Cross-stitching with Cottage Garden Threads: Tips & Tricks

This is a long-promised post, and one that’s just a beginning. The more I work with Cottage Garden Threads in my designs, the more I discover about their potential for bringing new & exciting things into cross-stitch.

The following are some tips & tricks that I’ve discovered so far, but I’d love to hear your ideas too!

CGT were originally created for embroidery, and many of their more spectacular threads contain very different colours in a very short variegation. I’m an absolute sucker for new colour combos, and am always attracted to these unique threads. But how to use them in cross-stitch? To get the most out of them, we need to be thoughtful and use some different techniques to traditional cross-stitching.

Firstly, some CGT basics. With new ranges coming out all the time, Cottage Garden Threads have hundreds of colours and come in stranded cotton, Perle 8 and Perle 12. Created by mother-and-daughter team Pam and Katie, and their team in country Victoria, Australia, these threads provide a unique colour range and wonderful opportunity to add some complex and interesting colour combinations to your work. They’re also great value – with each skein containing twice the amount of US overdyed cottons.

To learn more about CGT and their story visit their website and you can see colour charts there as well.

I think of Cottage Garden Threads colours in three different types:

  • tone on tone in a single colour
  • a single colour with wider variegation between light and dark tones
  • heavily variegated combinations of multiple different colours.

The first type is the easiest to substitute into your work for DMC or other overdyes. These are the more subtle, single colours, that still contain some beautiful variegation that adds movement and complexity to your work. These include colours like Elderberry, Raspberry, Oregano and Burgundy that I’ve featured in some of my designs.

The second type stick to a single colour, but go from light to darker tones and contain lots of complexity of tones in-between. These include colours like Bart, Prue and Flax, that I’ve used in some of my Quaker designs. These threads are wonderful for creating more movement and to add more colour range in a small area.

The Cottage Garden Threads palette for ‘Tasmania, after the fires’ showing the different types of colour combinations.

The last type are the unique colour combinations like Charles and Nutmeg (which I used in ‘Tasmania, after the fires’), which I love to use when representing nature. Using these kinds of threads allows you to use your thread as a paintbrush – choosing where you would like certain colours to be and enjoying the spontaneity of where the colours swirl.

The last two types of CGT can’t always be subbed in directly for other charted threads (and can’t be replicated when using other threads either). And to get the most out of them, here are some of the things I’ve discovered:

  • The heavily variegated threads are best used in small motifs, single lines or embroidery stitches. Using them in large, solid motifs when stitched in line-by-line fashion creates a ‘stripey’ look. This can be great if you want to represent the stripes on a tree or a candy cane, but may not work when subbing into all existing patterns.
  • To avoid this ‘stripey’ look in solid sections, try stitching around the motif and then at random to fill in, rather than using the traditional line-by-line stitching method. This can create a more dappled look, which is great for representing fur, or other textures.
  • Creating symmetry or uniqueness. If you want to create symmetry in a design or have repeating motifs look the same, simply follow the same stitch path (or mirrored stitch path if you want symmetrical) in the motifs. Alternatively, if you use different stitch paths or start from different spots on the thread length, the same motif repeated can look completely different.
  • Try using the heavily variegated threads for frames, single line motifs, or writing. These can be wonderful ways to highlight the colour movements in a way that is cohesive. To get the most out of these variegations, stitch each cross separately before moving onto the next. If you’d like a more subtle variegation, complete a line of single legs of your cross stitches, then the whole line for the top legs.
Details from ‘Tasmania, after the fires’ showing the colour movement of Nutmeg in the centre, Oregano and Banksia in the leaves and Flax, Banksia and Nutmeg in the long backstitches for texture.
‘Falling Leaves’ and the Cottage Garden Threads palette used to create the design. I used both symmetry and careful colour placement in stitching the model.
  • Use nature as your model. I’ve been drawn to using Cottage Garden Threads as a way to represent the variation we see in nature. As no two leaves are the same, using CGT to play with colour placement allows you to represent the differentiation of natural motifs with a single thread. I feel I’m only scratching the surface of the possibilities so far, and I’d love to encourage you to play, experiment and share your ideas for creating new ways to stitch with these gorgeous threads.
Another close-up of motifs from ‘Tasmania, after the fires’. The motifs at the top all look unique, due to the way the threads are used in different stitch patterns. The leaves on the gum tree also mimic nature by being subtly different.

Back with lots of new designs and some exciting surprises very soon!