Free Motion Embroidery – Shading

In my attempt to learn to draw I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube tutorials.  Since I’m learning to draw to eventually create images on fabric, I thought I’d try applying some of what I’d learnt about shading to create a 3 dimensional appearance to free motion embroidery.

I started by exploring shading a ball as when I’d drawn one previously

My first attempt was spreading the ‘shading’ lines out further and further the more I moved across the fabric (unnumbered images bottom right). This created more of a cylinder than a ball – even when I used  a thread that was closer in value to the fabric.


I then tried a thread version of cross hatching (1). This was a little better, but certainly not good enough.

The ‘ball’ top left is worked in a variegated thread. Although the ball is unconvincing, it inspired me to sew in patches of each colour as the tread changed (3). I thought this might be a good effect for sky or water. Does anyone have any other ideas of anything it might be useful for?

I would have liked to try shading the ball using several slightly different shades of a single colour of thread. However, since I didn’t have any that were very close in colour, I did my best at making a patch of shading with the closest set of 4 I had – (5) below.

I also played with other techniques used in drawing that might give a 3 dimensional effect….


(1) and (2) are basically curly scribbling. I’m thinking these might be good for curly fur, wool on sheep, bushes or leaves on distant trees. Any other offers?

For (3) I did curly scribbling, but tried not to let any circle overlap the other. Apart from maybe more curly fur, I’m not sure what I’d use it for. Any ideas?

(4) is my thread version of cross hatching. If I turn it 90 degrees it reminds me a bit of seaweed!

I’d love to know if you’ve thoughts of any other ways I could machine embroider to build texture/give the impression of an object being 3D.

Until next time,

Bekki x