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Stitching Evergreens

Getting to Know a Tree

Evergreen trees are one of my favorite things to embroider. I love getting to know each tree as if it’s a friend of mine. When I’m stitching a tree I use a variety of sources to create a drawing of it that

becomes my pattern. I look at field guides to learn the general characteristics of the tree, and then I either look up photos of it or, better yet, find one in person and make drawings and observations. Over the years I’ve been learning the difference between trees like spruces, firs, and pines. Spruces and firs have their needles attached individually to a branch while pines are in groups of 2,3 or 5. Pine needles tend to be longer and thinner while spruces and firs give you that classic evergreen shape. All of this comes into play when I’m stitching an evergreen.

Observing Needles and Shape

The first thing I look for in a tree is the general direction and feel of the needles. Are they pointed up, down or inward? Are they long and bushy or short and spiky? It they are long and and formed in large clumps like on a pine tree I use a single thread to stitch the needles. If they are shorter and more regularly dense I use two threads. Next I assess the shape of the tree itself. Evergreen branches either go straight into the trunk (like on a subalpine fir) or they have a sort of curve or droop to them (like an engelmann spruce). I also look to see if the tree is the classic triangle or an irregular shape? I’ve learned that an evergreen growing at high altitudes will be more scraggly, stunted and twisted than the same exact tree growing at a lower elevation (which will look like just a normal evergreen). Sometimes I really want to highlight the texture of the trunk so I’ll choose to stitch the high altitude version of a tree (like on this bristlecone pine).

High altitude bristlecone pine
Sometimes I really want to highlight the texture of the trunk so I’ll choose to stitch the high altitude version of a tree (like on this bristlecone pine).

Finding the Right Color

After assessing the needles and general shape of the tree I figure out the colors I’ll need to stitch with. I usually classify evergreen as having a warm green or cool green color. Piñon pines, engelmann spruces and ponderosa pines all tend to have warmer green color while blue spruces, subalpine firs and rocky mountain junipers have cooler greens. Once I decide on the general warmness or coolness I choose midtone, shadow and highlight green threads to stitch with.

Bringing it Together

Let’s take the blue spruce as an example:

Blue Spruce

Needle characteristics: bushy, single needles coming off top and bottom of each branch, full

Shape: Classic evergreen triangle, very filled in, little trunk visible, branches stick straight out

Color: very cool greens (almost blue in the highlights)

After I studied the blue spruce and chose my colors, I created its pattern by tracing my hoop in my sketchbook and drawing the “bones” of the tree: it’s trunk and branches. Then I transferred it to my fabric with a water soluble marker. Once I filled in the trunk and branches I stitched the needles using all of the aspects of the tree I’ve shown above making sure to pay special attention to whether or not some or none of the trunk is visible in the branches. I usually start with my darkest color moving to my mid-tones and last my highlight to build a realistic value scale. I really think of it as painting with thread and treat each thread as a different paint color.

The final blue spruce

Want to Stitch Your Own Evergreen?

Head on over to my class on Creativebug and learn how to stitch a douglas fir, rocky mountain juniper and redwood! I chose three trees with a variety of shapes and colors so that you can be equipped to stitch your own evergreens based on your own observations after taking the class! Click HERE to take the class.

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