Spend Some Time with Thread Painting Part II

IMG_7147Welcome back! I am glad that you were not scared off from our first lesson.

In part I, we laid the foundation of our apple and background. Today we are adding the fine details to give shape to what is otherwise an irregular red blob/circle.




The Beauty is in the Details

When last we saw our little red beauty – she was but a sketchy patch of red on green. Now we begin to add more complex layers of color and contour.

Step 5

As you stitch the underlay stitches, don’t hesitate to move the piece around – pivot and turn the surface under the needle to see where you are stitching. Once the mid-tone red thread foundation is satisfactory (and only you can say what this is), begin to add the blush pink, lighter stitching. For me, this was on the lighter coloured, right side of  the apple. I first filled in the more open areas with zig zag stitches and then added lighter strokes of color with curved lines of straight stitches in the same color.







Step 6

Next, it was time to begin adding some medium green to the top dimple of the apple, where the stem sits. I worked this thread in a bit of a circle, but also dragged some curved stitch lines up and down the apple. Mixing color from one area to another helps to better blend them visually, and not have such an abrupt entry of a color.


Step 7

After working on the apple portion of the thread painting for a while, it is time to add another layer of zig zag stitches to the variegated green background. This is the same color thread as the first layer. remember – we move around the piece to control distortion and balance the pressure caused by the intense stitching.

Adding mid-tone accent colors

Step 8

Once the basic apple shape has a foundation of stitches and colors, it is time to add the first layer of accent colors. These first highlight (brighter) and low-light (shadowy) colors accentuate the contour of the apple and break-up the more solid color below.

NOTE: We are working in layers. A general process that I use is that the higher the layer of stitching (closer to the top or last layer), the lighter, more sparse the amount of stitching is needed for effect. Work carefully – step back often and look at your work in good light. Be delicate with the application of color detail.

I added a medium butter yellow on top of the pink to the right as a highlight. I then added a darker green to the dimple of the apple. The stem was also added at this point.

Adding mid-tone hi and low-light colors

Adding mid-tone hi and low-light colors


Adding the stem

Adding the stem

Step 9

The next level of low-light color is added. This is the dramatic dark green. It adds definitive shadow to the stem area.

A little goes a long way: dark stitches add shadow to the stem and to the right side of the apple

A little goes a long way: dark stitches add shadow to the stem and to the right side of the apple

Step back. Add a lamp if necessary to see the piece in good lighting

Step back. Add a lamp if necessary to see the piece in good lighting

Step 10

The next layer of dark accent color is added to the apple in a deep, crimson red – following the same process of slowly adding stitches and stepping back from the work.


Step 11

One of the last steps in the painting process is to add the final, bright highlight threads. Here, the off white hot spot of light is added to the centre-left.

Also note: the shadow to the back right of the apple has had a layer of medium green added over the dark green. It seemed like that color needed to be knocked back a bit.

A humble after-thought: I think I should have blended the crimson red at the top of the apple more. I would add some of the original mid-tone red over this to better blend the stark crimson lines. The great thing is – I can still go back in and add more stitching!


Finishing the Painting

Step 12

Check the background. Add more stitching to fill in any bare spots

Trim the painting to size.

Finish the outer edges of the stabilizer with a zig zag stitch that ‘zigs’ into the stabilizer and ‘zags’ off of the outer edge to wrap it in thread. Trim any loose threads.

Square-up and trim the edges

Square-up and trim the edges


Neatly wrapping the edges of the stabilizer with an over-casting zig zag stitch

Zig into and Zag off of the stabilizer edge to wrap it in thread

Zig into and Zag off of the stabilizer edge to wrap it in thread

 Step 13

Audition backer fabrics to find one that sets off the painting.

Hand or machine stitch the piece in place.



Ewww. Too light!

Ewww. Too blah.

Ick. Too Busy.

Ick. Too Busy.

I like it.

I like it.



One Final Thought:

The title of the post is “Spend Some Time with Thread Painting.” That is the message. This is a small and fairly simple project – but do not rush. It does not have to be fast and furious thread painting. Take the time to get close to your subject. Get a feel for the texture and the play of light on the apple (or whatever your subject is.) You might be surprised by what a little artistic intensity can do for your outlook on the rest of your day, or your next project. In the end, you may not have a technically perfect apple (who does?), but it will be uniquely yours – and that is art. Enjoy!

~ Debbie

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