by Sandra | January 18th, 2011
In order to wake up my applique, I have to think differently than most have in the past. Throw out the “matchy matchy” mantra and switch gears. For example, Leaf veins do not have to be green nor do they have to be a matchy color to the applique fabric. Have you looked at leaves in nature? Some rose leaves have red veins! Nature is the best teacher and never gets color wrong.
Add depth to your applique by switching up the color of the embroidery thread that you use to accentuate the applique. When I am out in the garden, I am always looking at the most intricate details of the flowers, leaves, etc., to learn how to imitate them with my applique and embroidery details. If I do not have an example of my botanical object readily available in situ, then I go to the Internet, book or magazine and study an image for ideas. Not only do I look for stitch possibilities, but also thread color possibilities.
Layering colors, as well as adding highlight and shadow with those colors, is what makes an image visually dimensional. One of the reasons I use sewing weight thread to add embroidery detail is, the fine scale is subtle and the eye blends the color and values to see depth in the image. Unless you are up close and specifically studying the embroidery, you do not focus on the individual embroidered elements. If I were to use a heavier weight embroidery thread, such as one strand of cotton floss for a leaf vein, it would be way to heavy visually at this scale and the eye would react as if it hit a brick wall.
With these leaves there are 3 colors used for the veins on each leaf. The darkest color is the central vein, the lightest green for a “highlight” that tricks the eye and makes it look like the central vein is slightly dimensional and a medium-light value of that central vein for the side veins that make them look finer.
Try to imagine a one color center vein and side veins as well as the absence of a highlight color. Now try to imagine this with a heavier cotton floss weight thread in one color for all.
A sensory brick wall is what happens when you get too matchy matchy with one basic color for all, or most of the embroidery detail. We need to rewire our brains to place as much thought in how we use embroidery on our applique as the fabrics we choose for that applique. It is not complicated stitches that makes my applique stand out, but rather, simple basic stitches incoporating more color that makes the difference.
If you haven’t noticed the thread of thought that goes into how I create my applique, it is–think differently and trust your eyes.