Stitching with Multi-colored threads, Part 2

In my last post, we had an introduction to the fun that is the apparent randomness of color in multi-colored threads. Today we’re going to move on to specific techniques you can use to get the effect you want from your stitching.

Stitching with Multi-Colored Threads – Cross Stitch Techniques (Danish) copyright 2001-2008 by G. Romilly Mueller (Goodfellow) all rights reserved
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Cross Stitch Techniques

That said, here are some ways to start out and an idea of the effect you will get if you use the described methods. All of my examples use the small fleur-de-lis chart I use in teaching. Only one color is used for the entire pattern, although I have taken the liberty of using a contrasting color for the band across the middle. In my examples, I used black for the band.

Click on the chart thumbnail below to enlarge it. You can then print it and it should print at a size that is easy to work.


For this chart of a fleur de lis, pick a multi-colored, stranded floss from your stash. This can be variegated, or one of the overdyes. For my examples, I used Needle Necessities in color number 107, Dreamscape. With this small a design, you may want to use one of the overdyed colors, because color changes tend to be closer together than in the variegated. Stitch with 2 strands on 14 count Aida (or 28 count evenweave, or whatever).

Danish Method

This is the method of working the cross stitch that is generally taught in the United States. It is extremely frugal in its use of thread. You will often be told that you shouldn’t use this method for multicolored threads, because you lose the definition of the various colors. However, this may be exactly the effect you are looking for in your work!



Work from the top of the petals downward in the Danish method as described below. You’ll notice that the wider the petals become, the subtler the color change becomes. The effect should be similar to the tweeding effect you get with a blended needle, and will vary with the colors of the thread you use. You can see this effect a little in Figure 1, although because there were so many different colors, the result was less blended than it might have been had I used the DMC variegated, or something similar. You can see the tweeding effect best at the top of the side petals, and at the four-stitch area of the center petal.

Stitching with the Danish Method

The Danish method is the style of cross stitching most Americans learn first. In this method, you will stitch one row of crosses at a time. It is sometimes faster than the English method described in the next section, and uses a shade less thread.

Working on Evenweave:

When working on an evenweave fabric like Jobelen or linen, cross stitch is generally worked over two threads of the fabric. Look closely at your fabric, and you will see that threads alternate going over and under another (Figure 2). This is a trait of an evenweave. When stitching cross stitch on an evenweave fabric, begin at a juncture where a vertical thread will be to the right of your needle. In other words, bring your needle from the back of the fabric to the front at point A, as shown in Figure 2. The individual stitch comes up at A, down at B, up at C, and down at D.


When stitching multiple stitches in the Danish style, stitch all the first half of the stitches in one row at once (see Figure 3) and then come back along the row, crossing the stitches (Figure 4).


Working on Aida:

In many ways, working on aida fabric is much easier. It is specially woven so that there are blocks of fabric separated by holes. You work one stitch over each block. Partial stitches become more difficult in that you have to pierce the center of the fabric blocks to stop in the middle of the cross. Other¬wise, stitch the same way you would on evenweave.

TIP: For an even subtler look, take one strand and turn it backwards to the other… this will blend the colors within each pass of the stitching. If you choose to do this, use shorter strands of floss than usual, because as the grain is backwards on one strand, it will rub more quickly on the fabric and become fuzzy faster.

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