French Knot or, as some of you have started referring to them, the dreaded French knot. Really, they aren’t that bad.
French knots are essential to embroidery because there’s nothing else quite small enough or that works so well for fine details—facial features like eyes and curls, for example.
They’re most often used singly for the centers of flowers, or massed together to form the flowers themselves.
They’re also very handy for making single dots—like for polka dots on a dress or for depicting fleece on a lamb (for a baby pillowcase, perhaps).
To start, bring your thread to the front. Hold the thread firmly between your left index finger and thumb and away from the fabric.
With the needle pointed away from the fabric, wrap the thread over and around the needle with your left hand. Wrapping twice will give you a smaller knot, three times will give you a larger one.
Holding the thread taut with in your left hand, turn the needle downward and start to take it to the back a few threads away. (If you try to use the same hole, the knot is very likely to pull back through and disappear). With the tip of the needle inside the hole, slide the knot down the needle onto the fabric pulling the thread taut with your left hand at the same time. This is where the tension comes in. If you pull the knot too tightly, the eye of the needle won’t fit through the knot as the thread goes to the back. If it’s too loose you’ll get a sloppy knot that won’t lay flat.
Slowly push the needle to the back of the fabric while holding the knot in place under your thumb. I usually hold the thread down with my thumb because it helps to see the knot. Begin to pull the thread through. Continue to pull until the thread disappears under your thumb and is completely pulled through.
This is going to feel very awkward for a while so you'll need to practice. The secret is to hold that left thread taut and, whether you use your fingers or thumb will depend on what feels more natural to you. This is one of those stitches that would be much easier to show you in person—kind of like knitting and crochet are better demonstrated than learned by looking at pictures in a book. So, if you're having trouble and want to ask questions, put them in the comments and I'll answer them there. I think you need to do this stitch as many times as it takes you to stop thinking about it and just do it. I'm like that with chopsticks. If I think about what I'm doing I can't use them but if I just relax and stop trying so hard, it starts to come naturally.
Here’s what the finished knot looks like:
And yes, mine is a bit too loose near the fabric. I need some practice myself.