Long and Short stitch is used for shaded fillings and often used in ‘thread painting’ as it is wonderful to shade from one tone to another. People often think of Long and short stitch as one of those challenging stitches that mark you out as an advanced embroiderer. Long and short is almost a rite of passage into the world of thread mastery. You often see it worked in silk and adapted to shade the forms of detailed thread paintings.
There are two “types” of long and short stitch that of the regular straight stitches that block in colours. I have worked this in the first demonstration. The second is Long and Short stitch that radiates or is worked on a curve. When worked on a curve often only the first line is ‘long and short’ establishing a staggered line. From there stitches are added and adapted to fill the area. The main thing to consider is the direction of the stitches and keep them in line or if you are thread painting follow the form.
As a tip when learning this stitch don’t worry about shading at first. Just focus on mastering the stitch. Use a hand dyed or variegated thread that changes shade if you want to give it a bit of zest but just focus on filling a shape with the stitch. Then once you have that more or less under control change your thread colours to shade a design. Of course it depends on the design but usually you have 3 to 5 shades working a couple of rows of each until you have shaded from light to dark or dark to light which ever the pattern requires. If you are wanting to work something like a leaf or a flower petal in long and short stitch, work from the outside in shading as you go.
How to work Long and Short stitch
These samples are worked on even weave fabric in the thread that is fractionally too thin so that you can see how the stitch is worked. Normally a thicker thread would be used to ‘fill out’ the stitch
To start you work a row of alternating long and short stitches
The second row and all rows after that are stitches of the same length.
The last row is worked in half stitches to fill the area evenly.
Here I have a sample where the top block is worked in cotton and the bottom block is worked in wool and you can see how the area is filled out with stitches better because the thread is slightly thicker than the demonstration thread.
This is the way most books illustrate long and short stitch. It means readers have the impression that long and short stitches must be on every line and that the stitches must be an even length. It is not the case it is Ok to adapt long and short stitch to the shape you are working.
Long and Short stitch radiating inwards, outwards or on a curve.
Many stitchers get themselves in a fluster when the shape they have to work needs to radiate inwards, outwards or the shape requires curved shading. To work long and short on a curve or in a radiating manner first work 3 or 4 radiating long stitches.
Between these long stitches tuck smaller shorter stitches as illustrated.
Continue radiating the stitches outwards tucking the stitches in on each row. To do this place the point of the needle between the stitches, not back in the same hole as the previous row of stitches. This ‘tucking’ between stitches will mean you can you work long and short on a curve or radiating outwards.
This tucking in method produces a smooth surface.
As I have just said this stitch can be used to fill areas very effectively and shaded to produce some painterly effects. In the samples above both the butterfly and the unicorn was stitched in single strand DMC cotton.
This is a contemporary sample which was shaded using long and short stitch at the top right hand area and chain stitch is mid way. It is interesting to compare the two as both can be used to shade areas and it is wonderful to work with hand space dyed threads.
Here another contemporary sample that is contrasted with highly textured stitches. I hope you enjoy long and short stitch.
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