Q: What is a tailor’s knot? Instructions for a project I was working on said to use one at the end of a stitching line, but I’m not sure how to make one correctly. When I try to tie a knot at the end of a seam, the knot always ends up at least an inch from the fabric surface.
—Jonathan Bennett, Morton Grove, Illinois
A: When the Threads editors have a question about a refinement in sewing, whether by hand or machine, we start our research in publications by couture expert Claire Shaeffer. In Couture Sewing Techniques (revised edition, The Taunton Press, 2011), Claire explains that a tailor’s knot is used to secure machine stitching at the start and end of a seam. Its benefits over back tacking are that it is easier to remove and it doesn’t add bulk at the end of the seam.
To make a tailor’s knot, leave long thread tails at the beginning and end of the seam. If necessary, pull the upper thread to the wrong side. Align the upper and bobbin threads and tie them in an overhand knot. Start the knot with a loose loop, and work it down to the fabric surface as you tighten it. Another tip is to insert a pin into the loop at seam’s end and tighten the knot around the pin.