Look closely at the two photos below. Can you see the difference in the drawn red lines that are on top of the stitching? In each photo I’ve traced over the stitches with a drawing tool to highlight where the stitches begin and end and the direction in which each stitch travels.
In the photo above you can see that the stitch lines are longer and shorter than one another and they are all going in one direction. They remind me of some diagrams I’ve seen showing how to do long and short shading. While I stitched this area i was thinking “long stitch, shorter stitch, longer stitch, shorter stitch…”
In this photo (above) you can see the stitch lines in red are much shorter and they are stitched in more different directions. While I stitched these stitches I was thinking “sketch a line of color, feather in another line, now sketch a few lines again, now a few more feathered lines sketched in…”
This is how I have finally determined that how I think about long and short stitching makes all the difference in how it looks. In other words, it’s all in my mind!
I have figured out how to imagine, or think about, placing the stitches to create a smooth, beautifully shaded long and short stitch. As with anything we learn, each of us understands how to do it in a slightly different way. We may all actually DO the same thing, but how we think about doing it may be quite different. In my case, thinking about long and short stitches – one longer or shorter than the next, didn’t give me the results I wanted. I was too focused on the length of the stitches and keeping them at a specific angle and not focused enough on the shading, curving execution of the stitches.
It was an ah-ha moment when I saw that what I needed to imagine doing with my needle was sketching, with short strokes of thread, the shades of color into the shape. When I imagined my threads as short, sketched lines of color, all blending together to create the shaded effect, the stitches could then be at ever so slightly different angles, following the curve of the shape rather than being rigidly straight from the outside to the inside of the shape.
It’s especially apparent in the photo above where you can see the curve of those smaller stitches. My stitching looks softer and blends better if I imagine I’m sketching with a soft coloured pencil rather than laying down straight stitches, one longer and the next shorter. While concentrating on varying the length of the stitches, I paid no attention to the shading or the shape I was stitching.
Below is the blue bird with part of the feathers stitched using my old technique – thinking “long stitch, shorter stitch, long stitch, shorter stitch…” it even look mechanical!
Below is a photo of the blue bird when I stitched thinking “short sketched line, feathered line, short sketched line, feather line, sketched line…” It’s softer, more artistic, more beautiful.
What’s really strange about this discovery is that I stitched the feathers closest to the yellow belly of the bird (badly, as in the first photo) one evening. The next morning I got up and stitched the feathers at the top, nearest to the back. When the whole thing was finished then, and only then, could I see very clearly what I’d done differently. Even as I was stitching I didn’t notice that my technique had changed.
It was a revelation! Out came the old stitching and in went the new and the difference was so obvious!
How do you think about long and short shading? What do you imagine doing with your needle to get a good result?
Please share your tips with us all!