Ways of starting (I)

As I was stitching one of the Guildhouse course models (the silk sampler) I got distracted into thinking about ways of starting a thread. Most instructions I have read over the years tend to say breezily "fasten on your thread" before moving swiftly on to the much more interesting matter of how to work the design or stitch. I will admit to doing so myself in Mabel’s chart packs, although in a good number of the stitch diagrams I do add something like "fasten on behind a Kloster block", and the diagram will show where; and of course in the Beginners’ Kits I specifically describe how and where to fasten on. But generally speaking, it is left to the stitcher to decide what method she or he will use.

And there are quite a few methods on offer, some with variations. You probably know several of them already, but I thought it might be helpful to have them all described. I’ve even produced some pictures! In fact I’ve produced rather a lot of pictures, so I’ll show the Waste Knot and the Away Knot today, and the Tail start and Loop start in the next post

The Waste and Away Knot methods are really two variations on a theme: both involve a knot that sits at the front of your work for a bit and is then snipped off and discarded. Several sites refer to the Away Knot as the Away Waste Knot, showing that they regard it as a type of waste knot. So what is the difference?

Let’s start with the waste knot. This is particularly useful if you are going to work a number of stitches in one direction. Tie a knot in the end of your thread and take the needle down the fabric a little way away from where you will start stitching (picture 1), making sure that you will be stitching in the direction of the knot. Work your stitches (picture 2 – I’m doing some fairly raggedy satin stitch). Picture 3 shows the back of the work, covering the thread. When you reach the knot, pull it up a little and snip it off. The cut end will disappear into the fabric, and you can continue stitching.

Fastening on with a waste knot (1) Fastening on with a waste knot (2) Fastening on with a waste knot (3)

But what it you’re stitching a few random French knots, or a stitch where there is very little thread at the back of the work so you would have to keep turning over your work to check that you are actually covering and anchoring the thread? Well, you could try an away knot. It starts in the same way, with a knot at the end of your thread – but this time you take the needle down about 4" / 10cm away from where you will start stitching, and in the opposite direction to where you will be going (picture 1). Start stitching; I worked a number of French knots. At the back of the work you can see where I travelled from French knot to French knot, and you can also see the thread stretching to my away knot (picture 2). Now snip the knot at the front of the fabric, turn the work over and thread the needle with the loose end. Take the needle under some of the stitches to secure the thread (picture 3).

Fastening on with an away knot (1) Fastening on with an away knot (2) Fastening on with an away knot (3)

One note of caution about the away knot – it is very easy to underestimate the length of thread you will need to be able to comfortably secure it later, and few things are more exasperating than threading a cut end that turns out to be too short to work with. 4" is really about as little as you can get away with! This does make it probably the most wasteful method of fastening on, and so it is unlikely to become anyone’s default method, but it’s a useful one to have in your repertoire.