Updated November 4, 2022.
In much of life, the things we see have random colors. Unhappily for us, if we want a realistic look, our art doesn’t make this easy.
The traditional way to stitch something like this stone path would be to use several different colors of thread, one for each color in the path. The result would be exactly what the artist painted, but you’d have to use several colors.
We all thought, 20 years ago, that overdyed threads would solve this problem. The related colors would allow us to stitch something like this and have it look realistic – with just one thread!
We were wrong. Use one thread and stitch as you normally would, and you get stripes. Straight lines with Continental and diagonal ones with Basketweave.
You can use just one thread, an overdye, but you need to change how you stitch. Instead of stitching in lines, scatter your stitches.
Begin this process by picking the right overdye. It should only contain shades of one color or closely related (and realistic) colors. Here I used Ash Watercolours. Look at your thread. You’ll see that it has three different shades or colors. Learn how to identify them.
To scatter stitch, you’ll scatter individual stitches or small groups of stitches in the accent colors. Then, when the color changes to the dominant color, you’ll fill in the open intersections.
Here I followed the painting on the canvas, using the darkest shade. When the color changed, I started filling in the medium intersections. The lightest intersections use the areas of my thread that were slightly blue.
I repeated this process with each new stitching length. Once I had all the light and dark areas stitched, I still had medium areas to go. I cut my stitching lengths, so I had only the main color and continued to stitch. You can see the result above.
If the area is not painted, you must decide how to scatter the stitches yourself. I did this with the stone wall pictured above. Because it’s short, I used single stitches. Most rows have two stitches in the accent color, some three, and a few have one or none.
When the color changed, I switched to filling in the rows that already had the scattered stitches.
Beyond the effect of the different colors in this technique, there is another benefit to using overdyed threads. Even in the main color, the color is not perfectly uniform in any overdyed thread. This means there are subtle variations throughout that make stitches look slightly different from each other. This makes them stand out as individuals, reinforcing the idea that these are random.