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Quick and Easy Long and Short Stitch Tutorial

Today I wanted to show you how to do the long and short stitch which is used most frequently to shade and blend colors together in thread painting.

The long and short stitch is an easy and fun embroidery technique to do to add more depth to embroidery and create blended gradients of color. It’s a series of long and short stitches that are similar to that of a satin stitch. It’s perfect to use for filling in shapes or to achieve more realistic looking embroidery.

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to blend three colors together. I used 6 strand cotton floss, which is the best kind of floss to use for it. I used all six strands of embroidery floss, but to make your blending even more subtle, consider using only 1 or 2 strands of the cotton embroidery floss!

For the example below, I chose three colors, two of which were the same hue (orange) and one that was a pale yellow. I started with the darkest shade and worked my way up the shape to the lightest color. It’s important to choose shades of colors that are similar to achieve a better blend.

Long and Short Stitch – Step By Step

long and short stitch tutorial
  1. Make a straight stitch.
  2. Come up through the fabric right next to the first stitch you made and make it longer or shorter than the other one.
  3. Repeat this process, varying your stitches in length.
  4. Using a lighter or darker shade of the same color, make a new layer of long and short stitches, blending together the stitches you made. (Don’t worry too much about layering these stitches over top of some of your previous stitches!)

The blending of colors will look better if you randomly vary the stitch lengths. Don’t follow a pattern of long, short, long, short too much. Your eye can pick out patterns, so if you mix up the lengths of them a bit more the colors will appear to blend together better.

Want to learn even more? Check out this page full of embroidery stitch tutorials.

Blending Colors with 1 and 2 Strands of Floss

long and short stitch using 1 and 2 strands of embroidery floss

On the left (pictured above) only 1 strand of floss was used. On the right, 2 strands were used. As you can see, the blending of colors is a lot more smooth using less strands.

Quick Tips

To sum up things, here are all the tips I have for this stitch

  • Use 6 stranded cotton floss and use only 1-2 strands for a smoother blend
  • Choose similar shades of colors
  • Mix up the stitch lengths more to make the stitches less obvious

Thread Painting Patterns

All of the patterns below use the long and short stitch, which is the backbone for thread painting. Each pattern comes with in depth guides for getting started with thread painting as well as detailed step by step photos to walk you through making the embroidery!