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Kathy's Tip On Using Variegated Flosses, Part Two

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Ruffled Diamond Design Stitched with Variegated Thread

Design Stitched with Variegated Thread

Photo by Connie G. Barwick, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Kathy's tip about stitching with variegated flosses and fibers continues from Part One:

The stitching method you use depends on two things: the look you wish to achieve, and how the color is spaced on the thread. For example, let's take a tree. Say I'm using a brown-black variegated for the trunk. Because a tree grows vertically, I'll be stitching in vertical columns rather than horizontal rows. All these methods display some level of striping/shading. Trees, garments, hair, and other vertical shapes look odd when they have "horizontal stripes". But how "stripe-y" do I want it to be?

  • For maximum color display - Separate your thread plies and reassemble them all in the original direction. Then cross each stitch as you go (English style). At that point, you can complete full columns individually, letting the colors play out naturally. Or, you can stitch sections of each column as the spirit moves you (creating patterns with the thread), until the whole tree trunk is stitched. The same techniques would apply for stitching a pond or river, only you would stitch horizontal rows instead of vertical columns.
  • For Moderate color display - Separate your thread plies and reassemble them in the original direction. Then stitch up and down or out and back completing your cross stitches only on the return trip (Scandinavian or Danish method). This will look more "speckled" than "stripe-y". With this method you can easily alternate stitches or stagger columns/rows, but staggering is hard to do without long thread-carries on the back.
  • For Muted color display - Separate your thread plies, and reverse one or more of them. Then stitch in English style for greater color-play, or Scandinavian style for a softer, more-speckled look.
  • For "Impressionist" color display - Blend a variegated or mottled color with a matching solid thread, and stitch in any of the above-mentioned ways. The specialty thread will add depth and movement to your color, without making it seem obvious. You can get similar results by blending a variegated floss with a matching metallic color (light. gray and silver, light yellow and gold, etc.)
  • For Iridescent color display - Stitch all the bottom legs in one color, then stitch all the top legs in another color. I say "iridescent" because as the fabric or viewer moves, the eye will catch first the top legs then the bottom one, so the color will appear to "shimmer". Depending on how different the threads are, and whether the darker or the lighter thread is on top, you'll get even more unique looks from this technique. This is also an easy way to add sparkle to your design without having to use blended threads in the needle - just use your metallic or blending filament for the top leg of the cross stitch. Teresa Wentzler recommends this technique for her complicated designs.

I recommend you experiment with these techniques in advance on a piece of "doodle cloth", and keep notes of how you feel about the results. This will provide a reference for future designs which call for specially dyed fibers. It will also help give you the confidence to use these special fibers in designs which don't call for them.

Remember, this is our HOBBY, and is supposed to be FUN. The colors and fibers you use are up to you! As the saying goes:

"Thread goes through needle. Needle goes through fabric. Everything else is a suggestion."

Ruffled Diamond Pattern designed and stitched by Connie G. Barwick.

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Free Cross Stitch Patterns - Practice Stitching With Variegated Flosses
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