How To Start And Finish Your Embroidery Thread
First things first, before you dive into your embroidery project, I’d like to show you how you can start and finish your embroidery thread to secure it.
Traditionally using knots to start and finish your embroidery thread is a big no-no. And there are several reasons for this.
Firstly the knot can show through your embroidery when mounted or be visible when you use thinner fabric that might be somewhat see-through. Knots can also get undone, so there is a danger of your work getting undone as well.
When I still used knots at the back of my work, my biggest bugbear was that I often pulled through the loose ends of the knot when my needle caught the knot, and it was always fiddly to remove those thread ends from the front of my work.
So I leave it up to you whether you want to knot or not. In this brief tutorial, I will show two ways to secure your thread. The waste knot and the holding stitch.
I use the holding stitch most often as I do not have to worry about a thread running at the back of my fabric. You can use the holding knot for most embroidery stitches.
If you use the waste knot method, you will have a thread running at the back of the work. The idea is that you will cover it with stitches while working. But you will have to check the back of your embroidery to make sure you actually cover the thread.
At the end of the tutorial, I will also show you how you can end your work.
Start With A Holding Stitch
To begin the holding stitch, knot your thread.
Stitch 1 – Bring the needle down through the fabric from the surface to the back of the fabric. Leave the knot where it is.
TIP: When stitching a straight line, place the knot approximately 1cm away from where you will start your embroidery. If you work a shape that you cover with stitches, place your knot close to where you will start your work.
Stitch 2 – Now place a tiny stitch, not more than over one or two threads of your fabric and bring the needle up to the surface.
Stitch 3 – Move the needle slightly towards the base of your marked line (one or two threads of fabric) and bring the needle down to the back.
Repeat the above steps until you have made 3 or 4 tiny stitches.
Once you have completed your holding stitches you can cut of your holding knot with a sharp pair of embroidery scissors to get a clean cut.
TIP: Before you cut off the knot pull it very gently up. It will then be easier to cut the thread just beneath the knot.
Start With A Waste Knot
As mentioned, when using the waste knot method, you stitch over the beginning length of the thread at the back while working on your design. In the process, you secure your embroidery thread.
The waste knot works best when you use filling stitches that loop around the back. Examples included satin stitch, long and short stitch and cross-stitch. As you’re working, the thread loops around the waste knot thread. You can use outline stitches such as stem stitch and split stitch. But you will need to check the back of your work to make sure the waste knot thread is ‘caught’ by your working stitch.
To start knot your thread.
Stitch 1 – Bring the needle down to the back of the fabric, leaving the knot on the surface of the fabric.
Stitch 2 – Once you have placed the waste knot, bring the needle up to the surface where you want to start your embroidery. The distance between the waste knot and the beginning of your embroidery should be slightly larger than used for the holding stitch. I would use between 1 (0.4 in) and 1.5 cm (0.6 in). This leaves a 1 – 1.5 cm long strand of thread at the back of your work.
You can now start your embroidery with whatever stitch you have chosen. While you work your stitches, you cover the ‘waste’ thread on the back of your work.
Once you have covered the waste knot thread at the back of your work you can cut off the knot at the front. Check the back and see how long the thread is here. Trim it if it sticks out too much.
Finish Your Thread
I use two different methods depending on the design of my embroidery.
Reverse Holding Stitch
Provided I have further stitching to do and can hide my stitches, I reverse the holding stitch method as described above.
For straight line designs I stitch 3 – 4 tiny stitches ahead and cut off the thread at the surface. If I have a shape to fill next to my current stitch line, I place 3 – 4 tiny stitches in the adjacent area that I will cover with other stitches.
Weaving The Thread
If you have finished your work and the thread has nowhere to hide, bring the thread to the back of the embroidery and weave it under four or five existing stitches.
The above method is perfectly fine if you frame and/or hang your embroidery piece. But if the embroidery embellishes a utilitarian item such as a notebook, I would include a little slip knot at the end of your weave to secure the thread further.
To do so weave your needle under the first stitch but don’t pull the thread all the way through so you create a small loop. Thread your needle through the loop and tighten the loop. While you tighten the loop pull it slightly towards your previous weave to secure the loop.
To be on the safe side, I repeat this one more time. Then cut the thread and voila, you are done.
I hope you found these steps helpful.
I created a whole online class with the beginner in mind that covers everything you need to know to get you started with hand embroidery. Learn more about what is included in ‘Contemporary Hand Embroidery 101: Foundational Stitches and Techniques’.
If you have a question or comment leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
Are you ready to embroider! Take a look at the following simple embroidery stitch tutorials to get you started.
How to Stem Stitch – a step by step tutorial
I would love to learn how to do either of these but wonder if the thread would come unraveled on items that are washed a lot, such as dish towels?
Hi JoAnne, thanks so much for reading and sending through your question. If you are washing your items in the machine, make sure to add some additional stitches to secure your thread. For the holding stitch I would do at least 5 to 6 little holding stitches. Then when you stitch your design over the top of your holding stitches make sure to pierce some of them when you come through the fabric at least 2 or 3 times for added hold. For the away knot it depends how large your stitched area is. If you are stitching some solid shapes with tight stitches that are about 2 to 3cm (approx 1″) and cover the thread nicely it should be fine. But I would use the holding stitch over the away knot.
To secure the knot at the end weave the thread at least 5 or 6 times under existing stitches and do a couple of loops as described at the end.
Hope this helps.
very helpful tips thank you
Hi Maria, so pleased you found the post useful. Happy stitching!