Stitching with Multi-colored threads, Part 3

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English Method

In the English method, which I teach below, you complete each stitch individually. The only difference from the Danish method in looks is on the back of the piece. The English method uses more thread, but creates a more durable backing to the fabric. In addition, there is some evidence that it may preserve your fabric by placing a more even tension on the threads than the Danish method. This method of stitching a cross stitch uses more floss than the Danish method.

Each cross is stitched in its entirety before you move on to the next stitch. Using this method makes the colors stand out very strongly. However, this can result in the colored piece looking “stripey”. But you might want stripey. See Figures 5 and 6. Figure 5 was stitched horizontally, in the usual manner, and Figure 6 was stitched in the basic direction of the petals, making the stripes follow the petal lines.



Work from the top of the petals downward in the English method as described below. You’ll notice that the wider the petals become, the thinner the stripes become. You could also work in the English method vertically on the center petal, and horizontally on the outer petals to accentuate the stripes and make them part of your design. Remember to experiment.

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 7).


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 7. The stitch comes up at A, down at B, up at C, down at D. The next stitch would begin by coming up at C, which becomes your next “A”.

On the second row, work right to left, still making crosses from the bottom left to upper right, and then from the bottom right to upper left. This will ensure that all of your stitches cross the same way. See Figure 8.

Continue to work row by row, one color at a time.

Filling the Design

If you want the defined color changes of the English method, but don’t want the striped effect, you can achieve that, too. This takes a bit more planning than either of the other options. In addition, it requires breaking the habit of stitching straight across or up and down a design.

You want to achieve the same effect as in pointellism paintings. Rather than stripes of color, you want to create spots of color, which are more easily combined by the viewer’s eye. Alternatively, you can arrange the colors so that they create a more even gradation of color. In the example in Figure 9, I grouped the colored stitches so that the pinks were all in the middle of the petals, surrounded by the more subtle colors in the floss.


Grouped colors

The effect in Figure 9 was relatively easy. I threaded my needle with a strand that had little, if any, pink in it. Then I stitched in the English method, around the outline of the petals. In some places I stitched only one stitch at the outside, in others I stitched a bit into the petal itself, for a staggered effect.

Then I threaded the needle with the leftover, pink parts of the floss and filled in the petal centers.

Mottled colors

In Figure 10, I worked for a more mottled effect.

To fill the design in this way, you must constantly be aware of where the edges of the motif are located. Because you are not stitching in a traditional methodical manner, it is sometimes easy to get lost.

Start stitching near the top of the design. Work in the English method, but jump around a bit as the thread changes colors instead of stitching rows. For example, you might work 4 or 5 stitches in the area marked with the letter A in Figure 11, then jump over to the area marked with the letter B, work 4 or 5 stitches there, and then move to another area.
Doing this for the entire motif will give you the more mottled, but not striped, image shown in Figure 10.


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