Shadow Embroidery

Shadow Embroidery
Shadow Embroidery Lessons


Shadow Embroidery Instructions - Illustrated lessons

Complete illustrated instructions on learning this lovely, delicate craft as well as a beginner's project are featured on this page. Enjoy!


Shadow embroidery is a technique that creates mysterious shadow effect on the stitched cloth. It is also known as a Whitework technique. Shadow embroidery is done on dress accessories, children's clothes, lingerie and household linens.

The procedure of making shadow embroidery may sound confusing for the first time, but actually it is extremely easy-to-make. The stitch is worked on sheer, transparent or firmly woven threads. For the ground fabric you may choose whatever you like: viole, batiste, fine linen or muslin, synthetic or sheer silk and so on. Ready made clothes can also be embroidered with the shadow effect stitches. There are few things you have to learn about shadow embroidery. Work double back stitch on the right side of the fabric.

On the reverse side of the cloth will be gradually formed a herringbone stitch. These herringbone stitches make for the shadow effect. Another thing is closeness of the stitches. If the stitches are close to one another, a deeper shadow is produced. If they are not so close together, a lacy effect appears on the right side. Tiny separate stitches follow the lace as an outline. Best for producing shadow effect are silk or cotton yarns. You can also use one ply of embroidery floss, and a number 7 or less crewel needle with a hoop. Colours can be stronger if you add extra plies to the fibers. Here are two examples of using shadow embroidery to create something beautiful.

1) How to embroider a flower using shadow stitches? Stems are made with fine back chain stitches on the right side of the fabric. To create the centre of the flower, around which the petals are, use French knot clusters on the right side. Petals and leaves should have an outline, filled up with shadow stitches. Use green for the colours of stems and leaves. Petals can have any colour. You can add white floss on the white canvas for some details and gain fantastic results. When choosing a design, use transfer patterns or make up something yours. Stitch on the wrong side of sheer material and examine the effects of shadow embroidery on the right side.

2) How can you make a small pillow or a cushion using shadow embroidery? To create a pillow you need the following materials: number 7 or finer crewel needle, two 9 inch squares of sheer fabric, plain muslin, embroidery hoop, embroidery floss, dressmaker's carbon paper or hot iron transfer pencil, one yard ruffled lace, matching thread, and small quantity of polyester fiberfill.

The design you want to embroider has to be transferred on the wrong side of the pillow top with the usage of hot iron transfer pencil. Then it is time to put fabric in the embroidery hoop. If, for example, you want to embroider a flower, follow the Number 1 suggestions, using French knot for the centre and shadow stitching for the petals. Close herringbone stitch is just perfect for making flowers. The ruffled lace should be stitched around the perimeter of pillow top. With a seam you should stitch together pillow top and bottom sides. Make sure you leave one side unseamed for the pillow filler to place inside. Trim the three sides and the corners. The muslin and polyester fiberfill can serve as fillers. Sachets of potpourri can also be put inside before seaming the fourth side of the pillow.

Before trying onto larger areas, practice shadow embroidery on smaller surfaces, such as pockets, belts, hats and so on. Be careful when using the iron for covering up minor creases on collars, belts and other smaller areas. It may ruin the shadow embroidery.

Article by Robbie Darmona - Article writer

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Shadow embroidery was developed as a Whitework technique. A revival of this dainty stitch on dress accessories, infant's clothes, lingerie and household linens creates a delicate trim.

The stitch is worked on sheer, transparent or firmly woven fabrics. Select organdy, voile, batiste, fine linen or muslin, sheer silk or a synthetic for the ground fabric. Shadow stitch motifs may be worked on ready-made clothing too.

Work double back stitch (Fig. 1) on right side of fabric. This forms a close herringbone stitch (Fig. 1) on wrong or reverse side of fabric. These stitches produce the shadow effect (Photos A and B above).

When stitches are worked close together, a solid shadow appears through right side of fabric. Back stitch holes are shared and create a continuous out-

line (Fig. 1). If stitches are not placed close together, a "lacy" shadow effect appears on right side with a distinct outline of tiny, separate stitches following design.

For fine detailing use one ply of embroidery floss with number 7 or finer crewel needle with a hoop or frame. Silk and cotton embroidery yarns make best shadow effects. Additional plys will make colors stronger. Stems are worked on right side of fabric in very fine back or chain stitches (Fig. 2).

Flower centers are worked in French knot clusters (Fig. 3) on right side of design. Petals and leaves are filled in

with shadow stitch. Subtle effects occur when white floss is used on white fabrics. Thread may be matched to background color. Greens may be used for stems and leaves while flower petals may be stitched in colors. Shadow embroidery works best on designs where petals and leaves do not overlap. Block letters for monograms adapt to shadow stitch. Parallel lines in design aid in structuring shadow effect. Check transfer patterns or sketch your own designs. Choose a design, transfer to wrong side of sheer material and try shadow embroidery!

Make a MINI PILLOW with shadow embroidery.

To make a mini-pillow you will need two 9 inch squares of sheer fabric, daisy design below, embroidery hoop, embroidery floss, number 7 or finer crewel needle, dressmaker's carbon paper or hot iron transfer pencil, one yard ruffled lace or eyelet edging, matching thread, plain muslin and small amount polyester fiberfill.

Using hot iron transfer pencil or dressmaker's carbon paper, transfer design to center of wrong side of pillow top.

With fabric in embroidery hoop, wrong side facing, work petals in shadow stitch using 1 to 3 plies matching embroidery floss. Use close herringbone stitch with fine stitches sharing holes as stitches outline petals. On right side work flower center in French knots.

Press finished work with right side on terry towel.

Stitch ruffled lace or eyelet edging around perimeter of pillow top. Using 1/2 inch seam, stitch pillow top and bottom together. Be sure to include raw edge of ruffling and leave one side open for pillow filler. Trim seams and corners. Turn right side out. Press.

Make small pillow filler of plain muslin. Stuff with polyester fiberfill. Place inside embroidered pillow. A small sachet of potpourri may be put inside filler pillow. Close open edges with fine hemming stitches.

Think small to large. Iron or press smaller details such as pockets, collars, belts, etc. first. Then move to larger areas.

Use your iron sparingly when touching up wrinkles on pockets, cuffs, collars and other details of your garment.