What is a French Knot?

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

The French knot is a stitching technique used in a variety of embroidery crafts, such as counted cross stitch. Typically, a single French knot is used to accent or embellish embroidered elements, such as dotting a letter of the alphabet, or to add an eye to an embroidered figure. Sometimes, the French knot is duplicated in a series to create a decorative edging or in lines to form the outline of an object, such as a flower. French knots also commonly serve as connecting loops in the open sections of needle lace.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

By definition, a knotted stitch of any type simply means that the thread is pulled through the embroidered material and then knotted around itself. Here are the basic steps to making a French knot:

1. Using a threaded needle, push the needle through the back of the fabric and pull it through to the front.
2. Wrap the thread around the needle three or four times, holding the thread taut.
3. Position the needle immediately next to the point where it came through the fabric the first time. Then push the needle back into the fabric, again keeping the wrapped thread taut.
4. Finally, pull the needle through the knot to complete the French Knot.

The French knot is known by several other names, including wound stitch, French dot and twisted knot stitch. The types of yarn or thread that can be used to make French knots are just as varied. In fact, it’s possible to create different effects and considerable contrast in the same design by using different sized thread. The thicker the thread, then the larger the French knot will be.

Learning how to make a French knot may take a bit of practice at first. In fact, it’s a good idea to work on a piece of scrap fabric before applying the technique to a sample that is to become a finished piece. Also, many people find it helpful to use a loop to secure the fabric and hold it tight when making French knots.

Although the arrival of the embroidery machine in 1828 meant that embroidered items could be quickly produced on a commercial scale, embroidery is a craft that is still performed by hand today. For that matter, it is considered an art form to be taught to and passed from one generation to the next in many parts of the world. Among other stitching techniques, the French knot is often one of the first learned by new students.

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Contributing articles to wiseGEEK is just one of Karyn’s many professional endeavors. She is also a magazine writer and columnist, mainly for health-related publications, as well as the author of four books. Karyn lives in New York’s Catskill Mountain region and specializes in topics about green living and botanical medicine.

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Discussion Comments


@Azuza - Interesting. I'll remember this if I ever take up sewing.

I've never actually done a french knot myself. However, this article reminds me of a time I was supposed to, and did not!

When I was younger, I cross stitched a few things. When I was 12, I decided to make my mom something for her birthday. She is a pretty creative lady, so she appreciates stuff like this. Also, she gardens. So I chose a cross stitch piece with a pot of flowers and a gardening can.

French knots were a pretty integral design feature for this cross stitch project. So of course I forgot to do them! Yep, I completed my project and gave it to my mom for her birthday without the french knots. By the time I noticed what I had done, she had had the piece framed and hung it up on the wall!

We decided to just leave it as-is. She still has it hanging up, and whenever I go to her house and see it I think, "Those darn french knots!"


@OeKc05 - When my mom taught me to sew, she actually taught me to use french knots. I've always thought that was the way everyone did it!

Anyway, I always use a french knot to knot the end of the thread after I thread the needle. Then when I come to the end of whatever I'm sewing, I make a french knot against the fabric. I cut off the thread right above the french knot.

This method has always worked well for me. And like I said, I never knew there was another way!


Wow, a French knot sounds like it would be a great way to secure what you have just sewn! I know that it is usually used for decorative purposes, but what I just read here makes it sound like it would be a great alternative to what I have been doing to hold what I have just hemmed in place.

When I finish hemming a garment or sewing a loose button back on, I always just tie a knot in the thread and cut it off. This is simple enough, but it doesn't always hold. I think a French knot would hold a lot better, because you wrap the thread several times before pulling it back through the hole.

Next time I have to sew anything, I am going to attempt a French knot to lock in my needlework. If it works, I will use this method every time.


My grandmother actually showed me how to do a French knot and it is surprisingly difficult to get the hang of. I think with French knot needlepoint you really need to take the time to practice the technique before you start in on an actual project.

I made the mistake of thinking I could easily copy my grandmother just after watching her once. I ended up having to pull out an entire section of failed French knot stitching because it just didn't look right.

I am a lot better at French knots now, but I still remember that first lesson. Never use a French knot on a project before you have perfected it.


This is great, I have been looking at how to make a French knot in embroidery. I just started doing embroidery crafts a few months ago and have gotten bored with simple stitches, so I am looking to mix it up a bit and find something with a different look.

Right now I am trying to add some detail to the outside of a flower and it seems like the French knot is the best way to go. I am not sure why but watching videos of how to do French knots just didn't help me as much as reading a set of simple instructions. I guess I am just not a visual person.

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