Candwicking: Traditional American Embroidery

Learn how to Candlewick with a few basic steps

Orange butterfly embroidery
Sagar purnima / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0


Candlewicking is a traditional form of embroidery based on the colonial knot. Choose your own fabric and floss for a unique look or use the supplies listed below to achieve the look of traditional Candlewicking.

To get started Candlewicking, you will need:

  • unbleached cotton muslin (heavier weight)
  • candlewicking thread (substitute ecru six-strand embroidery floss or perle cotton)
  • a size 22 or 24 chenille needle or a large sharp embroidery needle

How to Do Candlewicking

  1. Cut a piece of the muslin large enough to accommodate your selected design.
  2. Lay the muslin on top of the pattern. If you have a light-box to put under this to facilitate tracing, do so. If not, make sure you are under a strong light or darken the pattern beforehand.
  3. Secure the fabric to the pattern with pins to keep it from sliding as you trace the pattern.
  4. Use the washable marker to make small dots to indicate the placement of the colonial knots and any other embroidery stitches used in the design.
  5. Check carefully that you have transferred the entire Candlewicking pattern to the muslin.
  6. Check again to ensure that you have transferred the entire Candlewicking pattern to the muslin, then remove the pins and set the pattern aside.
  7. Place the fabric in an embroidery hoop.
  8. Thread the needle with 4 strands of Candlewicking thread or 6-12 strands of embroidery floss or perle cotton floss. The amount of floss you use depends on how large you want your colonial knots to be.
  1. Tie a knot in the thread or floss and stitch your first colonial knot. If this is your first Candlewicking project, practice making colonial knots on a small piece of muslin before you begin. Practice makes perfect!
  2. Work the design in a systematic method from left-to-right and top-to-bottom or however you choose. As you stitch, be sure to leave plenty of thread or floss to secure under the backs of stitches when you need to change threads or strands of floss.
  1. When the design is complete, launder it to remove the marker residue. (Some shrinking may occur.) Lay the piece face down on a clean, prewashed white towel and iron. You may want to place an extra piece of muslin on top to use as a pressing cloth. Use an up- and-down motion when ironing to avoid damaging the colonial knots.

Depending on the size of the design, finish it as a pillow, a wall-hanging, as part of a quilt-top, a bell-pull, apron bib, or ornament.

For a complete listing of free Candlewicking patterns designed by Connie G. Barwick, see the Candlewicking Pattern Index.