Embroidering knitting – the basics

[caption id="attachment_3330" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="© Mel Clark"]© Mel Clark[/caption]

In this Masterclass series with Emma King we’re going to look at five different embroidery stitches that can be added to knitted fabrics: buttonhole stitch, single feather stitch, stem stitch, bullion knots and lazy daisies.

We’ll apply each one to a knitted stocking stitch fabric. In all cases, a useful tip is to use the knitted stitches to help you plan the positioning and size of your embroidery stitches.

When working on top of stocking stitch, each knitted stitch looks like a V. If you use these Vs as a guide, you’ll achieve consistency in stitch size and also in the spacing between them.

Using embroidery to embellish a piece of knitting is a great way of adding extra detail and colour to your projects. It’s one way of achieving a multicolour project without having to actually knit with the colours!

You can use embroidery to create interest against a plain background, or perhaps to act as an outline around knitted areas of colour.

Adding embroidery is also an option when you want to update an ageing project. Some simple embroidery stitches might be just what’s needed to breathe new life into an old favourite.

First steps

When adding embroidery to knitting, there are a few things to consider:

What kind of knitted fabric will provide the best base?

A plain, smooth knitted fabric such as stocking stitch will provide the best results, because this will allow the embroidery to stand out to full effect.

However, it’s worth considering that embroidery can also be used as a way of highlighting or framing areas of textured knitting.

Choosing the right yarn

When choosing a yarn for the embroidery, it’s important that you pick one with similar qualities to the yarn used for the knitting. Look at its weight and, crucially, its fibre content.

The same washing instructions and colourfastness are also important because the last thing you want is for the colours to run during its first wash!

Smoother yarns will show the stitch to full effect, as well as being easier than textured yarns to manipulate.

A large, blunt sewing needle, such as a knitter’s needle, is ideal. The blunt tip will enable

you to work in and out of the knitted fabric without splitting the yarn.


It’s important that you consider the effect embroidery will have on the tension of your knitting. Adding embroidery creates a firm fabric and reduces the elasticity.

The tension of the embroidery stitches themselves must also be taken into account because you don’t want to pull too tightly, distorting the stitches and the fabric. Working a test piece on a tension square first will allow you to practise the stitches and at the same time gain an even tension.

Avoiding knots will also help the tension – instead, leave a tail of yarn that can be woven gently into the back of the fabric when you’ve finished.

Next week we’ll look at buttonhole stitch.

Knitwear designer Emma KingAbout our expert

Designer Emma King has published three pattern books for accessories, and has a new book exploring colour knitting due out in spring 2011.