Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Try Long & Short Stitch Shading!


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Continuing with our archive dive, today we’ll revisit a little sampler that I worked up in 2009, to use as a springboard for learning long and short stitch shading.

If you ever dig back in the archives here on Needle ‘n Thread, one thing that you’ll notice is my evolution of blog photography. The fact is, I’ve never been a photographer of any sort. Gosh, I remember being pleased as punch when the digital camera became A Thing! At least then I didn’t have to pay to develop my cruddy photos!

At the beginning of Needle ‘n Thread, I was using a small Olympus point and shoot camera with the ability to capture video. I could never have afforded a DSLR, and even the Olympus was stretching the budget. (I feel like I’m telling one of those grandma stories – “We walked to school barefoot in six feet of snow, uphill – both ways!”)

When I produced this small series of long and short stitch lessons, focusing on a sampler, I was still using that camera. And the pictures are terrible.

One day, I keep telling myself, I will re-do that sampler and replace those old photos.

But the fact is, I probably never will replicate that same sampler. Why not? Because I’ve changed too much. The long and short stitch sampler I would create today, methinks, would be much different from the long and short stitch sampler I created back then.

Still, there’s much to learn from this little sampler, and even if you don’t work through it, you can at least read through the lessons and pick up little useful embroidery tips.

Long & Short Stitch embroidery lessons

My idea with this sampler was to help the beginner progress from basic long and short stitch in straight rows to realistic shading on shapes and design elements.

The sampler is partitioned off into little sections for each elements. Once the elements are embroidered, the stitcher might decide to embroider the “frame” and to personalize the sampler by embroidering something in the middle space.

What surprises me is that the L&S sampler is still pretty popular on Needle ‘n Thread! I receive emails with questions about it quite frequently, from stitchers who are working through it and wanting some extra helps. I think that’s great! Despite the bad photography, I’m glad it’s still useful!

Long & Short Stitch embroidery lessons

Without a doubt, my favorite elements on the sampler are the leaves and the little flower. They have a recognizable form and the shading is so much more satisfying that the shading on the other noncommittal shapes.

When I first developed that sampler, I worked the leaves and flower last, operating under the mistaken notion that they were the more challenging items to stitch on the sampler. In fact, time and experience have taught me that it’s easier to embroider a recognizable, determined thing (like a leaf or a flower) than it is to embroider just an abstract shape, like a square or a triangle.

Still, there are some good lessons to learn while progressing through the sampler – especially on the notion of the order of work and the direction of stitching. There are even some (old) videos to go along with these particular lessons.

If you’re keen to pick up some tips about long and short stitch shading, pop in and visit the sampler project index here.

I hope you find something useful there and enjoy perusing the articles!

In the meantime, I’ll be back in Kansas on Monday, so I’ll “see” you then. Have a lovely weekend!


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(8) Comments

  1. I love these articles that are deep dives into the archives. You have so much great content- I love the idea of redirecting folks to it. I mean obviously new stuff is great too- but to many of us, this is new too! Thanks for all the work, I always look forward to your articles!

  2. Oh I still have mine. I loved doing this along with you. It was great fun and learned a lot. As I’m just restarting embroidery after along ascent I may redo it to see if I still have what it takes lol.

  3. This is a great tutorial for a beginner. I just used it myself earlier this month. This was my 3rd try at long and short stitch, and it has turned out the best of the three. Thank-you!

  4. That was 15 years ago, you’ve learned much along the way. And cameras have improved by huge amounts since then too. I’m not seeing much of an issue with your past photos. At least not enough issues to re-do the whole series. Perhaps consider it like learning embroidery – keep the first efforts around to remember how far you’ve come.

    I remember the happiness I felt when I got my first digital camera at not having to pay to develop photos that were unusable. Those blurred shots, cut off heads, too dark, too light, etc. AND you didn’t need to wait a week to find out if your photos turned out.

  5. I just finished doing that sampler. Regardless of whether your camera work was perfect, or whether you’d do it exactly the same way today, it was a very useful exercise. I learned a lot from it.

  6. I have worked that sampler and thought it was great, so don’t sell yourself short. I knew nothing about long and short stitch and had a lot of misconceptions. I guess I did it well enough for my mother wanted it and now displays it on her coffee table, LOL.

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