4 essential stitches that add dimension to your embroidery

Yesterday on QUILTsocial I showed you 3 great embroidery stitches you can use to fill in areas like leaves or flower petals. To make these fill-in stitches, we used different types of DMC Embroidery Flosses, a couple of different weights of DMC Perle Cottons and Clover Chenille Needles. I also showed you how easy it is to use the Clover Embroidery Threader, which is a neat little tool with a flat tip that makes for smooth threading even when used with thick threads.

An assortment of hand embroidery needles

Today, we put away the chenille needles and get out a pack of assorted Clover Milliners Needles. Milliner’s needles are sometimes referred to as straw needles and were traditionally used for hat making. They are long, thin, and sharp and there is little difference in width between the shaft of the needle and the area of the eye. This makes them exceptionally good for using when doing stitches that are wound around the needle.

Stitch 1 – French knot

The first stitch, the French knot, is a very useful little stitch. I’ve done French knots for a long time but was never very happy with how they turned out until I started using a milliner’s needle to do them. Use the smallest milliner’s needle that your thread will go through. For a size 8 DMC perle cotton, you probably need a size 3 milliner’s needle. The size of your thread and the number of wraps on the needle determines the size of your finished French knot.

Bring your needle and thread to the front of your fabric, twist the needle around the thread 2 or 3 times, and then insert the needle tip back into the fabric 1 or 2 threads away from where the thread first came out of the fabric. Push the wraps down to the fabric with your non-dominant hand and pull the needle through to the back of the fabric.

A French knot diagram

I used a bunch of French knots stitched close together to make the center of my purple flower.

French knots stitched close together make the center of the purple flower

Stitch 2 – Pistil stitch

The pistil stitch is basically a variation on the French knot. It’s an interesting looking stitch that you can use for things like the middle of a flower. The motions used to make a pistil stitch are almost the same as the French knot. First bring your needle and thread to the front of your fabric, and then twist the needle around the thread 2 times. Now insert the needle tip back into the fabric, a little distance away from where the thread first came out of the fabric, holding the ‘tail’ of the stitch taut against the fabric. Push the wraps down to the fabric with your non-dominant hand and pull the needle through to the back of the fabric holding the knot with your non-dominant hand the entire time.

This stitch works best if your fabric is held taut in an embroidery hoop like my 6” Unique Craft Plastic Embroidery Hoop . It’s a nice size to hold in your hand and it keeps the Charles Craft Monaco Needlework Fabric nice and secure while stitching.

A pistil stitch diagram

I used the pistil stitch to make a dandelion-type flower with three strands of the DMC #617 Mouline Etoile Floss – Blanc which gives the flower embroidery a little dazzle!

Pistil stitches created with DMC Mouline Etoile floss

Stitch 3 – Bullion knot

Before last summer, I had never even heard of the bullion knot, but it’s quickly become my new favorite! It’s such a versatile stitch that you can use to outline shapes, make petals on a flower, create bullion roses, and even turn into bugs like bumble bees, ladybugs and inchworms!

I find it easier to do this stitch using a twisted thread like perle cotton instead of stranded threads like embroidery floss.

Bring the thread from the back of the fabric, insert the needle tip a short distance away, and bring the tip up close to where the thread comes out of the fabric. The distance between these two points is the size of the stitch.

Wrap the thread around the needle tip 4 or 5 times (the more you practice this stitch the better you’ll get and the more wraps you can do to make longer stitches). Make sure you don’t cross the wraps on the needle, and that the coil of wraps on the needle are the same width as the distance between where the needle enters and emerges from the fabric.

Gently pull the thread through, holding the coil of thread between your first finger and thumb on your non-dominant hand. Make sure to keep hold of the coil as you pull the needle and working thread up and away from you. As the coil tightens, change direction and pull the thread towards you. Once the thread is all the way through, insert the tip of the needle back into the point where it first emerged, and your bullion knot should lie flat against the fabric.

A bullion stitch diagram

If you want your bullion knots to have more dimension, all you do is wrap the needle with more wraps than will fit in the distance between where the needle goes into and comes out of the fabric. This is what I did to make the petals on this flower. I did about 12 wraps on the needle using the DMC Perle Cotton but only had a small space between where the needle goes into and comes out of the fabric. This causes the knot to bow outward in a curve instead of lying flat against the fabric.

The center of this flower is stitched with a blanket stitch worked in a circle instead of a line.

Bullion knots create the petals of a circular flower

Stitch 4 – Double cast on stitch

By grouping together 3 to 8 double cast stitches together, you can make beautiful flowers with lots of dimension. You can also do a row of these stitches in a zigzag formation across your fabric to give your piece amazing texture.

This is one of the few embroidery stitches that you create working with a double thread, so the first thing you do is thread your milliner’s needle with DMC Perle Cotton, and then knot the two ends of the thread together. Now bring your needle to the front of your work. Take a ¼” backstitch and bring the needle point close to the emerging thread. Leave the needle in your fabric and separate the two sides of the thread, and then place them behind your needle.

Take your left hand and make a loop in the left side thread by twisting the thread like shown in the diagram. Pull the knot down to the base of the needle until it is taut. Now take the right-hand thread in your right hand and twist it to make a loop and slide it onto the needle tip. Pull on the free thread until the loop goes to the bottom of the needle and is taut. Keep repeating left and then right until the length of the stitches on your needle is the same length as the backstitch.

Now hold on to the stitches with your right thumb and forefinger and pull the needle all the way through with your right hand. Pull the needle with the free thread towards you and then put your needle through the fabric to the back at the base of your stitch.

A double cast on stitch diagram

I used six of these double cast on stitches to make each of my four pink flowers with size 3 DMC Perle Cotton #3689 and a size 1 milliner’s needle. I made a French knot in the center of each flower with size 3 DMC Perle Cotton #3328.

Six double cast on stitches create the petals of a flower

Watch my video on how to make these four stitches

I bet your head is just swimming with all the possible ways you can include these stitches in your embroidery designs using Clover Gold Eye Milliners Needles! Take some time to practice these stitches – you’ll be so glad you did. And use them to embroider a few of the flowers on your needle roll. Tomorrow we’ll look at the last group of embroidery stitches that will make this project bloom!

This is part 4 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 3: 3 key embroidery filling stitches for your embroidery designs

Go to part 5: 3 ways to make simple embroidery stitches extraordinary

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