Machine Embroidery Exercise for Blending and Shading with Thread

One of the differences between art quilting and traditional quilting as that in art quilting, thread is almost always part of the design. The choice of thread in machine embroidery, in particular, can affect the look of the quilt.

Selecting a single color thread, a variegated thread, a thread that contrasts with the fabric or one that matches are all conscious decisions that inform your embroidery designs.

Thread painting requires a whole new level of thread selection. In this form of machine embroidery, embroidery stitches are layered close together so that the thread colors blend to create variations in color and shading.

If you've never tried these embroidery techniques, here's an exercise you might try. It's from internationally known artist Carol Shinn's excellent book Freestyle Machine Embroidery: Techniques and Inspiration for Fiber Art.

machine enbroidery thread

1. Paint a square in a medium-value color, then draw lines to create four equal quarters that will be stitched with different colors of thread.

machine embroidery thread painting

2. Stitch the entire square with a color that matches the paint.

thread painting with machine embroidery

3. Stitch a second layer in each quadrant, using a lighter value in the first; a complement in the second; a grayed, duller color in the third; and an analogous color in the fourth.

thread painting with machine embroidery

4. Stitch a third layer that appears to be a mix of the original and the second layer colors.

thread painting with machine embroidery

5. Stitch a final layer of the basic color across the entire initial square so that only bits of the other colors pop through the thread matrix. Take a moment to note which color combination appears the smoothest or most evenly colored. Which appears the most textured?

Try this exercise with different colors and see what you can create. Keep track of your experiments, recording the colors you used, for future reference.

Freestyle Machine Embroidery: Techniques and Inspiration for Fiber Art is full of practical advice, tutorials, and beautiful pieces of machine-embroidered art. No art quilter's studio should be without it.

P.S. How do you use thread choice in your art quilts? Leave a comment below.

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Hand Embroidery, Machine Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog

2 thoughts on “Machine Embroidery Exercise for Blending and Shading with Thread

  1. I’ve done this kind of exercise with paint, but never with thread on fabric. Sometimes, what my brain envisions and what I can physically accomplish are two different things, and very frustrating. Living an hour from a city that has any “choices” is also a great frustration.