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Knotwork notebook

Knotwork notebook published on No Comments on Knotwork notebook

Knotwork notebook
Filum Aureum, Winter 2004

— by Christian de Holacombe, Guild Chronicler

These knotwork patterns can be used on any sort of smallish notebook. You will need a few short lengths of decorative cord, some matching sewing thread, a piece of velveteen or other heavy fabric big enough to wrap around your notebook, and sewing thread and some half-inch ribbon to match the velveteen.

Some knotwork patterns (arrows indicate starting position of stitching cord)
knotwork pattern 3

Transferring patterns to velveteen can be tricky, especially if it’s dark colored, but the tissue-paper method usually works pretty well. Trace the knotwork pattern of your choice onto very thin, crisp tissue paper. Trace the front and back covers of your notebook onto the same paper, centering the design on the front and leaving space between them for the thickness of the notebook. Now baste this pattern onto your velveteen, making sure it is on the straight grain of the fabric.

Work medium-sized running stitches in white or light-colored thread through the paper and velveteen along all the dotted lines, including the notebook outlines. For the knotwork, it helps to work stitches in one light color (green, pink, white, etc.) down the middle of the one cord path, and in another light color down the middle of the other cord path. Carefully tear off and remove the paper. This transfers the design to your fabric. (Author’s note: I find tissue paper works much better for this than commercial “tear-away” stabilizers.)

Basic couching stitch

Turning sharp corners
Beginning at one end of the pattern, at a place where the cord goes under another part of the path (see arrows on patterns above), lay one of the two colors of braid or cord along one cord path of the pattern. Stitch down the braid, easing it around corners. Remember to leave a bit of it loose (just skip a stitch or so) when you come to a place where another cord or braid will have to go under it later.

diagram of plunging end of couched threadRemove any remaining basting thread (if it shows) for this line of braid. With a large needle, carefully “plunge” the ends of the braid through the fabric. (Wiggle the large needle to push aside the threads in the velveteen, don’t cut them.) Flatten the cord ends as much as possible on the reverse side, and hold them in place with a few inconspicuous stitches.

In the same way, beginning at a similar place, lay the braid or cord in your second color along the lines of the other cord path on the pattern, weaving it under and over the first line of braid as needed. Stitch down the braid and plunge the ends.



Soutache braid looks like two cords fastened together side by side. The best way to stitch down this braid is with an inconspicuous line of back-stitches in matching thread, laid in the center “groove.” As you ease it around corners, try to stretch it just a bit around the outside. Still, the braid will probably ripple a bit on the inside curve. Go back after it is all stitched down and take a few whip stitches along that side of the braid to smooth it out as much as possible.


Twisted cord is couched down with slanting stitches that slip into the diagonal twists of the cord, coming up at the edge and down in the center of the cord. Except for tight corners, you usually don’t have to stitch down every single twist; every two or three twists is usually enough.


Most other kinds of cords will be couched down with crosswise stitches at regular intervals. Because these stitches will show, be careful to make them neat and regular.


Most flat braids and ribbons will benefit from “glue basting,” where they are lightly glued down before stitching, with ordinary gluestick or similar adhesive. This keeps them smooth and flat as you stitch. A small hemstitch or whipstitch along both edges secures them.


This is a good project to add beads and spangles to. The pattern at right has some dots to give you an idea of places beads could be added. Stitch down beads individually with a strong thread. Good “period” types of beads include pearls, small metal beads, glass seed beads and long bugle beads (not silver-lined).


When the cords and beading are finished, carefully cut out the cover rectangle you marked along the dotted lines. You may want to apply a line of “fray check” or dilute white glue along these lines on the underside of the velveteen and let it dry before you cut.

Fold the ribbon in half lengthwise and use it to enclose the raw edges of the rectangle between the two sides, like a “binding” for the edge of the piece of velveteen. This finishes the edges while adding very little bulk. At the corners, you may want to gather it slightly and ease it around, or fold it into a mitered corner. It can be stitched down by hand or machine — in this case, hand sewing is probably both more accurate and more inconspicuous.

Lay the notebook on the inside of the finished cover and fold the ends in to make two “pockets” for the notebook covers, being sure the corded design is centered on the front cover of the notebook. Whipstitch the binding together along the top and bottom edges to secure the pockets.



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