Updated April 23, 2019
A reader asked me a question about threads and stitches to use for stitching sand. Sand can be tough because it has an uneven texture and most of our threads are smooth. It has texture but one which is non-directional and most of our stitches have obvious directions.
Here are some strategies I like to use.
For threads there are two I recommend. You want something which has an uneven or nubby texture but which is soft not rough. Wool crepe from Amy’s has a lovely nubby texture that works well for sand, but it has a limited range of colors. Rainbow Linen or Thread Gather’s Flax n’Colors would be the linen threads I’d try, with my preference being Rainbow Linen. If you have access to mini-skeins of knitting yarns, look for slightly nubby lace- or sock-weight yarns for sand.
If you can’t find a nubby thread, you can mimic the texture with color. Use hand-dyed or over-dyed floss and reverse the direction of two of the strands, this evens out the color. You could also do a 50/50 blend of two similar but not the same flosses.
For stitches you want something which looks a bit chaotic and doesn’t have a strong direction (unless you need wind swept sand, which I’ll talk about next). That means you want stitches which either change direction, change stitches, or have lines which encroach.
For stitches which change direction, think of Serendipity, Woven Plait, or Criss-cross Hungarian. For stitches which alternate, I like Double which mixes Upright Cross with Cross,below, or Staggered Cross, which mixes small and large cross stitches. For stitches which encroach, nothing beats Nobuko for ease of stitching and a great look.
If you want to get those secondary lines in the sand that appear when the wind is constantly from one direction, then you need a stitch which is going to give you subtle oblique lines. My favorite for this is Diagonal Victorian Step. One thing to avoid here is a stitch with any kind of strong diagonal line because it will look unrealistic.
Another issue is what to do when the painting on the canvas has lines in a different color in it, as many do to indicate the changes in the sand’s shape. First, stitch those lines using a different color of the same stitch you’ll use for the main part of the sand. Second, pick a stitch which suits the scale of the areas between the lines. If those areas are mostly small and you want a Cross Stitch, use Double instead of Staggered Cross which needs more space to develop.
You will end up doing lots of compensating. Try as much as you can to keep the stitch pattern intact, but don’t worry if you get off pattern, it’s sand and it’s supposed to look irregular.