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How to Stitch a French Knot – video

How to Stitch a French Knot -  hand embroidery video tutorial

Oooh la la! French knots – so very fancy – and so very frustrating. When you don’t know the trick to them, that is.

For years I had a love/hate relationship with them. I loved the effect – there’s nothing quite like it for teeny polkadots and nubbly texture. But I hated their unpredictability. Sometimes they worked, but most of the time they didn’t. Every time I stitched one I held my breath to see if it would hold. If it did, I did a little happy dance. If it didn’t. . . well, let’s just say there was swearing while I picked out the bad stitch and rethreaded my needle.

For a long time I thought it was just a French knot thing. They have a reputation for being tricky. But then one day I had an epiphany. I realized the problem wasn’t the French knot – it was me. I blame it on my inability to read those cryptic stitch diagrams. You know – the ones with NO ACCOMPANYING TEXT to tell you about things to be careful of/look out for. All this time I simply had my needle pointed the wrong way during the thread-wrapping part of the knot. That’s it! Once I figured it out I was set and I haven’t had a failed French knot since.

Right now some of you are probably laughing at me because you’ve been successfully doing French knots since you were a kid. But I guarantee that some of you have a certain light in your eyes and you’re staring at the screen thinking, “Is it really that simple? Is that really what I’ve been doing wrong all this time?” And you’re itching to grab a hoop and see if it really works. I know this because that’s been the response in every class I’ve ever taught. Go grab your hoop, my friends. Watch the video. You’ll see. And you will LOVE French knots. There’s nothing else quite like them.

Want some practice?

There are a few French knots decorating this pretty bird.

Tweet - a free bird embroidery pattern

Click here for that free embroidery pattern.

And here’s a totally insane practice project.

Daisy the Misfit embroidery pattern
Daisy the Misfit

Yep – those flowers pants are all French knots. She’s from the Misfits monster embroidery pattern.

Here are my lessons for the four most basic embroidery stitches I recommend for beginners.

Return to the Learn to Embroider main Table of Contents.

Move on to the lessons teaching other options for outline stitches.


  1. Brilliant!!! Thank you so much! I swear I told my mom the other day how much I hate french knots! Not anymore!! πŸ™‚

  2. I hope the video helped! I went from dreading them to looking for ways to add a scattering of them anywhere I could squeeze a few in. πŸ™‚

    • Delores Bruyette SAYS...

      THANK YOU ,THANK YOU , AND THANK YOU I fought with punches trying to do French Knots. Can you believe it was the way the needle was pointed. I am very serious I tried for years and became very upset. Thank You you sweet lady. I am so Happy I can now put a French Knot for the eye ball in my Warren Bear. wonderful. they look so cute when you know what your doing.

  3. Lisa SAYS...

    For embroidering my thing is I don’t know when to double up, or the recommended length of the thread or how many strands of thread – I guess that would be things eh!

  4. Lisa,

    Sorry – I’m not sure what you mean by “doubling up.” But I can try to answer your other questions. . .

    Conventional wisdom says to cut your thread the length of your forearm and no longer. That will help keep it from twisting and knotting, and also keep it fraying from being pulled through the fabric too many times. I’ll admit I often cut my thread longer. I’m lazy.

    How many strands of thread depends on how thick you want your stitching line to be. Make a guess, try it, and be willing to pick the stitches out and start over after an inch or so if it seems too thick or thin. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get a look you’re happpy with.

  5. WONDERFUL tutorial! I’ve been doing french knots totally wrong…they look ok but never had that lovely swirl to them, now I know why! thank you so much!

  6. Val – I’m glad it was helpful!

  7. WestCoastGirl SAYS...

    Perfect – brilliant – thank you so much!

  8. Wendi, I think you have taught me more in that wee video than I ever have from another other French knot diagrams!

    Thank you so SO much, I totally ‘get’ them now, I am tempted to start a French knot only project now!

  9. I struggled with those diagrams too! I’ve had requests for a poodle pattern and I’m thinking of doing it all in French knots. . .

  10. Dear Wendi –
    I shed a few tears of happiness at this video. I have been so frustrated with french knots that I avoided them like the plague. THANK YOU! Your site has been a wonderful resource for me as I learn to both embroider and sew clothes. Smiles, Aileen

    • I’m so happy I was able to help! πŸ™‚

  11. Anonymous SAYS...

    You are a genius! Why don’t most French knots instructions tell you which way to point the needle?!?! Argh!

  12. Natalija SAYS...

    Dear Wendi, your knots are gorgeous. And I hope my knots will be as pretty. Thank you so much!

  13. Anonymous SAYS...

    Like other commenters have noted, it was your explanation that the needle needs to point away from the fabric that led to me finally being able to do a French knot. Thank you. Your excellent video has made my day.

