How to turn a drawing into a cross stitch piece: The any one colour design

Any one colour cross stitch design finished

This piece is originally made for a contest on Deviantart. The challenge of the contest was to only use one colour in a piece. Different shades of the colour was allowed. With this cross stitch piece, I taught myself how to use a drawing as a pattern, how to blend embroidery floss and how to use colours and design intuitively. In this post, I’ll explain to you how I did it, so you can learn as well. Cross stitch is a specific embroidery technique where you create a design by making Xs with embroidery thread.

From drawing to cross stitch: A running design


I always thought that a mandala would be a great basis for a cross stitch or embroidery design. This particular mandala caught my attention because I like trees and leaves. To get the design on the fabric the drawing was printed, cut out and traced around with a water-soluble pen.  As you can see, the finished embroidery piece is different from the drawing. I ran out of the dark green and my local craft shop also ran out and I was finishing close to the deadline so improvisation was necessary. I like how the design came out because not it looks like the piece is running away.

This piece is made on some kind of linen. This allowed me to play around with the positioning of the crosses to give the piece the organic feel a nature-inspired piece needs.

Any one colour cross stitch complete cross stitch

Blending embroidery threads

Bark detail any one colour cross stitch

Blending embroidery thread is a technique to create a shading effect in your embroidery pieces. Because I blended floss I could create the feel of many colours in this piece, while I only used three colours: a light green, a dark green and one in the middle. When you blend embroidery floss, instead of using two strands of the same colour floss you use one strand of each colour. The leaves are stitched with the two lightest threads and the bark with the two darker threads.

Intuitive cross stitch

In the picture below you can how I filled in the leaves. I started with the darkest colour, then added the blend, finishing up with the lightest colour. In this way, I could make sure the balance of colours in every leave was right. Not all the leaves are stitched the same to create an organic feel.  I didn’t have a clear plan while stitching but placed the stitches where they felt right. The bark of the branches is build up in the same way.  That is why I didn’t need a more precise pattern, I rather do what feels right in the moment. To work like this in an effective way the only thing I can say is to practise and make sure you stitch without many distractions so your creativity can flow.

Leaves detail any one colour cross stitch

Conclusion: the finished cross stitch

It’s always a fitting  to end a story about a cross stitch piece with a photo of the back because they have the fantastic name the ’embroidery butt’. As you can see, I don’t mind carrying thread for long distances so I don’t have to end and start my thread. It is advisable though when you use white cross stitch fabric and dark threads to not to that too much because you might see the thread behind the fabric. 

Any one colour cross stitch embroidery butt

This piece taught me that cross stitch has more variation opportunities than I thought. Cross stitch is not defined by the strict grid of Aida and you can break pretty much every rule or convention to come up with something creative. Some questions for you to end this post:

  • Which technique in this article did you like most?
  • Have you ever blended embroidery thread?
  • What is your favourite embroidery or cross stitch technique?

Would you like to know more?

Next week’s post:

–  Mixing quilting techniques in one block with the Dear Jane Quilt.

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

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