Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Variegated Thread Trap

For this second blog posting about variegated threads let’s look at The Variegated Thread Trap - the stitcher wants to portray a realistic effect with the thread (like sky, grass, water, etc.) but the color changes in the thread produce a result that is not consistent with reality.

Here is an example of a variegated thread, Sampler Threads from The Gentle Art, used to stitch a sky in basketweave.  
Sky stitched using Variegated Thread

Now, many of you may be thinking that you would never stitch a sky like this because of the diagonal striping that occurs.  Good.  But, this could also happen when you stitch water or grass, among other things, with a diagonal stitch using variegated threads.  I wouldn’t bring this up, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes ...

How about ....

Tree stitched using Variegated Threads

This evergreen tree, stitched with Watercolours from The Caron Collection  shows horizontal striping.  Hmmm ..., you may be thinking that you may have actually stitched a tree like this.  But, still, maybe you haven’t.

What about ....
Grass stitched using Variegated Threads

This grass was stitched with a variegated thread and there is some pooling of color.  Most people don’t want their lawns to look like this, nor their needlepoint.  So, maybe this example has caught a few more people in the trap.

What about ...

Pumpkin stitched using Variegated Threads

OK, now maybe a few more people are guilty of this type of shading with variegated threads.  This pumpkin shows highlights in an incorrect area (highlights are the lighter areas of the thread that comes from light bouncing off an object and making the object’s color appear lighter.)

Let’s look at each of these examples carefully and discuss what is wrong with them and ways to fix these problems.

First - Diagonal Striping
Diagonal Striping in the Sky

The basketweave stitch, or more accurately the tent stitch done in the basketweave style, is a diagonal stitch.  Color flow from the thread will be emphasized diagonally.  Therefore, there will be diagonal striping.  You see that the width of the stripes differs, this is not only due to the length of the shade of blue in the piece of thread I stitched with, but also the length of stitching that I was doing.  Each diagonal row is not the same length, therefore, at the beginning of the stitching, in the upper right hand corner, the color pools because the length of each row is shorter.  This little anomaly is minor considering the dramatic striping that occurs because of the darkness of that darker blue striped area.  

What to do:
Consider cutting out areas that are too light or dark from the length of thread, in this example the dark blue color.  This might take away too much thread to make stitching worthwhile using a variegated thread - which in and of itself is not a bad thing.  Switch to 2 to 3 colors of a solid colored thread that are close in value and use all of them in the needle at the same time.  This will provide a more subtle and yet random color change for the stitched area.

Since this thread is a cotton floss, I had to pull out each strand from the length of thread that I cut.  Turn half of those strands around, so that the end of the thread that you put into the needle has half the strands from the beginning of the length of thread and half the strands from the end of the length of thread.  This will produce a more even distribution of color throughout the stitched area.

Second - Horizontal Striping
The stitch I used in the tree is not only a horizontal stitch, but one in which the stitches from one row encroach onto another row.  Which is a good thing with variegated threads.  Just what do I mean by encroaching - 

Double Straight Cross Stitch

I have numbered the rows in the stitch diagram of the Double Straight Cross Stitch.  The first row of stitches, the ones with the green arrows pointing to them, use rows 1 through 5 in the diagram.  The second row of stitches, the ones with the blue arrows pointing to them, uses rows 3 through 7 in the diagram.  Both the first and second row of Double Straight Cross Stitches use rows 3 through 5 in the diagram.  This sharing of some of the diagram rows from one row of Double Straight Cross Stitches to another is what I mean by encroaching.

To complete this thought, a non-encroaching version of the Double Straight Cross Stitch is shown below.  This version of the stitch will leave a hole between the rows of stitches.

Double Straight Cross Stitch
Let’s look at the stitched tree again,

Horizontal Striping in the Tree

There are definite horiztonal stripes of color in this tree.  Due to color pooling, some of the stripes are thicker in the top of the tree because the rows are so short.  The blue arrow is pointing at an area in which this color in the thread varies quite a bit with other colors in the thread because it is so much lighter and not as grayed in color.  The red arrow points to where a new thread was started in the middle of a row and there is a large jump in color. 

What to do:
Using stitches that encroach upon one another is highly desirable when stitching with variegated threads as it mixes the colors between stitched rows.

Cut out any undesirable colors, like the much lighter and brighter color of thread.  

Place the Double Straight Cross Stitches randomly so that the colors will be mixed more.  This technique will produce the best results, but it is harder to stitch because you have to make sure you have counted correctly.  

When changing threads, do so at the start of a new row, this will help hide a color change.  Also, find a color close to the last color you stitched with as the starting point of your new thread.

Third - Color Pooling
In this example, the grass is stitched horizontally in a brick stitch which is an encroaching stitch, which helps mix up the color changes between rows.

Pooling of Color in the Grass
The arrow points to a pooling of the darker color in the thread.  What you don’t see, is the reason for this pooling of color - the length of the stitched row is much shorter in this area because there is a bush just off to the left in the lower part of the picture, as shown below.  This change in the length of a stitched row is notorious for causing pools of color.

Diagram of Grass with Bush - Uneven Horizontal Row Length

What to do:
Turn some of the threads in the needle around, as was discussed for the sky.  

Use solid colored threads, 2-3 different colors in the needle at the same time for a more random color flow.

Randomly place the stitches so that no color pooling occurs.

Fourth - Incorrect Color Placement
This last issue dealing with The Variegated Thread Trap is that the stitcher is just stitching away and is not paying attention to where the color change falls - OK, this is the problem with all of this stitching.  But, let’s look at the pumpkin again,

Incorrect Color Placement in Pumpkin
Remember that I said that lighter colored threads indicate light striking an object and the color that we see is lighter than the color of the rest of the object.  With this pumpkin, outside on the ground, where would light, like sunlight, be striking the pumpkin?  Somewhere near the top, not at the bottom of the pumpkin.  This pumpkin is unrealistic because of this lighter color, where the arrows are pointing.

What to do:
Again, consider cutting out a color in the thread that is not going to be of any use to you.  The lightest color in the pumpkin should have been cut out.

Generally, stitching with variegated threads and trying to achieve realistic effects means you need to control how the color is being used in the stitches.  Do not just stitch with it as it comes off the skein.  Otherwise, you will fall into this trap that I have discussed.  I personally prefer to use solid colored threads, though many close colors to achieve realistic color in my stitching.  Many people think that this is a lot of work, but to stitch correctly with variegated threads and achieve the same effects I do with the solid colored threads is just as much work.

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