Shadow Work

Sometime back, when I went to the local embroidery supplies store I found bits and pieces of organza fabric .People buy it here more for  flower making than for embroidery.
Shadow work and organza go hand in hand. Though I've tried it on a handkerchief earlier,I had never attempted shadow work on organza before ,so this was going to be a new experience.

In the last post, I had shown a butterfly on organza drawn with the water soluble marker pen.And that was exactly what I stitched.

Shadow work can be worked in two ways -
a )Double back stitch or reverse herringbone on the right side of the fabric or
b) Closed herringbone on the wrong side which will appear as back stitch on the right side.
There's also the Indian method which Iam planning to try out after this. I used the double back stitch since I wanted to see how the outlining appears.

As you see in the above pic, I started from the tip at point A. I did not knot the end of the thread. I held the tail and stitched into it during the initial few stitches . The fabric was so thin and transparent that anything I did would've seen through,so I had to very careful.

I came up at A and went down at B and came up at C to complete the first back stitch.That's the first crossing over from B to C. Now where should be the next stitch?

From C to A (I've marked it as D for continuity) and cross to the other side and come up at E. This is the second back stitch.Remember that the needle will pass through every point twice ( as in the point A ).
Again go from E down to B and cross over just ahead  of C to make the third stitch. The idea is simple- usually for back stitch we follow a single line. In shadow work,you have to move parallelly between two lines. But this becomes a little troublesome in some cases. I'll show you my little mistake towards the end of this post.

Here is the completed piece.

I did not use shadow work for the whole pattern.I've also used stem stitch. It is entirely your choice.But make sure you don't cross over from one part to another as you do in surface embroidery. The thread will show through. Always weave the thread through the existing stitches. I've used 2 strands of cotton floss with needle 9.

Here's another butterfly. Here I've used 3 strands with needle 7. The outline does look a little thicker. Which one do you prefer?

The completed piece:

The body has been satin stitched and the antennae stem stitched with french knot at the tips. I even padded the orange one's body :)
Don't you want to see the back?

Did you notice where I went wrong? Here is a close up :

I was trying to move exactly parallel between two lines .I forgot that for curved lines, the inner line is shorter and outer one is longer. And that gap appeared. The lesson learnt : the length of the stitches in this case should not be equal. For inner lines, take teeny stitches and for outer lines take longer ones so that you can move parallely.See the other wing,it is a good one,isn't it?  :)

Well, that's it for now. Iam planning to turn this piece into a lavender sachet.The pattern and idea is from Anchor Needle'n thread magazine - the one and only embroidery magazine we've here in India ...Oh,to have few copies of Inspirations and Stitch....sigh!! ..only in dreams,I guess  :)
Edited to update: In case Indians here are wondering what Inspirations and Stitch are,they are embroidery magazines printed abroad..

DH is away for two days for official work. Hence this lonnnnnng post.... :)

Till next time,

Lots and lots of love to you and all...muah,muah....mmmmuahhhh..

Love,luck and sunshine ( a little less here..but we'll share  LOL  )



  1. Both are lovely, though I do prefer the one with the thicker outline

  2. Your butterflies look so cute!!
    Shadow work is one of my favourite stitches, it fills up large spaces so quickly!!

  3. Deepa... I just love shadow work, it always appear so delicate...your organza appears to be different than the organza I have, but I guess there are probably different weights...lovely... nice to see your post too! Hugs.

  4. Jane, Our tastes match :)

    Neetika, exactly my opinion too :)

    Heather, this fabric was so thin, I was actually wondering if this is a good quality one or not.Now since you've mentioned yours is different,then probably there are better quality ones out there.

  5. Hi Deepa it is good to see you still embroidering, and going on to something different. Shadow embroidery is beautiful. i think with the finer fabrics the finer threads make it more delicate.

    There is a lady called Ruth Higginbottom on stitchinfingers, who does the most beautiful shadow work, and has some in her photos of butterflies. You might be interested in having a look at that, because it is not often that you see people doing it.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

    kind regards

  6. ohh..the butterflies are lovely!!

  7. Wow, I would be all tied up in knots doing the work you do! You must have patience! They are both wonderful, but love the chunky 3 strands the best!

  8. both are beautiful deepa, me too prefer the one with 3 strands..

  9. great to see you are stitching and it is beautiful.
    like your blog's new look.

  10. Deepa,
    Both the butterflies look wonderful. Beautiful stitching!

  11. Beautiful butterflies Deepa. I liked the blog's new look too.

  12. Deepa, I am very glad that you have found inspiration again! And to be honest I was only able to buy Inspirations once in the Netherlands, so I am sharing your misery.

  13. Beautiful work Deepa. I love the one with the 3 strands too. All the CB books and magazines I am told are available in Delhi at the Variety Book Depot. I have purchased the books and can vouch for that but the info about the magazines is only what I have been told.

  14. ah! it's oneof my faves, i used to do it on pillow cases a lot.....your pics have brought back my memories :), loved ur blog and came here while searching for indian embroideries :)

  15. liked your is something i could share....ithought why not by using little stich,and some old clothes i had made some bags.

  16. Thank you for this tutorial! It's the only one I've found in which I can see what shadow work actually is! I thought it was a kind of appliqué with different coloured sheer fabric. :)

    This makes it look so easy!

  17. Very bright butterflies, I prefer the orange body butterfly.


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