French Knots are a super fun and versatile basic stitch to know. They can be used in isolation or as a fill stitch or in a row to create an outline.
I have been teaching people how to make French Knots for almost two years and this is the stitch that, for some reason, gives people the most anxiety. I ended up calling it “french knot baggage” as a way to lighten the feelings around learning and re-learning this basic hand embroidery stitch.
Recently, I wanted to expand my own stitching knowledge and learn more about the Colonial Knot also known as the Candlewicking Knot. The two obviously have similarities, but the way they are worked is different.
In this post I will give a brief overview of these stitches as well as a little lesson in needle choice.
First, a short history lesson. Cause that’s how I do!
I wanted to know why the Colonial Knot was also referred to as the Candlewicking Knot. This knot did originate during the Colonial Period of the American past (the French Knot was around then too). It was often used as a decorative element to quilt blocks and whole bed spreads.
(An interesting fact: the Candlewicking style was the basis of what we know as Chenille. Catherine Evans of Dalton, Ga brought Tufted bedspreads to popularity in the 1930s. Tufting uses yarn to make the knots rather than candle wicks, thus creating a pom of yarn.)
Now the Candlewicking part: these same Colonial women or even women that are on the journey to move their homes and families Westward didn’t have a whole lot of resources to create extravagant embroidered motifs. But what they did have was cotton candle wicks that could be used as thread on unbleached muslin that was easy to come by. Once the stitching was complete, the finished piece was washed in hot water, causing the muslin to shrink and the cotton wicking “thread” to puff and stand out from the fabric.
(I referenced this article from Kennesaw State University, published in 2005. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/chenille-bedspreads )
I love the simplicity of historic candlewicking designs. Embroidery without loads of color is refreshing and so versatile for home decor. I suppose Ms. Evans agreed with me.
I have a BA in History from a women’s college, these were once my subjects for term papers. Thanks for indulging me.
Back to the French Knot vs Colonial Knot.
You will notice in the image above that the Colonial Knot is only one size and the French Knots vary. For both sets of knots, I used two strands of cotton floss. A no.8 Pearl Cotton would give the same effect.
This is because the Colonial Knot is worked by creating a figure eight with your thread around the needle and the French Knot is worked by wrapping the thread around the needle. In the French knot, the more times you wrap the thread, the bigger your knot. In the image above, the top knot is wrapped once and I worked up to five wraps in the bottom knot.
Next up in talking about creating knots is needles. If you are new-ish to embroidery you may have picked up a package of embroidery needles and wondered why there were so many different kinds. It’s kind of maddening and intimidating if you don’t know what you are looking for in a needle.
The best needle for making any type of embroidered knot is the Milner needle. This is the needle on the left in the image above. You will notice that the Milner needle has a smaller eye that keeps the same width of the shaft of the needle. This makes it SO much easier to pull your working thread through the knot you’ve just made. Milner needles come in different sizes, just like a regular embroidery needle.
I hope that you feel like you’ve learned a little something from this post.
Please stop by again next week for more detailed tutorials on the mechanics of each stitch and a vintage candlewicking pattern ready for you to print and stitch!