Each line on the chart represents a fabric thread.
An away knot is a knot made on the tail of the thread that is threaded in the needle. It is placed on the top of the fabric away from the spot where you will make any stitches.
In the diagram above, the pink box represents the knot and the dashed lines represent the thread on the back of the fabric. Take the threaded needle under the fabric to step 1 (your thread will angle down to step 1) then bring it to the top of the fabric and start your stitches.
Generally the knot is placed in the path of the stitches and it is cut away when the threaded needle gets close enough to it that it interfers with the stitch formation. Or the knot can be cut away after you change direction or the thread is secured by five or six stitches, but this varies and is a judgment call by the stitcher.
Now, for a 'finer point', I have gotten myself into some situations where I cannot get the thread to quit slipping out of the stitches on the back of the work.
I have tried two solutions. If I know the thread is a 'slippery little devil'. I Back stitch over one or two fabric threads after I have placed the away knot. I place these Back stitches in the area to be stitched. These stitches over one fabric thread are so small they will not be seen when the back stitch is sewn over them. If you split the working thread as you make the anchoring stitches they will never slip out.
When I place these anchoring stitches I do one forward, skip a couple of fabric threads and place one backwards, skip a fabric thread or two and place another stitch forward. Then I skip back to the starting point of the design.
If I find out after I finish a project that the thread is a slipping out of its intended place I have taken regular sewing thread or a strand of cotton floss and wrapped the tail and the back of the stitches together on the back of the fabric. I don't use the same thread I have sewn the embroidery with because my experience has shown that the tail will just slip out again.
You can use a color that closely matches the thread you used on the embroidery or a contrasting thread in a much lighter color if you have trouble seeing what you are doing. Just remember that you do not want this thread color to show through to the front of the work.
You might want to make a mental note of what you think happened that caused the tail to keep slipping out its place, and then the first opportunity you have stitch the thread on a doodle cloth and see if changing the number of threads you covered with the stitch or some other change will keep that slippery thread under better control. For instance, make the stitches over two fabric threads instead of four.
And finally, be kind to yourself, none of this should interfer with your enjoyment of stitching or become a reason not to sew. I mention it only as a small challenge to achieve all you can and still enjoy what you are doing. Make it a small goal, not THE goal.
I find that it's fun and interesting to see what I can come up with to deal with these little problems. I feel challenged to make the back of my embroidery as attractive as the front. Of course it never will be, but it's fun trying and many a clever stitcher has fooled a framer who cannot tell the front of the embroidery from the back!
For me it got to be so much fun stitching that I could not wait to get home and try something else with my embroidery, and then I couldn't bear to leave the embroidery and go to work. And now you see what has happened to me! ©2003, Linda Fontenot, www.AmericanFolkArts.com