The other day, I mentioned that one of the most annoying things to me when embroidering is turning my work over after a nice, diligent embroidery session, and finding, in the middle of an expanse of stitching, a sneaky little slip knot. For some reason, they really irritate me! But they aren’t that difficult to repair – I’ll show you how I do it.
Slip knots generally form on the back of needlework when the working thread has become over-twisted during stitching. One way to help avoid slip knots is to drop your needle and thread straight down towards the floor every now and then, allowing the thread to hang until it untwists itself. Still, even if you do this fairly regularly, you are bound to encounter the slip knot at some point in your stitching career. We all do. It’s inevitable.
To remain sane despite these irritating little intruders, the trick is to know how to deal with them.
Here’s the slip knot in all its sneaky little glory. Right smack in the middle of a whole length of stitching, it quietly meandered in and took hold.
In some types of embroidery, a tiny slip knot here and there may not be a big cause for concern – especially in framed pieces that won’t be handled much, as long as the slip knot has not caused an unsightly bulge, it can probably just be left there. Without regular jostling, laundering, and so forth, it is unlikely that it will loosen and cause any problems.
But on this particular piece, there is the danger of the slip knot loosening in laundering and regular handling. Also, because the embroidery will be stretched tight over a thin piece of mat board, it is likely that, over time, as the fabric becomes softer with use and washing, the knot may be visible from the front. Under these circumstances, I think it’s important to go through the effort to get rid of it.
The first thing I did was insert my needle eye-first into the base of the knot, to loosen it and undo it. A slip knot will just “slip” back over the loop and undo itself, most of the time.
Then, using the needle, I pulled the loop out as far as I could from the fabric, to see how much thread was available. This is when I discovered that part of the knot had actually been stitched through, so I couldn’t really just “slip” it off.
It was obvious that I would definitely have to cut the thread. I pulled the loop as far out from the fabric as the thread would allow, and cut the farthest distance away, so that I would have as much thread as possible on each side of the cut.
Now, had the knot just slipped over the loop, I wouldn’t have cut the thread – I would have have simply continued on to anchoring the loose thread, without cutting.
Once the thread was cut, though, I could dislodge the stitched part of the knot. I was left with two tails of thread – short tails that could not be conveniently re-woven.
As much as I possible, I want to keep the bulk down on the back of this piece. So I threaded a needle with one strand of regular DMC floss, which I used to secure the tails. The single strand of DMC floss is much finer than the #20 coton a broder that I’m working with.
Folding the first tail on the left back to the left on top of the stitching already there, I whipped over it with the smaller thread.
Continuing along the line of stitches, I whipped over the other tail on the right, which I folded to the right on top of the stitches. The whole bit is looking a little messy at this point!
Then, I wove the smaller thread (the one strand of DMC) back under the stitches, pulling snuggly to tighten up the line on the back and pull all the stray bulk in.
There! The line is much neater, the knot is gone – I don’t have to worry about the tails coming loose or about any little bump becoming visible on the front over time! And it really took very little time or trouble to accomplish the clean-up job. In fact, it took me a lot longer to explain how I fixed it than to actually do it!
If you notice that a slip knot has formed on the back of your work and you’re still within a stitch or two of it, just take out the stitches and remove the knot! You’ll be glad you did, even if it is a pain in the neck at the time. Another big problem with slip knots is that the loop of thread can get caught up in other threads as you work, causing an unsightly mess on the back of your work! So, if one sneaks in and you are still relatively close to it while working with the same thread, backtrack and remove it!
To avoid slip knots as you stitch, pay attention to your thread. If you pull through and you notice that your previous stitch doesn’t show any sign of tension, chances are your thread is caught up on the back. Also, the more you stitch, the more aware you are of your thread length. If your thread seems suddenly to be much shorter, chances are you’ve got a knot!
How do you deal with these types of knots, discovered after you’ve finished a bunch of stitching? Do you just leave them there? Do you whip over them with another thread, leaving the knot in place (I do that, if the thread I’m stitching with is very fine!)? In short, how do you deal with unsuspected knots on the back of your work? Do share your tips and tricks with the rest of us!