Shadow Stitching and Different Colors in Needlepoint

You may have heard of “shadow stitching” or “lite stitching.” It’s a technique that lets the image on the canvas show through by stitching it with thin threads.

If you are like me you probably haven’t used it much because you aren’t sure where to put it.

Golden Ears by donna horn, needlepoint canvas by art needlepoint

A simple shadow stitching technique is so effective for water like this.

I’ve found a perfect (and easy) use. So many needlepoint canvases are like this Donna Horn piece from Art Needlepoint; they use similar colors that change in an irregular fashion. This lovely river is a great example. There are three colors of blue here, all similar. Stitching it in solid color threads would be a pain.

On another Horn piece I found a perfect solution, the result is pictured in the close-up. I used a hand-dyed silks from Dinky Dyes. Pick a thread that only has shades of a single color. Multi-colored threads won’t work.

Use two strands and reverse the direction of one of the strands. This distributes the color more evenly so you don’t have major changes. The thread still changes colors but the look is gradual.

Stitch the entire area in Skip Tent, below. Stitch in horizontal rows making all your stitches on the horizontal intersections. This keeps diagonal stripes from forming and makes the color changes very subtle.

skip tent stitch for needlepoint, diagrammed by needlepoint expert janet m. perry

Use skip tent for this shadow stitching technique

The combination of an open stitch and the thin thread allows the canvas color to show. It creates an amazing effect. The darker colors in the thread match the darker color of the canvas and the lighter colors match as well. The presence of both colors amplifies the matching color but unifies the entire area.

shadow stitching needlepoint technique stitched by needlepoint expert janet m. perry

One overdyed thread + two colors on the canvas + shadow stitching = needlepoint magic

You can see the result in the close-up which is from another Horn canvas, Afternoon Pond. The effect is so subtle, but so magical I could hardly see what was happening while I stitched but it looked even better than I could have hoped when it was done.

It was so easy and so fast to stitch I have another canvas that has been languishing that is going to get this treatment.

Try it yourself on sky, water, hills, or ground. I think you’ll love it.


  1. mary says

    email address s/b in lower caseiknow how to do skip tent but need to do the reversing skip tent could you help me

  2. says

    The difference between a stitch & the reversed version of the same stitch is that it slants in the opposite direction. In Skip Tent the stitches slant from lower right to upper left. In Reverse Skip Tent they would slant from lower left to Upper right.

    Keep Stitching,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>