Playing with Thread Colours with Graceful Embroidery

See how thread choices make a big impact with Hazel Tunbridge from Graceful Embroidery.

I am passionate about the colours in my embroidery designs and spend almost take as much time selecting the right combination of threads as digitising. My new collection, Jacobean Sampler really celebrates colour. Intricate stitches have been carefully blended to make the elements pop and, in some places, different stitches have been placed on top of others.

There is a combination of seven colour schemes in the collection and the Tree of Life has been created with elements from several of them.

You may be aware that many of the stitch types and styles in Jacobean embroidery are remarkably like white work, the thread colours being the main difference. I have experimented to see if the designs can be transformed into a modern style of white work, which has a slight hint of colour.

Right from the beginning of my machine embroidery journey, when I made embroidered bridal gowns, I sought out as many whites and ivories as I could find to add contrast to the embroidery. There are probably more out there than you imagine, and they are the threads I use for my colour adjustment. I tend to use just Sulky rayon threads, and these are my favourites.

There are others with just a little more hint of colour and, of course, a metallic white is also an option, or maybe a polyester thread which does not have so much of a sheen. I used a polyester for my bright white.

When playing with thread colours remember that the colours portrayed in your software are not always accurate, so you need to use the actual spools for making you selection.

I suggest that you do this in your embroidery software. First, make sure you rename the stitch file so the original file is not lost. Study the design you choose to transform into white work.  I choose GFE-JCB-3-16 from Jacobean Sampler 3 and it stitches out in a 5” x 7” hoop.

I changed all the outlines and running stitches to slightly bolder colours from my selection like the grey. Then I moved on to the larger areas like the leaves and changed those colours. Lastly, I changed the other colours in the design making sure that there was enough contrast where one colour stitched on top of or next to a colour. Some of the outlines were then changed to whites and I had to do a little shuffling around. I have most of my threads on two racks in my studio and I studied them all to find two or three “louder” colours to make the embroidery pop!

In the end, I decided upon Sulky rayon 1070 Gold, 1275 Sea Mist, and 1838 Cocoa Cream.

The design was saved and sent to my machine. Here are the revised colours alongside the original ones.

I hooped up a layer of stitch and tear stabiliser and added another from scraps which is my usual method. I have been using a wonderful natural raw Noil silk for all my stitch outs in the Jacobean Sampler collection as it really makes the embroidery stand out. Not only is it easy to use, I tested it to see if it was washable by hand. There was just a little shrinkage. The silk was attached carefully with temporary adhesive spray, away from my embroidery machine or any other devices.

Here is the result.

I was delighted with the thread choices I had made and the subtle differences highlight the types of stitching. They would not have stood out if the design was stitched out in just one shade of white.

So do experiment with colour, but in closing may I share  my rule about colour choices:

“Avoid primary colours, aim for around three colours in various tones and shades, and maybe one or two rogue colours to make your emroidery pop!”

Happy embroidering from Hazel at Graceful Embroidery.

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