This guide to shadow work embroidery was written and designed by Little Miss Fancy Frocks, the dynamic mother and daughter duo who lovingly create handcrafted clothing for adults and children. Visit their Facebook page here.
The series is sponsored by Minerva Crafts, suppliers of all your embroidery requirements.
Introduction to shadow work embroidery
Shadow work is an embroidery worked on a lightweight, sheer or semi-sheer fabric such as voile, georgette, lawn, organdie, organza, muslin and batiste to name a few. The embroidery is worked on the reverse of the fabric and gives a shadowy effect on the right side of the fabric. Whilst any embroidery threads can be used to work the embroidery, we have used Anchor stranded cotton for our samples. We favour a sharps, crewel or betweens needle but as long as the needle has a sharp point and an eye large enough for the thread it will be suitable for you to use.
You will need…
25cm cotton organdie (this is a stiff sheer fabric and more manageable for a beginner)
A selection of Anchor stranded embroidery skeins
An embroidery hoop
A sewing needle with a point and an eye large enough for the thread
A pair of embroidery scissors
1cm squared paper for the designs
A fabric pen
*We have used an embroidery hoop and three strands of thread for all of the samples shown.
Shadow work is best employed on small areas such as the petal and leaf shapes we have used. If you would like to stitch a larger area you can outline the petal and leaf shapes as shown above.
Sheer and semi-sheer fabrics can be challenging to transfer a design onto because they have a tendency to slip. We have found the best way to transfer a design onto fabric is to tape the design/template onto a firm surface and tape the fabric over the design. It is much easier to trace the design with an erasable fabric pen when the fabric is held firmly in place to ensure the design is accurately copied.
Shadow work embroidery uses herringbone stitch and is worked on the reverse of the fabric. The criss cross of the threads on the reverse can be seen as a shadow on the right side of the fabric, hence where the name originates.
1. Bring your thread onto the wrong side of the fabric leaving a tail of approximately 10cms on the wrong side (1) take your thread onto the underside of the fabric (2) bringing the thread back onto the surface of the fabric (3).
2. Take your thread onto the underside of the fabric (4) bringing the thread back onto the surface (5).
3. Take your thread onto the underside of the fabric (6) bringing the thread back onto the surface (7) (the same hole as (2).
4. Take your thread onto the underside of the fabric (8) bringing the thread back onto the surface (9) (the same hole as 4).
The process is repeated to form a continuous row of herringbone stitches. There should be no gaps between the stitches.
The ends of the threads are woven along the edge of the design on the wrong side and the end is cut close to the fabric. The fabric is sheer and you do not want to see an obvious line running through the centre of the shape worked.
The straight lines on the graph paper represent the thread and the dotted lines represent the shadowy effect of the threads on the wrong side.