Part 1: Satin Stitch and Blending Tips

The satin stitch is probably one of the most used and most useful of embroidery stitches.  Besides having lots of uses, and it is also quite simple. Here are some helpful techniques that you should keep in mind when using satin stitches.
My designs, by choice, require that all fabric surfaces be covered.  So, for me, a satin stitch is quite useful in filling areas with color, patterns and depth.  Since I like to use satin stitches in this way, it is often necessary to subtly blend colors to mimic nature or to create shadows or textures.  I also like to break up the filled areas with patterns in various colors, but I like the colors in those areas to be harmonious.

Satin StitchIf you can find thread colors that closely match, transitioning color may not be an issue.  If not, there may be some blending alternatives available depending on the thread or media you are trying to blend.

As an example when using standard six-stranded DMC cotton floss for a satin stitch, on textured linen fabric:

  1. Make a thread adjustment – When using satin stitches, it is important to properly gauge the fabric for the thread thickness.  For DMC floss, three strands should be removed to allow the thread to lay naturally on the fabric surface.  This sometimes is a trail and error process because not all fabric is the same.  This takes very little time but is worth the exercise.  You don’t want too much thread or the thread will not lay flat, and too little thread will leave gaps between rows or cause you to bunch up the thread to fill in the gaps.  But as a general rule, start off with three strands! I can’t say it better than Erica Kern did in this post on craftstylish.
  2. Make a color adjustment – There will now be three strands of floss.  What I do when making the blending transition is remove one strand of cotton from the current color of three stranded thread.  I then replace it with one strand of thread from the next color I will be using.  I will use this combination for one or more rows, depending on the color difference, before substituting another thread of the transition color.  Do this until you have substituted both colors and are ready to use three strands of that next color.

Two more of my favorite stitches useful in blending colors are, French knots, and long and short stitches

At this point it is important to mention a product called “Thread Heaven”.  When separating threads, as I am doing, the thread can become twisted and unruly.  Running the thread through Thread Heaven conditions and protects it and makes it more manageable.  I swear by this product.  I am trying to do a project using silk thread, and it would be impossible for me to attempt it without Thread Heaven.  For more information see: Thread Heaven.

For terrific examples of satin stitches, Google “satin stiches” and click on images.

Finally, what I hope you take away from this installment is the idea that, even when using the simplest satin stitches, there are techniques that you can use to improve the appearance of your stitching, and that will allow you to be creative and to stitch with more confidence.

Happy Stitching, George Laufert

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