Candlewicking 9/19/08

Embroidery has always been evolving and creating so many beautiful stitches and it is hard to keep up with all the latest techniques.  One of my personal favorites was always the French Knot.  I remember the first time I did that knot, I thought I had reached the highest level in embroidery.  It was as if I had invented it myself and I was putting them everywhere.

American embroidery was brought from all over the world, but in the 1700's, techniques were generally from England.  Tone on tone was a popular design, so to have embroidery standout, it had to stand out.  That is, the French Knot was a great way to make the project "pop." 

The colonists had limited resources and the tariffs from the Old World were a real sore spot, vis-à-vis, the Boston Tea Party.  (Isn't history more interesting when the example relates directly to the people?)  The designs were simple, if you have some example from some distant relative, you know I mean.  Please post a photo in "media" if you do happen to have an early design, we are always interested in those.

If a woman was in a family where seeking new places was a life style, she found herself in a covered wagon and living in harsh, lonely places.  As is still the case today, the woman mostly made the humble structure a home which she did by embroidery, among other things. 

Perhaps due to the fact that materials were scarce, she may have changed the French Knot into the Colonial knot.  That is my guess, and I am sticking to it.  This is an example of the Colonial Knot, on the left, and the French Knot (I do need some practice if I am going to do these!) is on the right.


Traditional candlewicking is white on white or cream on cream with the fabric being fine muslin.  The thread is usually thicker such as a pearl cotton or Cordonnet.  Cordonnet is usually a multi-cord mercerized 100% cotton thread used for crochet or tatting.

Machine Embroidery cannot duplicate the twist of the hand style, so it invented a version of candlewicking which gives designs a 3D effect.  The design I am using is a Bird on Holly circled by candlewicking.  The holly berries are also candlewicking. 

When I chose a design to demonstrate a stitch, the first consideration is to show the topic.  But, I try to go further to show other things about good design.  In this case, the bird design is extremely well digitized.  For just under $6.00, all the stitching is ‘placed,' meaning that the feathers are laid on top of feathers, like shingles on a roof, beginning at the tail feathers.  So, when you complete the design, there is another element of natural lying of the stitches.  On some designs, the digitizer might choose to do a ‘fill' where the stitches will run the length of the bird, but not in the way the feathers actually grow.  The leaves, branches and holly are all done in the same manner.  Another feature of this design is that the branch, bird and feet are all separate colors, but all listed as "dark brown."  The separation of color allows for three separate dark browns, again making it more natural.  Quality digitizing is a joy to stitch out and make a detail oriented gift. 

Refresher:  Hoopless Embroidery Blog for hoopless work on a small tote.

The tiny tote I chose is only 5" by 5" and the design is 3.9" x 3.9."  So, I reduced the design area to 3.5" x 3.5."  My original test sew out was in the original size.  When I compared the two, they were identical except for the size.  Since my area was so tight, I did slow down my machine in case I had a problem.   I did need to use ATG Adhesive, Water Soluble Stabilizer to hold this project, it was perfect for the small area I had to work with.


I am really pleased with the results.  The flash from my camera shows off the sheen from my Polyester threads nicely.

Money Saving Tip:  When buying thread, colors for flowers and various items can be your own choosing.  However, when it comes to doing animals, birds and other fauna, you will want to have certain browns, golds and greens for a more realistic design.  ATG has a 40% off sale on "Fall Thread Collection." 


This is 25, 1000-meter spools of 40-weight polyester embroidery thread collection for less than $2.50 per spool.  Whether you do a puppy or a whale, you will be reaching for these spools over and over again.  I see a kitten in a meadow of daisies in this group of colors right now.

Comments (11) -

Thank you for all your help and ideas

Another great article!

What a great design. I have looked and looked at some of the candlewicking designs, but was never sure if I had to do some fancy (and tricky) stuff to make it look like that. Now I see I don't and will try some soon.

I want to say to Pat and all the bloggers here and all the other blogs on ATG... what a fountain of information here... thanks to all of you...


I appreciate your thoughtful comments.  I do like to hear what you are thinking and what else you might be interested in hearing about.

I have plans for my blogs, but hearing your input of subjects makes it easier for me.

Let me hear from you. . . .


hookedonembroidery 9/25/2008 8:32:37 PM

Thanks for the info on Candlewicking, I didn't know the history behind it. I got into Candlewicking years ago and bought one kit after another. If I remember everyone in the family got a throw pillow with candlewicking on it. It's hard to find those kits in the fabric store now. I have done one candlewicking design with embroidered strawberrys on a dish towel. It turned out so cute. I didn't use embroidery thread when it came time to stitch out the candlewicking part. I used Robinson-Anton 50 WT 100% cotton thread. It looked like it was done by hand. I was very pleased with it. I need to buy more candlewicking designs, there are so many of them it's hard to choose which ones.

Thanks again for the history on Candlewicking.


Doing hand embroidery must be very beautiful.  If you have any photos, we hope you will share them with us.  

To share them, go to "Media" (top of page) and select "Projects" then click on "upload."  That is all there is to it!  


hookedonembroidery 9/27/2008 11:39:27 AM

I don't have any pictures Pat...wish I would have taken some back then. I did try to up load my picture of the candlewicking I embroidered on a dish towel.....couldn't find the "upload". I went to Media and selected Projects and viewed some beautiful things but never found a place where I could upload a picture.


The history of candlewicking is interesting.  I remember my sister in law giving us a pillow once, and I would love to know what happened to it...I was so impressed with the time she took to make it.  When I get old, I have that on the list of my to dos....and my family would think that your 1,999 is young compared to is just that my to do list keeps growing and I haven't figured out what old is yet!!!

Hello pyracantha!  Love your name!  The Fire Thorn, aka pyracantha is a great bush, I love the red berries because they are so truly red!

I hope you do find that pillow, I would love to see some original examples of this beautiful stitch!

Pat 12/26/2011 7:27:57 PM

Pat can you help me on how to use Ann the Grans Cataloge Express?

I hve downloaded designs and they don't even go to the cataloge.

The only designs that show up are some I purchased from some place else, so this really sucks.

My membership runs out in Jan 2012 and I don't think I am going to renew it.

There are other sites that have designs I would gladly pay to join and maybe there won't be such a hassle.

Also is there  a way to download designs from Ann's besides one at a time, you would think she would have it where you could download a page of designs at a time, for those who want to work on projects instead of downloading one design at a time.

Do you know of a site that yo can domore then one design at a time?



Pat, I cannot find media to upload my embroidery handwork. I looked at the top of this page but could not find it.

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