/ / How To Start And Finish Your Embroidery Thread

How To Start And Finish Your Embroidery Thread

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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.

securing your embroidery thread with a holding stitch

Traditionally using knots to start and finish your embroidery thread is a big no-no, as the knot can show through on finer fabric. It is also not as neat as other methods. I leave it up to you whether you want to knot or not. But if you would like to follow tradition I will show two ways you can use 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 work 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.

securing your embroidery thread with a holding stitch

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.

securing your embroidery thread with a holding stitch

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.

securing your embroidery thread with a holding stitch

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.

how to secure your embroidery thread with a holding stitch

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 thread at the back, while working your design. In the process you secure your 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.

how to secure your thread with a waste knot

Stitch 1 – Bring the needle down to the back of the fabric, leaving the knot on the surface of the fabric.

How to secure your embroidery thread with a waste knot.

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.

How to secure your embroidery thread with a waste knot.

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

finishing your embroidery 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.

How to secure your embroidery thread once you have finished your embroidery thread.

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!

Happy Stitching!

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

How to Split Stitch – a step by step tutorial

A step by step tutorial how to start and finish your embroidery thread. Including the holding stitch and waste knot method.

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2 Comments

  1. 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?

    1. 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.
      Happy Stitching!

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