Overdyed Thread Techniques
Each of the samples below was stitched with 3 strands of Purple Iris from The Gentle Art. Notice the different effects achieved by different stitching techniques.
Because of the subtle color changes in the fibers, the effects are more noticeable when used in larger blocks of color. Also, colors vary from skein to skein, so it’s virtually impossible to get the same exact pattern twice.
Stripes are achieved by stitching straight lines. Whether you complete both legs of the cross before moving to the next stitch, or stitch one leg on the outward journey and the second leg on the return, you will wind up with stripes.
This sample was stitched with the latter method: I stitched all the / legs of one row, then stitched the \ legs on the return. Note: If the rows are long, when stitching one leg at a time you might wind up with light purple on the bottom and dark blue on top. If you want to avoid 2-color stitches, stitch both legs together before moving to the next stitch.
Stripes might be used to suggest woodgrain, a plowed field, sky, water. Remember, they can be vertical, or diagonal, too.
Same fiber, totally different effect. What fun! To achieve speckles, place stitches randomly in the area to be filled. Leave several spaces between stitches of similar colors for mottled effect. Yes, jumping around in this way makes for a mess on the back. (See below.)
Speckles might be used for some animal furs and for multi-colored objects in the distance, like a hillside.
ACK! The speckled back.
Such is life. What matters is how it looks on the front. The biggest difficulty with this technique is maintaining an even tension on all the stitches.
The overall effect here is a solid, tweed color. Each of the 3 strands used to stitch this sample is pulled from a different section of the 6-strand fiber, so each of the strands is differently shaded. If using 2 strands, you might simply reverse one (head to foot) or use one long strand, doubled (sometimes called the “loop method” of stitching).
Tweeds create very subtle shading. Different colors can be combined to create entirely new colors.
Great name, eh? “Blobs.” I’m not sure what else to call it! The approach here is similar to speckling. Instead of spacing the individual stitches far apart, however, they are bunched into blobs, so there are larger patches of color. Somewhat random placement of stitches keeps the blobs from appearing too regular or linear, but surely there are occasions for both.
Blobs might work well for clouds, or worn fabric. I developed this technique for the Funk & Weber Designs Fall, In Pieces pattern.
So many effects from a single skein of fiber! Explore the possibilities, and add depth and interest to any piece of needlework by substituting hand-dyed, overdyed, or variegated fibers.
But Wait—There’s More!
There’s always more, isn’t there?
Patterns are another interesting way to employ overdyed threads. Marilyn mentions spirals being one of her favorite patterns. Start with a single stitch and then circle around and around it. I’m envisioning a wave pattern and zigzags. I’ll have to do some experimenting and post more pics!
What other ways have you found to use overdyed threads in your embroidery?