Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Oh, those Knotty Stitches! 12 Knot Stitches, Terrific for Texture


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When you think “knots” in embroidery, does your mind automatically fly to the French knot? Or perhaps the colonial knot is more Your Knot Thing?

It seems that, when it comes to knots, French knot is the best known knot stitch, followed by colonial knot, which some stitchers prefer to the French knot.

But there are other knot stitches and knot-like stitches out there, and if you’re keen to add a lot of texture to your embroidery, you might try a few of them. They’re all super fun, and, with the linked tutorials, you’ll find it easy to add them to your stitching projects!

So, here they are – twelve knot stitches to add to your embroidery repertoire! Try them!

12 knot stitches for hand embroidery

For the sake of clarity, I’m dividing these knot stitches into two categories: isolated knot stitch and knotted line or band stitches.

Isolated Knot Stitches

Isolated knot stitches are stitches that create knots (of a sort) that can stand on their own as an isolated stitch.

But they can also be worked in bunches and clusters for areas of texture, most of them can be used as highly textured filling, or they can be strung out in lines to create highly textured, knotty lines.

The French Knot

Well, it’s no surprise to find the French knot on the list!

French knots are generally smaller knots, though you can vary the weight of them by using heavier thread or by adding more wraps on the needle. Normally, more than three wraps can become unwieldy, though, and knots made with more than three wraps can be displaced and loosened over time by laundering and use.

Here’s a list of tutorials and stitching ideas relating to the French Knot:

French Knot How-To Video tutorial

Working isolated French knots in two ways:
Isolated French knots – first method
Isolated French knots – second method

French knots as a line stitch – using French knots for lettering

Changing the size of French knots

French knots as filling on a monogram, worked on printed fabric.

The Colonial Knot

Pretty much anything you do with a French knot, you can do with a colonial. Some stitchers find the colonial knot easier to work than the French knot.

Here’s a video tutorial for the colonial knot, if you’d like to give it a try!

And here’s an article on the French knot vs. the colonial knot.

The Chinese Knot

The Chinese knot can be worked isolated or in lines, or in lines to fill an area. You can vary the length of the little “tail” on the knot, to create a perfectly round knot. You can also work the knot loosely, to increase the textural and visual aspect of it.

Here’s a video tutorial for the Chinese knot.

The Bullion Knot

The bullion knot creates more of a little “worm” or “slug” on your fabric, depending on how long you make it. Bullion knots can be used to create all kinds of textural and floral elements.

Beginning stitchers might be a little intimidated at first by the bullion knot, but once you get it, you’ll have it forever! It’s like riding a bike! With a little bit of practice, it’s worth conquering.

Here are some tutorials, tips, and ideas for bullion knots:

Bullion knot video tutorial
Needles: How to Choose Them & Use Them (with information on the milliner needle, best choice for bullions)
Bullion Stem Stitch Line
Buttonholed Bullion Buttonhole Wheels
Bullion knot flower petal
Bullion knot rose bud

Oyster Stitch

Technically, I don’t think oyster stitch falls in the “knot stitch” category, but, as isolated stitch that involves kind of pretzeling itself up, it tends to look like a nice, fat, flattish knot stitch. So I’m including it!

Here’s a video tutorial for oyster stitch.

And here’s a tutorial for oyster stitch on a line, worked as small flower buds.

Turk’s Head Knot

The Turk’s head knot stitch is a whopper of an isolated knot stitch! It’s the largest, roundest isolated knot stitch you could probably dream of working, and it is a little complex, but the results, if you’re trying to create a round, secure, interwoven isolated knot on your embroidery, are fantastic.

Here’s a step by step tutorial for the Turk’s head knot stitch.

Knotted Line & Band Stitches

There are many knotted line stitches and knotted band stitches (and knotted variations on other stitches) that work great for adding texture and interest to embroidery.

This is a list of my favorite knotted stitches that are worked on a line or in a band.

Palestrina Stitch

Palestrina stitch is my favorite all-around knotted line stitch. It’s easy and fun to work, and it works up quickly once you get into the rhythm of the stitch!

Here’s a video tutorial for Palestrina stitch.

This tutorial will show you how to work Palestrina stitch on the edge of anything, to create a decorative, knotted edge.