  14. Anonymous SAYS...

    Thank you for your video – I am about to create a snow scene for my embroidery project and was feeling intimidated by the french knot. Now I’m ready to “let it snow”! Great tutorial.

  15. Dianne SAYS...

    love this video now I will do french knots thanks so much

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! French knots really are my favorite stitch. πŸ™‚

  16. Hi Wendi,
    After watching a few of your videos, I am wondering what the fabric is that is in your demonstration hoops. It looks creamy white with a slight surface texture to it? Is it cotton? I am really enjoying your videos. I think that the special thing about your teaching is that you are not just showing stitches; you are offering advice, suggestions as to how to use the stitches, tips that you have discovered – so much that other tutorials don’t provide. These are not only clear and interesting but I really learn from them. I’m delighted. Thanks so much.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I usually use unbleached muslin – inexpensive and it’s easy to see the stitching on it. If I’m stitching on a solid colored fabric there’s a good chance it’s cotton twill.

  17. Amy Samin SAYS...

    MIND BLOWN! Thank you sooooo much!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Once I figured this out I totally fell in love with French knots. πŸ™‚

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  19. Janell SAYS...

    Thanks Wendi!, I am working on your valentines heart kit and I just watched your french knot video, I have always struggled with these until I saw your trick, wrap away from the fabric, not pointing down, yeah I can finally make one! Thanks again!

    • I’m so happy to help! French knots have gone from my most-dreaded stitch to my most-favorite. πŸ™‚

  20. Mcaiko SAYS...

    I did it!!! I made a French Knot!!
    Your video was so clear and easy to follow. Thank you so much because I have had a hard time following written instructions.

    • Yay! I’m glad the video was helpful – that’s how I learn best too. πŸ™‚

  21. I love your tutorials! You are always so clear and answer so many questions I have! I hope you don’t mind, I am sending my followers to your blog for this tutorial! I think it is incredibly helpful!

      • Vero SAYS...

        Tan simple, tan brillante… Β‘Gracias!

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  23. Hannah SAYS...

    Where is the video? I dot not see it anywhere.

    • Just scroll down. It’s embedded near the bottom of the post.

      • Hannah SAYS...

        Still not finding it. There is a place that looks like there should be a video there, but it is just white space. If you wouldn’t mind simply posting the link here, that would be great. Thanks.

  24. Lyssa SAYS...

    Thank you! My mother tried teaching me French knots when i first started cross stitching. I never got the hang of it. I have fought with them, even avoiding patterns with knots, (I’ve even used beads…) but this finally worked! I had the wrong direction the whole time. My current project looks great with them instead of beads! Thank you again.

  25. Neima Linares SAYS...

    Maravilloso! Muchas gracias, no sabe cuantos hice malos!

  26. Asha Babaleshwar SAYS...

    Thank you so much mam ur awesome 😍

  27. Melva Magee SAYS...

    I have been doing French Knots wrong all these years. Thanks so much.

  28. Anonymous SAYS...

    awesome very easy to follow! thankyou!!! done about 40 now!

  29. Barbara SAYS...

    AHA! Thanks.

  30. Cyndee Hinrichs SAYS...

    I used to embroider back in the day. So I’m making a Teddy bear for my first upcoming grandchild. I tried it give him pupils but my french not were not behaving. Thank you for your very helpful and enchanting tutorial. He can see!

  31. Kathryn SAYS...

    Thanks so much Wendy!
    I had almost finished one of my embroidery pieces and I wanted to put a couple French boys on it, I watched a different video and they didn’t mention putting the needle to opposite direction, I tried it that way and each time it either went through or made a giant messy tangle of a knot, it almost ruined my piece but I managed to save it, I’ll try it (maybe on a different piece of fabric first) and we’ll see how it goes

  32. Eveline SAYS...

    Thanks! I finally got it.
    Wish I could post a picture of my knots before I saw your video and after πŸ™‚
    Many thanks from the Netherlands!

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  34. Jennifer SAYS...

    Omg!!! Thank you so much. It was so tricky before but it is actually simple.

    • Maggie Gibbs SAYS...

      Yes! Thank you so much.

  35. Sharon SAYS...

    I followed the instructions for a French knot from two embroidery books and some online instructions. It wasn’t until your video and instructions to β€œturn the needle away” that I was successful. I wasted so much time! Thank you.

  36. jennifer SAYS...

    Thank you!!! you knew exactly what i needed to know somehow and explained it simply and concisely – you are AWESOME

  37. Lisa Patton SAYS...

    Arghhhhhhh! You have solved the mystery for me! Thank you!

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