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Embroider a Geometric Shape with Graduated Colours

Embroider a Geometric Shape with Graduated Colours main article image
Posted on May 19, 2021 by Samantha Cullen

Long relegated to the “olden days”, a hobby or chore for our grandmothers who sought to embellish tablecloths, handkerchiefs, or necklines, embroidery has made a cultural resurgence and been taken up by those that are well under retirement age.

Hand embroidery offers endless options to let your creative spark run wild, but in this tutorial we will be looking at embroidering geometric shapes. I’m particularly drawn to these designs, as the sharp edges are especially useful at bringing a seemingly old-fashioned craft into the modern era. There are literally endless possibilities to choose from when deciding on a design. Simply searching “geometric shapes” online will provide you with a wealth of inspiration, and if you already have an idea, you can get even more specific. I searched “geometric flowers” to find my design, an image that wouldn’t generally be associated with sharp lines and corners! These images can be used to simply inspire, or if drawing isn’t your thing, you can either print the design out ready to trace, or trace it directly from the screen (the backlight from computers, tablets, or phones make it a piece of cake!)

geo shapes

geo heart

Long and Short Stitch vs Satin Stitch

The stitch that we will be using for this project is called Long and Short Stitch. As the name suggests, it’s a technique that involves alternating different lengths of stitches and is used primarily to fill in larger areas of embroidery. Because of the nature of the alternating lengths, it creates a more natural finish without abrupt changes in direction or colour. Another common stitch you will find useful for filling in is the Satin Stitch. The Satin Stitch involves rows of parallel stitches very close together, stretching from one side of your design to the other. It is, however, usually reserved for smaller areas, as when the stitch gets too long you run the risk of it catching on things and losing tension. You can see how I have used Satin Stitch on a quote here.

So What are Long and Short Stitch?

Long and Short stitch is used either for filling in large areas or for a technique called needle painting. Needle painting is just what it sounds like, and there are amazing artists who create works of art that look just like paintings. The way this effect is achieved is by gradually changing the tones or colours you’re using, by mixing these long and short stitches together. For very intricate and detailed work, some artists use a single strand of embroidery floss—I have used three strands. For this project we will work with different shades of colours to create a two-tone effect within our geometric shapes.

What you will need:

  • An embroidery hoop (essential for any hand embroidered project!)
  • Various colours of embroidery floss (ideally bright and vibrant)
  • Scissors
  • Fabric pen
  • Embroidery needle
  • Fabric
  • Your chosen design


Step 1:

Choose your design. Use the internet to help you find inspiration, or see what creative shapes you can come up with on your own! Once you have decided what you are going to embroider, you can either trace it or draw it directly onto your fabric. Put the fabric into your embroidery hoop and tighten it up.

drawn design

Step 2:

Plan out your colours. First, pair them up so that you know which ones will work together. You may find that some colours work well with two or even more colours—that’s fine, you can even snip little pieces off and leave them partnered up so that you can visually plan where each one will go. Think about the different tones you are using and how they will look together. Try different combinations and move them around until you are happy with the arrangement. You could take a photo when you’ve reached your final decision, and use it to refer back to as you stitch.

Step 3:

Stitching! Starting in the corner of one section of your geometric design, bring your needle up from the back, and make a stitch that takes up roughly half of the section. Next to this, make another one finishing at a different length. Keep alternating these different lengths, so that you cover the entire bottom half of the section, leaving a ragged line in the middle. The stitches should actually pass the middle line a little bit, as some of them will be covered up by the subsequent colour. It’s important that your stitches follow the shape of your section. If it’s a square then they will be straight, but if it varies in thickness (like a triangle) make sure that your stitches follow the angles. Ensure that you have a thick covering, not leaving any spaces uncovered.

My sections were all about two or three centimetres long, if you have very large sections you may need to make smaller stitches (relatively) to avoid tension issues. In this case, follow the same instructions for alternating your stitch length, but make several layers until you reach the middle of the section.

First Layer

Step 4:

Time to introduce your next colour. This time, start from the opposite end of your section and follow the same process as for your first colour. Come up in the spaces left by the shorter stitches, and even come up between the threads of existing stitches to create a beautiful gradient.

Layer two

Step 5:

Continue with steps four and five, following your colour scheme, until you have filled in your entire shape.


Step 6:

Use a running stitch around the back of your fabric to gather in all the loose edges and give it a tidy finish.

These designs make wonderful wall-art, or could be stitched directly onto clothing such as jackets, jeans or hats to give you a super original and personalised look!

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Embroider a Geometric Shape with Graduated Colours

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