Thursday, February 17, 2011

How To Series 1: Thread Painting 101 - Directional Straight Stitch

We have learned about the proper tools and correct supplies, how to Thread Paint using a basic meander zigzag, add detail with a basic straight stitch, and last week we learned how to expand on the zigzag stitch by using it directionally.  However, there are times when a piece needs to be thread painted, but the zigzag stitches just don't fit in with the feel of the piece and it needs a bit more than detail work.

Directional Straight Stitch

I call this a directional stitch because it uses a very purposeful direction in the stitch in order to get the look we are after.  With this stitch we can accomplish both painting with thread to apply the colors we want, and control the shape and add motion to the piece.  As with the detail lines, we use our 'S' curves rather than a straight line.  By adding many more lines of stitching we build up the thread painting adding color just as we did with the zigzag stitching.  Remember that these lines are not always an S but they always have at least a bit of a curve in them.  This will help to shape our pieces and give them a more natural appearance.  

Straight Stitch Thread Painting 

In some cases, we don't really want to build color up from shadows as we have in the past, but just to add color to liven up a piece.  In the sample below, the color additions liven up the foliage. Most of the time we backtrack along the stitch line and then branch off for more stitch lines. I can also carefully travel a few stitches along a seam line or the base of the applique piece to the next position, and then continue Thread Painting.  Another method, especially useful when many lines of stitching are on a piece, is to not quite follow all the way along your stitch line when backtracking and end up an eighth to a quarter of an inch away from your start point.  These techniques allow you to travel along an applique piece without it being too noticeable.

Adding Motion

By adding long lines of thread painted color, we also add motion to our pieces. In the case of the Flower Bowl below, we have room to add long curvy lines to give the effect of a flower petal that has curve and flow.  Notice some of the darker contrasting thread colors that emphasize these curving lines.

Building Color

Our colors are built using the same methods as before, we are just using the straight stitch.  Add your cool tones and shadows first, working your way up through mid tones, and then lights and highlights.

Homework: Play with this expanded version of the straight stitch and practice building color and thread up.  Remember to practice traveling and the S curve.

Next week - Final Installment

Examples of combining stitches, and a review of what we have learned in this series.


  1. Amazing and useful tutorial again. Thanks for sharing! Györgyi Varga from quiltdesigner "club"

  2. Wonderful tutorial. I look forward to each installment. Now I need to practice! practice! practice!

  3. A nice tut- clear and concise. I love the colours. Well Done!

  4. Another great lesson. Thanks so much!!