RSN Silk Shading: Four petals done

Before I left Bristol and the care and guidance of my teacher, I stitched the four small petals you see completed in the photo below. I can hear you thinking “That’s all?” Yep, that was as far as I got. But I learned a lot!


I now understand the importance of both the order of work (stitch things in the back first etc.) and the stitch direction. These are two of the keys things one must pay attention to when doing silk shading.

The other is to continually look at your work from a distance to see if you are placing the stitches where you really want them to be. Taking a photo helps enormously because a photo captures everything in detail very clearly – it’s a frozen look at your work. When I look with my eyes, I think my eyes keep moving so I don’t really see the individual stitches, as much as take in the whole. That’s a good thing, but not when I want to check to see if the stitches are placed the way I intended.


Below is a close up of the area I’ve stitched and you can see that the arrows are pointing to the places where the stitches all started in about the same place along the previous row of stitching. The idea with silk shading (or long and short shading) is to stagger the place where each stitch comes up through the previous stitches. What I’ve done is to bring three of four stitches up through the previous row, all in approximately the same place which creates a bump or ridge or dent or…something that doesn’t look right!


If you look at the tiny petal to the left in the photo above, you can see the stitches are staggered more unevenly and the surface is much smoother. That’s what I wanted in the large petal but I didn’t accomplish it.

I’ve now taken all the second row of stitching out and started again. I’m having much more success now that I know what to guard against!

Silk shading is a time consuming technique which requires focus and patience. It’s a technique I was dreading and thought I wouldn’t like but guess what? I’m loving it!

Have you done silk shading? Do you love or loathe it?
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4 thoughts on “RSN Silk Shading: Four petals done

  1. Yup, I’ve done about 5 pieces of silk shading. I both love and loathr it, because it’s really quite close and intense work that isn’t always easy to get right, but is very satisfying when you’ve made a good job of it.

    I find this form of embroidery to be one of the very few that’s markedly *harder* than it looks. Usually, it’s the other way ’round!!! 😉

  2. I love needle painting, or as you call it silk shading. As silk is difficult to come by here in Cape Town, South Africa where I live, I do it mostly with stranded cotton and no 40 sewing machine embroidery thread. The no 40 thread is slightly thinner than one strand of stranded cotton and is very useful for very fine work.
    The most important tool when I do this type of embroidery is my circular magnifying lamp. It does not make any shadows on your embroidery and it is also easier to get you stitches even and lying in the right direction. There are no holes either in your work. Yes it is time consuming, but the end result is very satisfying.
    If you would like to see some of my work, feel free to visit my Facebook page : I enjoy your blog tremendously and I am a subscriber to your newsletter.
    Kind regards,
    Elza Bester.
    PS I don’t sell anything, I just love embroidery and share it with my friends

  3. Hi Kathy, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that you didn’t get to embroider more. The little bit of silk shading I have done in the past has taught me just how precise a technique it is. I fully appreciate too your experience regarding taking photos and how they show up everything, which really only emphasizes the superiority of your embroideries. Your work, as always is lovely! Thanks for sharing your workshop with us all! 🙂

  4. Hi Kathy, nor am I surprised by the ammount you achieved during the class and nor do I think that quantity is the main objective of a class. I hard a long hard struggle learning silk shading. I have done some in my Japanese embroidery classes and some online lessons with Tanya Berlin and Trish Burr, all excellent learning opportunities. I am so glad that I continued with my struggle to learn the technique, it is well worth learning. You are doing great and I look forward to seeing your cosmos progress.

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