What is a knockdown stitch?

By on May 8th, 2022
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what is a knockdown stitch for machine embroidery
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Who doesn’t love a cozy sherpa or blanket when the weather gets chilly? Plush outerwear and home decor make the perfect holiday gift. Plus – they’re also great for personalizing with a name or a monogram using your embroidery machine.  The only problem is that plush, nappy fabrics  aren’t the easiest fabrics to work with. Embroidered letters and designs can easily get lost within the texture of the fabric. So, to make your stitching really stand out, you may want to use a knockdown stitch.

But what is that? And how do you make such a thing?

What is a knockdown stitch?

A knockdown stitch in machine embroidery is a base layer of stitching designed to go underneath a name, monogram or embroidery design.  Its function is to hold down nappy fabric to make the primary embroidery design more prominent.

Types of knockdown stitches

Knockdown stitching is typically done in a basic shape like a circle, square, quatrefoil, etc.  For example, a rounded monogram might be stitched on top of a circle-shaped knockdown stitch area.

It can also be in the shape of the embroidery design intended to go on top. Some software will look at the overall shape of the embroidery design and create a knockdown stitch that is slightly larger than the design but is in the same general shape.

a knockdown stitch behind a monogram on a fuzzy sherpa
Photo provided by Sue Rosenbaum Pitman and used with her permission

Stitches in a knockdown stitch

The area inside of a knockdown stitch is not 100% dense. It’s more or less a light matrix of stitching.

The lightness of this first layer of stitching makes it possible for you to stitch the primary design on top without the area becoming too rigid from so many layers of stitching.

Stylizing your knockdown stitch area

Knockdown stitch areas are commonly done in a thread color to match the material underneath. However, there is no hard fast rule that says it must be done this way. 

You can also stitch one in a thread color that contrasts the material underneath and/or the color of the monogram. It is an effect that can look really sharp.

When to use a knockdown stitch area

You may have heard that water soluble stabilizer is the perfect solution for getting nappy fabrics to stay put underneath embroidery designs. 

This is true, however that water soluble stabilizer will wash away! The long fibers of a fabric can hide elements of an embroidery design.

You can see this effect in the example below. The same embroidery design was stitched on two different towels.

The first one was done with just a water soluble topper, the other with a knockdown stitch. It doesn’t even look like the same design! The version on the right stands out so much better against the nappy towel texture! Because the embroidery design has a lot of detail and thin lines, the version on the left gets lost within the towel nap. Never tried embroidering on towels? Here’s how. 

knockdown stitch vs. no knock down stitch in machine embroidery on towels
Two versions of the same embroidery design stitched out on a towel: one with a knockdown stitch and one without. Photo provided by Jan Humphries and used with her permission.

The lesson here? Whenever you have a design, name or monogram with significant detail or a lot of thin strokes, and you want to stitch it on a fabric with a lot of texture, you should definitely use a knockdown stitch.

The other lesson? You may just like the look of a knockdown stitch. Some people use them as a decorative element even when the design or lettering would have held up on its own.

How to make a knockdown stitch

There are two ways to create a knockdown stitch.  You can either buy it as a file, or you can create it yourself if you have the necessary digitizing software to do so.

Purchasing the file

Buying a knockdown stitch file is just like buying any embroidery design file.  They are available in many shapes and sizes, you just need to find one that is appropriate for the design, name or monogram you are stitching out.  For example, if you are stitching out a monogram with the largest letter being 3″ tall, a 3.5″ – 4″ knockdown shape would be an appropriate size to use in the background.

There are several digitizers who offer knockdown stitch files in a variety of sizes and styles.

When your purchase a one of these files to work with your embroidery design, you have two different options for stitching it out. You can either stitch out the two files separately, or you can combine the files in a program like SewWhat-Pro and then download the composite file. 

The benefit of bringing both designs into the software is that you can preview how they look together. This can provide you with the assurance that your embroidery design will not exceed the borders of the knockdown stitch.

Generating it yourself

It’s really not rocket science to create one yourself. You just need to have some inexpensive software to help you do it.

Both SewArt and SewWhat-Pro allow you to create a knockdown stitch but do so in different ways.  The software you choose should depend on the shape you are trying to achieve.

If you are trying to generate a basic shape, I would suggest using SewArt. There is not a specific “knockdown” setting. You simply create your desired shape (rectangle, circle, etc…), and then turn it into a fill with a very light fill.  The fill type you should choose is X Stitch fill with sep-10.

In SewWhat-Pro, there is a specific tool to create the knockdown stitch to work with any design.  The feature is located under the tools menu, it’s called “Nap Tack.” The benefit of creating the Nap Tack stitch area in SewWhat-Pro is that you can set it up to follow the contour of your main embroidery design.

The ability to create a knockdown is also a feature in Embrilliance Enthusiast. You can find the feature under the Utility tab in Enthusiast.

SewArt, SewWhat-Pro and Embrilliance Enthusiast are just three of the many different embroidery editing or digitizing programs, but most of them will have this feature. I just mention these three due their low cost and ease of use.

creating a knock down stitch in Embrilliance Enthusiast
A knockdown stitch area in Embrilliance Enthusiast. Photo provided by Sharon Owens Martin and used with her permission


Additional tips

When you embroider on extremely nappy material, like faux fur, sometimes a knockdown stitch will not suffice to hold down all the fur to allow you to embroider on top.

You may be tempted to stitch it out twice, but that is probably not a great idea as the stitch area would get very stiff.

For a little extra bit of support, you can place a fine layer of tulle underneath all of the stitching.  The excess tulle will tear away easily.  And, if you match it to the fabric underneath it will hardly be noticeable.

Frequently asked questions about knockdown stitch areas

Do I need a special machine to stitch a knockdown stitch area?

No, you don’t need a special machine. Any embroidery machine can do this. It’s just like stitching out a regular embroidery design.

What is the difference between a knockdown stitch and a regular fill stitch?

The density! A knockdown stitch is typically very light, with a fill percentage of 10-20%. This allows the fabric to show through and creates a textured look. A regular fill stitch is much more dense.

Do I need to use a stabilizer when stitching one out?

Almost every machine embroidery project requires the use of stabilizer. The incorporation of a knockdown stitch area would not eliminate the need for stabilizer.

Can you create a knockdown stitch area in Embrilliance Essentials?

Nope. You need Embrilliance Enthusiast to be able to do it. Or you can make one in any level of the StitchArtist programs.

Now who is ready to embroider some fuzzy blankets and sherpas?

I sure am! I spotted some AWESOME throws at Marshalls the other day.  And using a knockdown area underneath the monogram, I’m sure it will look great.

Enjoy and happy stitching!



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5 thoughts on “What is a knockdown stitch?

  1. Wow! What a great write up describing knockout stitch.
    Thank you!!

    1. Oh my gosh – you made my day.

  2. What a clear & concise explanation of the knock-down stitch. Thank you for the lesson on how to have my towel embroidery look much more professional.

    1. AWWW! Thank you!

  3. I’m not sure what a knockdown stitch is, but I’m intrigued!

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