Needle Painting – A simple guide to get started

needle painting

There is no  wonder the needle painting is called that . It is literally painting with your hand sewing needle and embroidery thread ie embroidering realistic looking designs with small straight stitches, which almost look like paint strokes.

The whole design is filled with small straight stitches which are either long and short or of the same length resulting in blending of stitches throughout. When different colours / shades of threads are used  the stitches blend into one another creating a picture like look which is almost realistic.( Checkout the tutorial for Long and short stitches here)

The long and short stitches are the main stitches used in needle painting ; because long and short stitches blends the rows of the filling stitches there is a seamless effect just like in a  painting. Different shades of the same colours are used for the shaded effect

needle painting

One very important thing about needle painting is that you should be using one SINGLE STRAND of embroidery thread in the needle at one time at all times. This creates a very soft fine look to the whole work and the blending of colours looks subtle  and realistic.

You will also need several colours very close to each other. For eg. if you mean to fill the petal of a rose with red colour, you will need 2-3 shades of red for creating the needle painting effect

Choose a very thin needle with a small eye.A crewel needle 10 wouldbe ideal – it is small enough not to leave any holes in the fabric and big enough that a single strand of thread will pass through the eye.

How to do needle painting ( silk shading / thread painting) 

The design is filled with a long and short stitch and outline where needed is given with a split stitch. Checkout the post on long and short stitch and split stitch for more details on this stitch.

I would base my needle painting on a photograph. Checkout this post on turning a photo into an embroidery work for more details on this. Take a printout of the line drawing you have made this way. Trace it onto the fabric using a carbon sheet. Keep the original photo besides you so that you can refer to it all the time as to the colours to use in the project as well as the shading

When doing the needle painting Put the fabric with the design on into your hoop or frame, making sure it’s taut.

You will need to take many embroidery needles . Thread your needle with a SINGLE strand of embroidery thread. Do this for all needles. (single strand -This is very important for the subtle shading effect and fine work). 

The more colours you can use in the space available, the better the effect. I am using three colours in varying shades of red to fill the heart design. You can shade the picture with crayons and heat set it with a medium hot iron on the reverse of the fabric – this can give you a guideline (as well as an excuse for not thoroughly filling the design if you are lazy – the colours will make up for the lack of stitches in gaps)

needle painting

Start  stitching a split outline around the  design. This will be wholly covered with long and short stitches afterwards. Use your first colour to make the outline.

needle painting

Now to fill in the design – Start from the edge of the split stitch outline and Fill in as much of the design as required with closely worked long and short stitches.

needle painting

When you want to introduce a new colour donot do it abruptly. Take one strand of your first colour, and one strand of your second colour in two different needles . Continue to fill in the design, using the two colours together for one row.

needle painting

For the next row use  your second colour alone, continue to fill in the design.This way you will get a seamless shaded effect

You can embellish your needle painting  with other hand embroidery stitches like stem stitch, satin stitch, and French knots.

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