French knots are one of those embroidery stitches that can fill many makers with fear. They have a reputation for being fiddly and hard to master but I really love them. Sure, it can certainly take a little bit of practice before you get your technique down, but once you do, they’re such an easy way to add texture and extra visual interest to a piece. I’ve got a ‘How to do French Knots - Embroidery Tutorial for Beginners’ video here that will help get you on your way. You’ll soon realise they’re not so tricky after all! And while you practice, you can browse this list for inspiration. Hopefully it will get your creative mind buzzing over what to sew next.
1. Fluffy snakes
When I decided to write about French knot inspiration, @ffembroidery sprang to mind immediately. Embroidery artist and illustrator Patricia Larocque creates most of her incredible sew-on patches using only this stitch. Her signature makes come in the form of expressive faces that take influence from “horror films and the stranger-than-fiction stories of reality tv”, but I’m really loving these snakes that she’s been producing recently, too. Fluffy texture and snakes aren’t something you’d normally put together, but it works so well here!
2. Say it with Negative Space
French Knots might not be the first stitch you think of when it comes to lettering, but it can actually be pretty versatile. I’ve seen many examples in this negative space style and the result is always amazing. The technique of using the knots to create a concentrated block of colour that slowly diffuses out could work for many different words and font styles, and I’ve also seen it used for symbols like hearts, too.
3. Bold statement
Speaking of that text versatility, you could choose to go the other way and fill in the letters using French knots. I love the use of the gradient effect here to add some variation to the block of stitching. As with the negative space example, I think this style would work well with many different font types.
4. Intricate elephant
This colourful piece is one of my kits. I actually include French knots in all my beginner patterns as I think it’s one of the essential stitches to get to know as you learn and improve. I’m pretty sure this elephant has the most. I like how the knots fill the space with colour without being heavy – a delicate addition that has a pretty big impact on the final piece. If I’d filled those spaces with satin stitch, for example, it might have felt too much. If I’d left it empty, I think it would have been lacking something. The knots work to fill space with purpose!
5. Full on flowers
One type of creation that came up particularly often when I was looking for inspiration for this post were floral designs. They were all so beautiful and so different that it was hard to choose just one! There were trailing vines over window scenes, densely coloured and richly textured bouquets and plump little rose buds, but I finally settled for this cherry blossom tree in full bloom. One thing tied all of the designs together though – abundance. Each and every one showcased how brilliant a large number of French knots can be for stitching flowers.
6. Keep it simple
That said, sometimes less is more! I love the simplicity of the singular knots placed at the centre of these gorgeous little daisies. That pop of colour really brings the flowers to life in such an easy way. I always like to point out the versatility of embroidery beyond the hoop and this design seems particularly perfect for that – it could totally be used to personalise and embellish a denim jacket, for example.
7. Tactile toys
So, I mentioned above that I think embroidery can be great for personalising or upcycling clothing, but it can also be used with homewares or other textile projects. Here’s an example to prove my point! This cute creation uses French knots to create some surface texture for a child’s toy. It’s a super simple way to add a bit of extra tactile interest for curious little fingers! I’ve also seen lots of beautiful cushions that use the stitch, and I can also imagine it being put to great use on some curtains maybe?
8. Abstract art
My final example of a less traditional use of embroidery comes from mixed media artist Amy Kim Keeler. She embroiders onto cardboard to create really stunning works of art. When you look at this piece closely, it’s relatively simple in the fact that it’s made up of a series of knots in straight lines, but the gradient colouring and wave-like pattern immediately bring depth and movement. I feel like it really shows how there are so many possibilities open to us with embroidery.
9. Block colours
How fun is this colour sampler piece?! This is another perfect example of how the French knot stitch can be used to create really interesting and beautiful texture. It probably took a pretty long time to make, but I imagine the process must have been really meditative, taking each colour one at a time and really perfecting those knotting skills! Slow crafting projects like that can be so rewarding. This rainbow spectrum is great for anyone who loves a bit of bold colour, but you could also recreate the idea with a range of neutral tones, just blues or just greens, for example.
10. Starry starry sky
We’ve seen a few French knot flowers now, but you can also use this stitch for another of my fave nature inspirations – stars! When designing my Sunrise Embroidery kit, I knew immediately that these decorative little dots would be perfect for creating the magical sky. They’re ideal for when you want to do lots of small ones rather than bigger, ‘classic’ shaped stars.
Now you’ve seen the incredible results you can get using the French knot, I really hope you’ll give it a go, especially if you’re a beginner who finds the stitch a bit intimidating. It really is easy to master with a bit of practice, and it will totally level up your embroidery game!