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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Cornflowers Stitch-Along 3: All the Leaves


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Last week, we embroidered all the stems on the Cornflowers project, which is our current stitch-along project on Needle ‘n Thread.

Today, we’re going to embroider all the leaves!

If you’re just joining in on this Stitch Snippet stitch-along for Cornflowers: a Scissor Envelope, you can catch up on previous installments in the stitch-along and pick up tips and techniques that we’ve already covered, by visiting the Cornflowers Project Index here.

If you would like to make your own Cornflowers Scissor Case, you’ll find the materials kit for this project available here.

If you’re a member of the Needle ‘n Thread community on Patreon, I posted Part 3: All the Leaves in a downloadable PDF format for you yesterday, so feel free to pick up that download! Part 4 will be released this Friday afternoon on Patreon, so you can get a head start on the flowers over the weekend.

And now, let us tackle the graceful leaves on our cornflowers!

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

All the leaves on this project are embroidered in fishbone stitch, using two strands of floss in the needle.

If you are not familiar with the fishbone stitch, you can find a video tutorial for fishbone stitch here.

Because your stitches will be following the gentle curves of the leaves, pay extra attention to your stitch direction and the length of your stitches. You’ll find that, on the outside of curves, your stitches need to be much longer, to compensate for the curve and keep a smooth, gradual filling and a clean edge.

Big Tip: Don’t crowd your stitches! You want the individual stitches to lie parallel to each other, without twisting or overlapping each other.

Shading the Fishbone Stitch Leaves

To vary the shading of the green on the leaves, I used different combinations of green in the needle.

There are five degrees of shading we can achieve with the three greens, by combining the greens different ways.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

Let’s consider the greens this way:

A – Dark Green
B – Medium Green
C – Light Green

If we would like additional shades to dark, medium, and light, we can combine two shades in the needle at once, which will give us five different degrees of shading altogether.

For the leaves, then, we’ll combine the different greens in the needle as indicated below, from dark to light, with the letters representing a single strand of floss.

AA (two strands of dark green in the needle)
AB (one strand dark, one strand medium)
BB (two strands medium)
BC (one strand medium, one strand light)
CC (two strands light)

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

In the diagram above, you can see where I drew in lines to indicate where I would make a change in shading, but you don’t need to get this complicated!

In fact, after doing one leaf following a pre-determined shade pattern, I found that it was easier and more effective if I simply worked out a general idea of where I wanted lights and darks to go, and then adjusted my shades of green as I went, without reference to a strict layout like the one above.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

You can see here how the shading works out.

At the tips of the leaves, I generally started with AA in the needle, and then switched to AB, and then to BB, and then to BC on the side of the leaf that I wanted lightest.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

To keep transitions smoother – so I didn’t end up with defined blocks of color – I alternated stitching with two sets of threads for a couple sets of stitches as I moved into a new shade.

So, on the right side of the leaf above, you can see that I’ve switched from a medium green (above) to a lighter green (below) on that side of the leaf. While working towards the lighter green, I wanted to work some of the lighter green and medium green together. To do this, I established a transitional pattern from the medium into the light green area.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

You can see the transitional area marked in the photo above.

To accomplish this, after the medium (BB – two strands of medium) green, I brought in the next shade (BC – one strand medium, one light) with one stitch on the right side. Then, for the next stitch on the right side, I went back to BB.

Then, I added anther BC, another BB, and then finally switched the rest to BC.

Meanwhile, on the left side of that leaf, the other half of the fishbone stitch was doing just the opposite – moving from lighter shades at the top left side of the leaf to darker shades at the lower left.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

As long as all your shade changes are gradual enough, your leaves will look great. You don’t really have to sweat over the exact precision of shade changing, but you’ll definitely want to avoid “blocks” of color, by at least using a combination of shades (AB and BC) in the needle, between your solid shades.

Park Your Threads!

The easiest way to manage the different shades as you work each leaf is to park your threads as you switch shades, so that you can pick up previously used threads as you need them.

If you’re not familiar with “parking” your embroidery threads, check out this article and this article. They both explain how to park threads and why it’s a handy approach when dealing with multiple colors and shades of thread.

Or … Keep It Simple!

You might decide that this type of shading with fishbone stitch is more than you care to bother with. And that’s ok!

You can work the leaves in a single shade of green. For example, you could work some of the leaves entirely in dark green (two strands of dark green in the needle) and other leaves in medium, and still others in light.

Or you could work each leaf in two shades of green, using one shade on one side of the leaf and the other shade on the opposite side. For example, you might work one side of the leaf that seems to be more likely in shadow in dark green, and the opposite side of the same leaf in medium green.

Any of these approaches will work for the leaves – or even a combination of these approaches.

The Little Leaves

There are two little leaves in the design, located at the tops of stems.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

These are embroidered in simple satin stitch using two strands of the lightest green.

Try to keep your satin stitches as smooth as possible, too. A laying tool can help you with this, or “railroading” each stitch can also help.

This particular article will help you understand the slant and stitch direction on satin stitch while working a shape like this.

On the Cornflowers, though, the small leaves are not padded or outlined because they are so narrow and they really don’t need padding. They are simply a basic satin stitch.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

Try to pay attention to the slant of your satin stitch, so that your stitches lie parallel to each other as much as possible as they cover the gentle curves of the leaf. If you want, you can mark in some stitch direction lines with a pencil or pen, to help you keep your satin stitches consistent.

Cornflowers embroidery - scissor case - stitch along

And that, my friends, brings us to the end of the leaves!

In our next installment, we will stitch all the flowers. Woohoo! That’s the fun part – you’ll see the whole piece just leap to life with the addition of the blues!

Looking for More?

If you’re looking for previous articles in this series, you can find them listed here, in the Cornflower Project Index!

Floche packs for hand embroidery


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