And of course, you can bead a Palestrina stitch line, for some extra sparkle.

Coral Stitch

Coral stitch is a line stitch (it can also be used as a filling) that involves tiny little knots along the line. It’s used a lot in Schwalm whitework. Sometimes, it might take a little practice to get the spacing right, but it’s an easy stitch!

Here’s a video tutorial for coral stitch, and that article will also show you different ways you can use coral stitch.

Scroll Stitch

Scroll stitch is similar to coral stitch, but the line produced is almost scalloped or wavy, depending on which way you work it. It’s a fun stitch for decorative frames around other needlework – and it works great, too, for textured, stylized waves (think: ocean).

Here’s a video tutorial for scroll stitch.

Knotted Pearl Stitch

Knotted pearl stitch is similar to Palestrina stitch, but reversed. It often involves arms, which you can work long or short, depending on the look you want. You can further embellish the arms, too, or use them as the foundation for other composite stitches.

Here’s a video tutorial for knotted pearl stitch.

Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch

An easy textured line stitch! The stitch isn’t so much “knotted” as it is wrapped, but it produces a line that is a bit bumpy, like a knotted stitch.

Here’s a video tutorial for Portuguese knotted stem stitch.

Knotted Diamond Stitch

Knotted diamond stitch is a decorative band stitch. It works great for borders, stitch sampler lines, and crazy quilt seam embellishments. It just begs for further embellishment, too, so it’s a fun stitch to play with!

You can find a video tutorial for knotted diamond stitch here.

Knotted Chain Stitch

This is just a variation of chain stitch, but it’s nice! Fun, easy to work, and plenty of room for further embellishment!

You’ll find a step-by-step photo tutorial for knotted chain stitch here, with ideas on how to embellish it.

Looking for More?

You can find heaps of stitch tutorials here on Needle ‘n Thread! You’ll find over 75 stitch videos here, and, under the Stitch Fun! index, you’ll find step-by-step photo tutorials for exciting variations, more obscure stitches, and just some fun fiddling with needle and thread.

Hope you enjoy them all!

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(8) Comments

  1. Mary, I feel the need to thank you for all the videos you do. I grew up learning the basic stitches, but since I have started embroidering again your videos have been an invaluable resource. Your instructions are clear and concise, and I have tried many new stitches since I found your website, even those that always intimidated me, like bullion knots. I now find them easy! Thank you so much for what you do.

  2. I love the lesser used knots! French is so easy to think of in a rush, but these other textured stitches deserve praise as well. Thank you!

  3. Wow! I never knew there were so many different knotted stitches. Great article and I am going to practice these new knots today.

  4. It’s easy to fall into a rut and just make the same old stitches over and over – thanks for giving us something different to try! I think the Turk’s Head knot would be fun to make as flower buds to distinguish them from leaf buds in fine growth, etc.

    Thanks for making these intricate stitches easy to do!

  5. My goodness! What a gem to find in my in-box this morning! I had no idea there were so many “knot” stitches! Thank you, Mary, for providing this gem of information, as well as video tutorials!! You are a blessing to me and others who enjoy embroidery!

  6. When I first began to embroider, the French Knot was my nemesis. I hadn’t even HEARD of the others yet. And so I practiced and practiced and became so proficient at it that I remember laying down in bed early in the morning and just doing French Knot after French Knot like they were nothing. (That is such a run-on sentence but Backspace is for cowards!, I insist on saying, even though I use it for typos, so many typos!, and to change what I wrote. But! I only change what I wrote for two reasons: word limits and if I think I will offend people.) So. Back to French Knots. You could say that I had them down. Then, at some point, I lost them. Completely and totally LOST the ability to make French Knots. I keep making little lines instead. I guess that I just haven’t been doing them for long enough that they fell out of my head. I got bored with them. I became transfixed with other stitches: that plaited braid one took a good long while, I used to rip fabric while trying to master bullion knots, and then I just did variations of the blanket stitch for awhile. I have no idea why. Thus, I have now found myself back at square one with French Knots. I hate square one. Square one, quite simply, is my least favorite square.

  7. This is wonderful. I love to watch these. I’m starting Sarah Braizear. HATS Sampler next week.

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