Variegated Thread Painting Tips

Award winning quilter and thread painter, Nancy Prince, shares an expert tip for using variegated threads in thread painting. You might remember our post about Nancy’s amazing award winning quilt, On This Winter Day!

On this Winter Day by Nancy Prince

One of the most asked questions I get when teaching thread painting or thread sketching is when to use variegated vs. a solid color thread. The answer is quite simple, but first let me give you a little thread information.

Variegated threads minimize the number of thread changes because they normally consist of 4 different values changes. Variegated threads can vary from soft, subtle light-to-dark color changes in the same color family to dramatic, bold color changes such as purple-to-red-to-gold-to-yellow. Variegated color runs can range from short 1″ runs to around 4″. The below illustration gives a dramatic example of the difference between short and long run threads. The short runs are easier for me to manipulate so look for Superior, Mettler and Isacord. For the longer runs select Sulky. Short runs vs. long runs—one is not necessarily preferred over another. The selection depends on the intended use.

variegated thread tips

Due to the constant color change, it is difficult when using variegated threads to control where individual thread colors appear. For example, in this photo the four values in the variegated thread make it a snap to thread paint the canopy as well as the tiny flowers pictured here. Because of the constant color changes, variegated threads are best used for tree trunks and canopies, distant flowers and vegetation and small up-close, multicolored flowers because it doesn’t matter where specific colors appear.

Variegated thread tips

Variegated thread tips

Solid color threads are used in about 95 percent of all my thread work because I can control where the color appears in the thread design. More realism is achieved with solid colors because the thread can be blended into each other to create a life like thread design. For example, in the photo below the lady’s’ clothing appears to be a tweed type fabric just by the way the seven solid colors were thread painted into the design.

Variegated thread tips

In this photo seven different values of green were used to give realism to the skirt by using darker shades of green to show depth, a bright green to show the highlights and an assortment of greens to blend everything together.

Variegated thread tips

In the photo below, the solid thread colors in the horse and carriage make them appear very realistic.

Variegated thread tips

And lastly, choosing the correct thread color values can dramatically enhance a photograph. Solid color threads work beautifully in peoples’ clothing, skin and hair; animals; birds; inanimate objects; tree trunks and canopies and most landscape vegetation. And whatever your imagination can come up with.

Thread painting tips

So before you select a thread for your projects know what its intended use is as some variegated threads are polyester and some are cotton. The bottom line is use a variegated thread when you don’t care where the different colors appear and use a solid color when control of the thread color is required.

Leave a Reply