How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

There are two essential things a beginning embroiderer should learn first-hand: how to begin and end embroidery stitches.

Let's be honest, both of these topics are... tricky. There is quite a number of nuances that require attention. Ending hand embroidery thread might create some anxiety in the minds of stitchers. Did I secure it well enough? What if it comes loose?

Have you ever asked yourself those questions? I did. And it's normal. As easy as ending embroidery thread is, it still requires some guidance. So let's take a look at how you can end your embroidery stitches in an anxiety-free way.

Why ending embroidery thread is important to do in the correct way

The backside of hand embroidery is, in general, a matter that should be taken seriously. This is where we secure our thread in the beginning and end of our projects, so for the work to withstand the test of time, to not get disarranged and for stitches to not come loose, we need to ensure that the stitches are fastened properly. Hand embroidery is a hard work, we put a lot of effort and emotions into our projects, so to not end up with frustration, it's better to pay special attention to the backside.

However, we can't end embroidery thread mindlessly in any way we want, because it might affect the work when it will be finished and mounted. Will the dark threads show through the fine fabric? Will there be any bumps when you mount your piece? Even the most beautifully embroidered piece can be spoiled with these problems when is mounted.

That's why there are certain tricks, universal for any type of embroidery, which were developed with time by embroiderers all over the world. The legacy we should all treasure.

The two scenarios

First of all, we should remember that there are two main scenarios for finishing thread: when there are other stitches in proximity (when you embroider on a line or cover an area) and when you stitch isolated stitches. Let's look at these two cases separately.

Ending embroidery stitches in a covered area

After making the last stitch, insert the needle in the fabric and flip your hoop or frame to see the backside clearly.

How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

In the picture above you can see the backside of a line I worked in stem stitch. To secure the thread, run it underneath few previously made stitches. 2-3 will be enough.

How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

And then snip the thread off. If you look at it closely, it can remind you a whipped back stitch (which it basically is). In hand embroidery, this is called weaving thread, because it is moving in an S motion. 

If you are stitching not on a line, but filling a shape, the principle is the same: pull the needle under the few closest stitches, weaving between them (pull under one stitch, cover the second stitch, pull under the third stitch...).

Ending isolated embroidery stitches

One of the classical examples of isolated stitches are knots.

How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

Make a waste knot and leave it on top of the fabric at least 1 inch (2.5cm) away from the place where the french knot is going to reside. Then make an anchoring stitch, grabbing one thread of fabric.

How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

Now, make the french knot, flip the frame or hoop to the wrong side of the fabric and make another anchoring stitch. Then cut off the waste knot and snip the working thread.

How to end embroidery thread and not feel anxious about it

Be careful with grabbing fabric threads – make sure your final anchoring stitches are not visible on top of the fabric.

Remember these tips:

  • Finish your embroidery thread in time. Don't wait until the working thread tail gets too short, trying to squeeze as many stitches as possible out if it. Leave at least 4 inches (~10 cm) left – or any other length that allows you to manipulate thread and the needle FREELY. You don't need to feel sorry for the thread and try to save it, because it actually wears down after you pull it through the fabric many times, so the part which you cut off is already not that fresh - it's fine to say “bye-bye”.
  • There's no need to paint peculiar patterns by weaving your thread under multiple stitches, zigzagging here and there, making loops etc. To be honest, I was once like that, but later realized that these are only wasted efforts. You need only few weaving moves to secure your thread properly. Any extra zigzagging and other movements might actually distort your stitching.
  • Don't pull your thread too tight when you run it under the stitches. The stitches must sit on top of the fabric comfortably and cozy, so check the tension of thread to prevent puckering. But also don't make your thread too loose – it will make the last stitch in your project become ungainly.
  • When you are ending hand embroidery stitches, flip the hoop or frame so that you can see the backside clearly in front of you. 

There can be some mistakes in the beginning of your hand embroidery journey, but the more you stitch, the better you master this, undoubtedly, essential for any embroiderer art :) In the meanwhile, use these tips to finish your thread without unnecessary anxiety. And if there are any questions left, don't hesitate to ask them in the comments section below!