Updated April 27, 2019.
You may have heard of “shadow stitching” or “lite stitching.” It’s a technique that lets the image on the canvas show through by stitching it with thin threads.
Many stitchers haven’t used it much because you aren’t sure where to put it.
I’ve found a perfect (and easy) use. So many needlepoint canvases are like this Donna Horn piece from Art Needlepoint; they use similar colors that change in an irregular fashion. This lovely river is a great example. There are three colors of blue here, all similar. Stitching it in solid color threads would be a pain.
Or you might have a canvas that has reflections in still water, such as the one at the top of the article. Or one that shows items seen below the water. Both of these are other circumstances where this Shadow Stitching technique will come in handy.
On another Horn piece I found a perfect solution, the result is pictured at the top of the article and in the close-up. I used hand-dyed silks from Needlepoint inc’s Northern Lights line. Pick a thread that only has shades of a single color. Multi-colored threads won’t work.
Use two strands and reverse the direction of one of the strands. This distributes the color more evenly so you don’t have major changes. The thread still changes colors but the look is gradual.
Stitch the entire area in Skip Tent, as seen in the detail below. Stitch in horizontal rows making all your stitches on the horizontal intersections. This keeps diagonal stripes from forming and makes the color changes very subtle.
The combination of an open stitch and the thin thread allows the canvas color to show. You still see the reflection of the trees, but it is tempered by the thin threads and open stitch
It creates an amazing effect. The darker colors in the thread match the darker color of the canvas and the lighter colors match as well. The presence of both colors amplifies the matching color but unifies the entire area.
The effect is so subtle, but so magical I could hardly see what was happening while I stitched but it looked even better than I could have hoped when it was done. The complete kit (threads, canvas, and stitch guide) is available from Art Needlepoint. The stitch guide by itself, using all silk threads, is available in my Etsy shop.
It was so easy and so fast to stitch I have another canvas that has been languishing that is going to get this treatment.
Try it yourself on sky, water, hills, or ground. I think you’ll love it.