Starting And Ending A Needlepoint Thread

There are a few techniques stitchers use to start and end a thread in needlepoint. You will likely need to know a couple of these to make sure you have your threads secured in any stitching situation.

1. Bury the Thread.

The most common way to secure a needlepoint thread is to bury it under adjacent stitches. If there are stitches nearby on your canvas, and they provide good coverage e.g. tent stitches, then start by sliding your needle under three or four of these stitches and come up where you want to start your first stitch.

No stitches nearby? Then you might want to consider...

2. A Waste Knot.

This is where a knot is placed on the top (right side) of the canvas at least an inch from where you will place your first stitch. The tail eventually gets covered with stitches and the knot is snipped off after the tail is buried. There is more information on how to create a waste knot here.

needlepoint waste knot

3. An Away Knot.

The only difference between a waste knot and an away knot is where the knot is placed. An away knot is placed in the direction you will not be stitching toward. You might use an away knot if the stitch you are using doesn't have good canvas coverage - so the tail is likely to show through – therefore you place the knot AWAY, in an area that you will ultimately cover with a tent or well-covering stitch.

This is an Away Knot, used because there were no tent stitches under which to bury the thread and the stitches being used are long stitches - these are not secure enough to bury a thread under. The dragged thread, indicated by the arrow, will eventually be covered up with tent or other secure stitches.

4. L-Stitch.

An L-Stitch is another great choice for starting a thread when you plan on using long, diagonal or oblique stitches e.g. Cashmere, Scotch etc. You might choose to use an L-Stitch when there are no secure stitches nearby to bury the thread under.

With an L-Stitch you make a small L on the canvas ....

needlepoint L stitch
and then cover it up with whatever stitch you're using...

l stitch needlepoint

These are all good ways to anchor a needlepoint thread. What about ending a thread?

If the stitches are secure then you just slide the needle three or four nearby stitches. To keep the stitch tension on the front even you should pay attention to the direction you slide the needle. If you are stitching a Basketweave Stitch, which has horizontal and vertical threads on the back, slide your needle diagonally under these threads as this will provide the least distortion on them. Conversely with a Continental Stitch that has a diagonal thread pattern on the back, slide your needle horizontally or vertically.

A useful way to secure the end of a thread when you are stitching long stitches is a Bargello Tuck.

Bargello Tuck

If you are using stitches that don't provide secure cover for a buried thread a Bargello Tuck will come in handy. You simply weave the end of your thread through several stitches on the back of the canvas, then weave it back through again in the opposite direction. You should weave under at least an inch of stitches to make the tail secure, but do not pull too tightly on the thread as you will skew the long stitches and make them look crooked on the front.

This is the reverse side of the canvas on which the long stitches were placed. So you can see the Bargello Tuck we have used a green yarn to show the weaving under and over in two directions, not pulling too tightly.

General Tips:

  • Snip thread tails off very close to the canvas, otherwise, you might find that when you stitch next to the tail the needle picks up the scraggly end and brings it through to the front of your canvas where you will see it glaring at you every time you look at your work. We 
  • Slippery threads might need knots. Yep, call the needlepoint police! You may have been told never to place a knot at the back of a needlepoint canvas. Well, we're prepared to be the voice of reason, here. The only thing worse than a knot that can barely be seen (if at all) on the back of a canvas is a thread that comes loose and pulls through to the front after you've framed or finished the piece. So, if your thread is slippery, put a small knot in it, trim it close and bury this knot along with the thread.