing the thread (or using your finger on the back of your work to move the thread up and down so you can cross over it).
When you’re within a stitch of the knot, pull up on the tail of the thread to lift the knot off the fabric, then snip the thread right under the knot, close to the fabric.
On the back of the work, you will have a neatly couched line, and your thread is now secured without leaving a knot in your work. Simple, isn’t it?
Pros of the Waste Knot
1. It’s very easy to use for straight lines and gentle curves, and it works great for surface embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch, and other counted techniques.
2. It conserves thread, compared to some other ways of starting threads. At the most, you lose around an inch and a half of thread in the anchoring process and in the knot.
3. Once you get used to it, you can manage a waste knot solely from the front of the fabric, which is convenient.
4. It’s a great way to start a new thread when you’re not working adjacent to any other embroidery stitches (or even if you are, if you want).
Cons of the Waste Knot
1. To work it efficiently, you need to get used to it. Until you can manipulate your thread without turning your work over, it’ll take time and it’ll be a bit of a pain to have to turn your work over to make sure you’re stitching over the back thread.
2. There are other ways of starting your threads that do not use as much thread as the waste knot.
If you’ve never used a waste knot, go ahead and try it out! Let me know what you think!