Silkquencing Tutorial

Silkquencing = Silk + Sequencing

A fussy, but wonderful technique.  I'm sure I'm not the first one to stumble onto this technique, but I wanted to offer my ideas, hints, and discoveries to other stitchers so they can share in the fun. Below is a monochromatic motif I designed. One color; one chart symbol. It's a great example of how sequencing your stitching can create amazing effects. There are certainly other ways this can be achieved, so don't consider this an all-extensive tutorial - think of it as a launching point.

Ink Spot #16 (Flakey) using Gloriana's Silk: Ada's Rainbow

Picking the pattern—what works and why:
· Other than a completely non-symmetrical pattern, any variety of radially symmetrical designs can be used.  The pattern can have large solid areas, like my mandalas, or can have thinner interconnected bits branching about. I’m going to address the 4 Mirror Axes design, as they are the most challenging. If you can make it through the 4 way snowflake, something like bilateral symmetry, such as a flower pot, will be simple.
· This can work with specialty stitches and back stitching.

Picking the linen—what works and why:
· High enough count that you can use a single ply of silk. You can of course use high count aida or other styles as long as you only need one strand for coverage.  I like one strand on 36 count over 2 and higher. Some like one strand on 32 count over 2.
· Using a lower count linen over one will also work, such as 25 count over 1.
4 Mirrored Axes of Symmetry: the red triangle is one of 8 congruent areas

Picking the silk—what works and why:
· Wide color variation, as long as all colors in the thread are clearly distinct from the fabric color. This technique is too much effort to make a tone-on-tone silk color really worthwhile; your most dramatic results will be from that wild one.
· Shorter color bands.  Look for one that transitions gradually every few inches, rather than one that has six inches of blue then abruptly switches to six inches of red.
· 12 Stranded Silk: Above notice the one red-colored triangle on the green motif. There are a total of 8 triangular sections, which will all be worked in parallel. There will also be some opportunities to do groups of 4 matched pieces when a group of stitches lands smack on one of the four mirrored axes. 12 Strand = 8 Strands + 4 Strands. No waste.
· 6 Stranded silk will work for lesser orders of symmetry, or for very small designs that can be broken in to 4 parts instead of 8, but this is not ideal and 2 strands get wasted.
· Theoretically, you could use 2 strands of 6-ply to make 12 plies, but it is unlikely that (and a lot of work) you will find two lengths that are dyed exactly the same.
· I've found that Gloriana’s Threads and Silk N’ Colors fit the bill well.  Gloriana just came out with a new product that is a 12-ply very fine silk (Tudor Silk) that is wonderful for very high count fabrics. There may be other brands that work wonderfully. Experiment and report back!

Silk 'N Colors: Dicken's Christmas
Tips to read before you start:
· Set aside a length of silk that includes ALL of the colors as your emergency spare.  This will come in handy if you break a strand, or have an excessive frogging incident.
· Use short lengths of silk. I like 12” or less. You may have as many as 12 loose ends at a given time (don’t let that frighten you.)  It’s nice to close the book and start a new strand in the same place on each segment—call it re-registering. Also, thread can fray. You want to minimize things that may cause you to end a strand prematurely.
· Cut the thread such that the two ends have different colors. It makes it easier to keep track of “starting with the red end.”
· Punch extra holes in your floss card and label them 12, 8, and 4. Put your emergency spare in the 12 hole.  Cut a length to work and divide it into a group of 8 and a group of 4 and put them in their respective holes.
· You’ll completing each complete “x” before going on to the next. 

Gloriana's Grape Harvest

Strategy: Work the congruent parts the same way.     
· It is NOT necessary to work each stitch in the exact same order for all 8 parts! The thread color is not changing every millimeter. The game plan is to complete the same group of stitches and have the thread end up in the same area when the color gets around to changing.
· Start stitching the motif near the middle, but not at the exact center. It’s too crowded at the middle. There will be a lot more room for starting threads a few stitches out.
· Plan a route outward that leads to groups of unworked stitched. Meaning, if it is possible don’t finish up an area that would force you to end off your thread and restart it somewhere else.
· It’s not necessary to plan out the entire length of thread ahead of time. Think in terms of 20 stitches or so, unless it’s very obvious.
· Start each thread with either a pinhead stitch or by running it under neighboring stitches on the back. It should be obvious, but start the threads at the same colored end for each of the congruent segments. You can choose which end (remember they are different colors) and get very different looks on the same motif.
· When you are ready to stitch another segment, bring the remaining thread to the front a few stitches outward from your last cross stitch and remove the needle.  This is called “parking” the thread.  Keep your parked threads together in a loose coil on the front of your work, being careful not to get them tangled up with your working thread or sewn in.

The first few steps. As you can see, I started with a blue end of the thread near the center and stitched outwards (red area on the chart a few pics below.)

When all 8 congruent parts were done, I started in where the yellow stitches on the graph below were.

Attempting to show the first few groups of stitches I worked with. The arrows show the thread color change and the general direction of travel.

Continue working each of the 8 segments in parallel. I could have used one of the two yellow ends that ended up near each corner to finish off the corner, BUT I had enough thread left that I wanted to use it on a bit where there were still 8 parts. So, I jumped to the center top and worked toward the middle where the yellow turned to green. I used one green end to work the center spike upward and one green end to work the stitches downward, fastening both off  when complete.

There are probably a hundred different ways to map this out. Each would give a different way the color pools.  As long as you do it roughly the same, you will achieve the symmetric mandala coloring.

 Some Final Tips
· Fasten off an inch before you would normally quit. Even though you might be able to squeeze in 5 more stitches, who is to say your other 7 strands will go exactly the same.
· Some clusters of stitches along the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal axes are better dealt with as a set of four congruent groups.
· If you've completed all of the sets of 8 and you still have thread in the needle, you can convert 4 of the 8 open strings to attack one of the groups of 4. In fact, you can use the remaining 4 of the 8 open strings to attack a different group of 4.
· It is not immoral or illegal to bury a little thread on the back occasionally. For example, if you are down to completing the very center or starting a new clump of stitches, and you would really like it to be a new color, simply run the needle on the back side under a few rows of stitches like you were fastening off. Often, wasting an inch or so of thread can make a nice difference. I didn't need to do it at all on this Ada's Rainbow example, but it’s a handy trick to have. I used it to make the center stand out on the example done with Dicken's Christmas: I wanted the very center to "pop."

So have fun, report back, and let me know of any errors or oversights that you notice. Also, you can't copyright a technique, but you can a tutorial. Feel free to link to this page, but do not repost the contents without my permission. 


  1. Very cool and fun to do. Thanks

  2. Replies
    1. How cool is this...I love your way of looking at the CS craft and rebuild it with a twist that those of us who get bored with the "same old same old" just cannot resist!

  3. Excellent Tutorial Tracy. Combined with my love of monochromes, 45 ct Lakeside linen and the beautiful silks that are available will make a wonderful adventure to try something new. Thanks for sharing Tracy

  4. Fantastic tutorial, Tracy. I'm definitely going to have to give this a try. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

  5. Great tutorial Tracy, I will have to give it a try. I love the symmetrical look of the stitched piece. Thanks.