Stage 5 – Coloured stitches

Colour exploration continued in this stage, moving back into stitch. I needed to select two primary colours, work on a black background and experiment with proportions and placement to see the impact on the apparent colour.

I chose yellow and red as my colours. Wanting to continue a mix of hand and machine stitching, I decided to use the machine and to start off with the 10/2 mercerised cotton from Lunatic Fringe (I discovered back here that my sewing machine is quite happy to use these direct from the cone).

photo from Lunatic Fringe site

The set of colours includes two reds (10-Red is marginally towards yellow, 5-Red is marginally towards blue) and two yellows (10-yellow is lemony, 5-yellow is more golden). The top few lines of the sample is just a check of tension settings and a try of cottolin to see if the machine liked it and if it would give a more matt finish. The machine wasn’t keen and the look wasn’t hugely different so I didn’t continue with cottolin.

My comments on the samples are based on looking at the original under a “daylight” lamp (it’s a dull, rainy Sydney afternoon outside). Unfortunately the colour of the photos have shifted a bit.

Using the numbering on the photo, in section 1 I tried the two closer primaries – 10-Red and 5 Yellow. Proportions of each colour remain constant throughout – 50/50 – but the distance between varies. In the wider spaced area to the right the yellow looks slightly more lemony than on the cone and the black around it very faintly greenish. The red looks unchanged from the cone. On the left they combine to give a variegated orange effect. The red is not individually apparent at all – it looks orange. The yellow retains some individuality throughout. The impact varies depending on distance and angle of viewing. Typing at my desk and looking across at the sample lying on the worktable, the background fabric is hidden by the closer stitching. The red and yellow are hard to focus – the effect is a textured orange.

The next experiment was combinations of the slightly different yellows and reds, plus I’d read about long machine jump stitches on Claire’s blog (her post here, describing a class with Pamela Priday) and wanted to see if I could do something similar (I don’t know Pamela’s technique unfortunately). The thread on top covers some of the thread below, changing the visible proportions.

Top Row of cross-hatching:

Combo 2: 10-Red over 5-Yellow. A rich combination. From a distance the colours blend to a textured orange. Closer, the colours enrich each other.

Combo 3: 5-Yellow over 10-Red. From a distance the red is not apparent. The yellow appears shifted towards orange. Closer, the two colours remain distinct but the yellow dominates and seems to have an additional glow.

Combo 4: 5-Yellow over 5-Red. The yellow is fractionally cooler, the red looks slightly dull.

Combo 5: 5-Red over 5-Yellow. The red is shifted slightly to orange, the yellow is shifted slightly green.

Bottom Row of cross-hatching:

Combo 6: 10-Red over 10-Yellow. The red is distinctly shifted towards orange. The yellow isn’t changed.

Combo 7: 10-Yellow over 10-Red. The red is shifted, but looks dull. The yellow is unchanged.

Combo 8: 10-Yellow over 5-Red. Neither colour appears changed.

Combo 9: 5-Red over 10-Yellow. The red has shifted towards orange. The yellow is unchanged.

Overall the differences are slight, but the 10-red and 5-yellow combination looks more harmonious and shows the greatest and richest mixing of colour. The yellows tend to dominate in all combinations, and the 10-yellow shows no impact from either red.

The large scale of the cross-hatching limited the amount of optical colour mixing. I moved to rayon machine threads, red in the needle and yellow in the bobbin. The red is on the orange side, the yellow is golden.

The first run goes from top left, clockwise around the perimeter. I gradually tightened the top tension. At the beginning no bobbin thread is visible. As the stitching progresses first tiny pin-pricks then dots of yellow bobbin thread start showing. I kept going until I reached maximum needle tension, which still wasn’t pulling up much bobbin thread. While at the machine I was disappointed. The lighting there is not good and I couldn’t see any change in the apparent colour. In better light there is a subtle but distinct shift in apparent colour, gradually moving to orange as the yellow bobbin thread takes effect.

The second run starts at the bottom and moves clockwise. I had loosened bobbin tension and was able to get much more yellow bobbin thread to the surface. I had the machine running quickly and the stitches are very small. The rayon looses all sheen and just looks dull. There is actually a sick green tinge, presumably be the influence of the black background with the more open stitching pattern.

Middle left I went into a frenzied zig-zag motion (by moving the frame, not using the machine stitch), trying to get more solid areas of yellow visible. This leads on to the central meandering zig-zag part, which I think is the most interesting, energetic and successful section. I like a line that manages to be jagged and smooth at the same time. I was also able to get some good colour change by modifying the needle tension, effectively changing proportions of yellow and red. The colours mix and work together well, but still retain some individuality which I think adds to the interest.

1 Response to “Stage 5 – Coloured stitches”


  1. 1 Claire B December 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Like it Judy, really good effect.


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