How to Start the Thread

And now for a strong suggestion--do not knot the thread. An exception might be made for a special case, such as an isolated stitch with no other stitches near it in the design.

  • Knots can create lumps and bumps on the front when the picture is mounted.
  • Floss can catch on knots while you are stitching.
  • Knots can lead to uneven thread tension and distorted fabric.
  • Knots can pop through to the front on a loosely woven fabric.
  • Knots are harder to undo if you make a mistake.
  • Knots make the back look messy. A good general rule is that a neat back means a better looking front.

So, what is it you should do? There are several methods listed below. Many people use more than one, depending on the circumstances.

Running Under

Run the thread under four or five of the stitches on the back, if they are right next to where you want to start. You may choose to whip stitch around the second or third stitch as you are running under. This helps to lock the thread in.

Sometimes dark colors show through when woven under lighter colors. Check to make sure this isn't happening.

A variation--if you stitch in a manner that leaves vertical lines on the back, try whip stitching or weaving the thread up (or down) a few of these vertical stitches. This technique makes for a very neat looking back.

Loop Method

The normal version of the loop start only works for even numbers of strands.

For two strands, start with one strand twice as long as you need. Fold it in half. Thread the needle so the two ends are near the needle and the "loop" is the end farthest from the needle. Start the stitch with the loop end dangling a little bit below the cloth. When the needle comes back down to the underside, run it between the loop and the cloth, and gently pull the loop tight.

People who like using loop starts have come up with methods to do something similar to a loop start with uneven numbers of strands. I have mixed feelings about some of the methods as they take quite a bit of extra effort, but people say they make the backs of the projects very neat.

Here's one from Jim Cripwell <>...

Cut the main thread twice the length as usual, and fold it in half. Take a second thread the length you use for stitching, and place one end unevenly with the two ends for the loop start. The third thread should be short at the needle end, and long at the loop end. Do a normal loop start, pulling all three threads through the loop. Unthread the needle, and thread the long end of the third thread, now at the back of the work. Finish this under some threads at the back, but do *not* cut it. Carefully pull this third thread, until its end is buried nicely at the back. It will then be nearly even with the other two threads at the needle end. Re-thread the needle with all three strands, and start stitching.