Playing with String: How to Embroider on Knitted Fabric

Long before I started knitting, I was a pre-teenage girl who happened upon her mother’s stash of needlework projects. My mom had dabbled in a few crafts—ironically, I don’t think knitting was ever one of them—but she had a collection of half-finished or never started cross-stitch and crewel work projects lying about the house. (To be fair to my mom, she did finish some of her projects and they’re still hanging up in our house, but I think the number of unfinished far outweighed the number of finished.)

I stumbled across this piece when I was about twelve or so, and really wanted to finish it. You’ll notice that I didn’t manage that, but I’d say this is is 75% my work. And I’m much closer to finishing than I thought I was, so now I feel extra ridiculous for not being done with it. You’ll also see a peek of my in-progress crewel work project. Crewel embroidery is done with wool threads instead of silk or cotton and it’s also a lot of fun!


Earlier this year I saw a friend (you might know her, goes by Allyson Dykhuizen) post pictures on Instagram of her in-progress cross-stitch project, and I remembered that my mother had unloaded all her unfinished or never-started needlework projects on to me. So I pulled out all of the kits and even though it took me about three months, I finished one cross-stitch project and am about half-way through that crewel work project.

All of this hand stitching has given me ideas about adding embroidery to knitted fabric. I hate making French knots but think they’d be awesome in a cluster of knots on a sweater (look, I’ve never claimed to be logical). Or taking a metallic yarn or thread and working running stitch accents to a knitted hat.

Basically I’m just trying to embroider everything.

15KN25Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark’s new video Embroidery on Knits: 4 Easy Needlework Stitches is right up my alley! Mercedes walks us through the difference between working embroidery on woven fabric (Aida cloth, for example) and working them on a knitted fabric. She demonstrates how to embroider four super simple techniques:

  • duplicate stitch
  • chain stitch
  • backstitch
  • and the dreaded (by me) French knot

There are many ways to use embroidery with knits—say you want to create a faux-plaid effect. You could use duplicate stitch to create lines the same width as your stitches. Or a backstitch would create a nice thin line if you wanted a subtle effect, or a more intricate plaid. Mercedes’s Bonita Shirt, from Interweave Knits Spring 2006, uses embroidery to add soft accents to lace panels. Chain stitches could be added to hems or necklines of knitted pullovers for a cool visual element. Duplicate stitch or even cross-stitches could be added to Fair Isle motifs for an extra bit of pop without having to strand the yarn along the back.

I think I’m going to have to knit Mercedes’s beautiful Fleurette Camisole from her designer collection in Knitscene Spring 2012. She used duplicate stitch to create the lovely vintage touch in this sweet tank. And Allyson also used duplicate stitch to create the bold, bright tulips on her Tulip Slouch Hat, demonstrated in this great video.


Do you have any experience with adding embroidery to your knits? Or have you added embroidery embellishments to other projects? Let me know in the comments!

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