21 December 2021
How do professional embroiderers set about creating snow in stitch? We’ve pulled together a range of incredible ideas to inspire you – from individual snowflakes to vast frosty landscapes.
Nicola McEachran (@ndmhandmade) originally studied architectural design and is now applying the discipline and design skills learned to the practice of hand embroidery. Here’s her take on capturing winter scenes!
How to capture winter scenes in stitch
Growing up on the West Coast of Scotland, we usually had a couple of days of snow each winter and I have very clear childhood memories of how magical those days were. As an adult, I find the idea of snow much more appealing than the reality of trudging through slush and ice, but I still get that thrill when the first flakes start to fall.
I love the quiet transformation that freshly fallen snow brings – the soft grey skies, the special quality of the reflected light and how all sounds are muffled and stilled. When I embroider snow, it’s that idealised, magical quality that I’m trying to communicate, rather than an accurate depiction.
Keep it simple!
When stitching snow, I like to keep things simple to reflect the unifying effect snow has on the landscape. I tend to limit my palette to white and one other colour (often grey or blue), which I may utilise in various tones. Normally I avoid using bright white in my work, but snow is the exception as it’s the perfect shade!
Vary your felt
For my little winter scenes, I use two different types of felt – 100% wool felt and a blended felt containing 40% wool. For the hoop art pieces, I use wool-blend felt for most of the piece as it has a bit more ‘give’ to help ease the layers into the hoop. Then 100% wool felt for any cut details, like the little cottages. For pieces that will be framed conventionally, I use 100% wool felt throughout.
I like to keep my stitching simple too. To create layers and drifts in the snow I embroider sweeping curves in backstitch using a single strand of white embroidery thread, usually Anchor stranded cotton. Pathways can be suggested by tiny seed stitches in groups, either in white or a contrasting tone. And tiny French knots embroidered in the sky represent snowflakes drifting lazily to the ground.
Less is more!
White iridescent sequins can add a tiny bit of sparkle to a snowy sky – just don’t use too many! Metallic threads can also add a lovely accent to the work if used sparingly. Shisha stitch is useful if you are embroidering the moon in your snowy scene – I like working with Kreinik’s Fine (#8) and Very Fine (#4) Braid for this.
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Fellow stitchers share more top tips and inspiration...
In her Goddess of Winter, Sass Tetzlass used a combination of Angelina fibres, couched threads, and machine embroidery. She advises taking time to get colours and textures that evoke the feeling of ice cold, barren landscapes and then experiment to find the best technique to express your vision.
'Goddess of Winter' by Sass Tetzlass
Zoe Richardson used long and short stitch to create the effect of snow on the mountain top in her Northern Lights hoop. And little cross stitches in metallic white thread for the falling snow.
'Northern Lights' by Zoe Richardson
See Stitch issue 134 for a stunning blackwork interpretation of the Aurora Borealis by Alex Law.
'Aurora Borealis' by Alex Law
Angele Carter (@fabricandink) is an ex-pat Brit who finds herself constantly inspired by the natural world. Here’s how she approaches all things snowy!
- I like to use metallic or sparkly white thread when embroidering snow.
- I embroider on felt which is pretty easy to work with, but I always use thread conditioner to avoid the tangles metallic threads are notorious for.
- I also keep the lengths of thread short, no more than about 12 inches.
- Look for white threads with cool blue, silver, or pink tones that mimic the cool tones found in the snowy landscape.
- If I’m embroidering snowflakes, I like to reference a book of beautiful snowflake photographs that I have.
Textile artist, Hellen Edwards (@elle1973) embellishes felted wool scenes. For snowy landscapes she likes to build a base of felt with a mixture of whites, blues, and greys to create light and shade. Then free motion embroidery gives the shapes and texture. She also says a little sprinkling of Angelina fibres goes a long way!
Regular Stitch contributor, Loëtitia Gibier (@korry77) likes to use chenille thread, worked in small lengths as it gets damaged easily. Then depending on the effect she wants, she either couches lengths or does French knots. Her ultra-sweet gingerbread house design in issue 133 used couched iridescent chenille thread to create the snowy detailing.
Angela Grasse’s snowflake started as a white cloth base to which she applied a mauve surface treatment. Silver/holographic transfer foil was added to the whole surface. Then she cut a paper kirigami snowflake design to use as a mask and sprayed with turquoise paint. The resulting shimmery snowflake design was enhanced with hand embroidery and small dots of fabric paint for dimension.
'Snowflake' by Angela Grasse
For a subtle understated look, Lesley Coles suggests freehand stitching with ‘sparkly’ thread on a pieced white background.
There’s no need to dream of a white Christmas! In Stitch issue 127, Ilke Cochrane shows how to build a sparkling snowman with a range of goldwork metals and techniques.
Next, dive into our water series and learn how to create realistic water using hand embroidery.