Blending more than one shade of stranded thread in a needle greatly increases your color choice. Even so, it’s most common (and best) use is to shade needlepoint. For this it excels. Better yet, it’s much easier than it seems. Anne Stradal uses this technique often for skies and has blogged about it when she uses it. You can also find detailed descriptions of how to do it in some of her stitches, such as this one.
I’ve used needleblending often and for many applications, but the sky on this Botswana angel really stumped me. It’s so dramatic that I wanted something that would make it the focal point, but still allow the sky to be dramatic. I chose to do needleblending but with two complementary groups of colors.
The entire sky is stitched with only four shades, three Mandarin Floss and one silk. There are two oranges and two blue-violets. As you can see from the picture of the unstitched canvas, the sky is irregularly colored, that means you must stitch slowly to make the sky look good.
To complicate matters I also decided to use a textured stitch. With textured stitches and shading, the process works the same, but if the areas are irregular, you will need to park threads in order to keep the background stitched in straight lines.
The darker shade of orange runs along the bottom, so I put my first row of Nobuko there using this color. Next I created a transition area, irregular in height, using two strands of each color of orange. Above that is the lighter color of orange.
The lighter orange is also irregular in depth and butts up against different colors. Near the giraffe there is some blue-violet. Towards the center, there is dark orange. Near the elephant it is quite high and goes to the top of that tree. I stitched all the light orange and then the solid dark orange (there is no transition here).
With the introduction of blue-violet things become more tricky. Blue and orange are complementary colors. Mixtures of complements tend towards brown and that would be a problem for this piece. I wanted a mixed color, like the canvas, but not a grayed one.
My first try used the darker shade of blue-violet, but the colors were too different in value and it looked weird. I didn’t get gray or brown. I didn’t get an intermediate color. I just go weird and unmixed. The goal in blending is to get either an intermediate color or to get random mixing. The closer the colors are to complements, the more the blend will look mixed.
By changing to the lighter blue-violet, I was able to get a thread equivalent of the mixed color on the canvas. Using the canvas as my guide, I added the transition (2 light blue-violet strands and two light orange strands) stitches. Then I added the solid light blue-violet.
Some of the drama of the sky comes from the reappearance of orange, so these stitches were done next. The arms and top of the dress have shading going to the darker shade of blue-violet. I stitched up the center. then down each arm.
While very challenging to do, I love the end result. The sky is dramatic and it shows how needle blending can be expanded to create special effects.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
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