Needlepoint Variegated Thread Tips

Variegated needlepoint threads look very appealing in the skein, but how and where do you use them to get a great result?

how to use variegated needlepoint threads

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Here are a few basic tips on how to stitch with variegated floss...

1. Less Is More.

Variegated needlepoint threads are designed to add variety and depth to your canvas but too many different ones can make your design look confused and jarring. So, use them sparingly and consider the best places on your needlepoint canvas to put them...

2. Variegated Threads Enhance Organic Features

Variegated threads work well for landscape and organic features such as sky, grass, foliage, tree trunks, dirt, sand, stone, pavement, fur, clothing - anywhere you want shading within a color range. 

Choose a single focal point, or a few strategic places that are balanced across the design to stitch in variegated threads.

3. Choose A Variegated Needlepoint Thread Type For The Situation

Variegated threads come in cotton, silk and wool, so choose a fiber type that best enhances your design. For example, wool has loft and less sheen and might be better suited for tree trunks, sand, and rocks. Silk has a luster and might be better suited for sea and sky.

Some needlepoint variegated threads are meant to be stitched as a single strand, like Vineyard Silk Tone-on-Tone. 

Vineyard Silk variegated needlepoint thread

Tone On Tone Variegated Thread from Vineyard Silk.


Others are multi-strand pliable fibers, like ThreadWorx silk, cotton and metallics...

Threadworx variegated cotton floss

Threadworx Variegated Cotton Floss
(Image from


and Needle Arts cotton...

Variegated Needlepoint Threads



Pro Tip:

When plying a stranded variegated fiber make sure you orient your individual strands the same way when you put them back together to maintain the color variation.


4. Choose a Variegated Needlepoint Thread Color For The Situation

Some threads have very subtle color variations, while others are bolder with more contrast or even multiple colors.  Choose your type of variation based on the effect you want to achieve. 

DMC variegated cotton floss has a great starter pack at a good price. This package gives you several options of variegated thread you can play around with.


Subtle color shifts work well for sky and water while bolder variations can work well for flowers and foliage. 

This Sashiko embroidery thread has bold color changes and would make wonderful French knots or a decorative stitch for a brightly colored flower garden. The variegated thread can be used in cross-stitching, Sashiko, or other embroidery, or needlepoint.


Yokota Sashiko is a cotton thread, like floss, but it is not designed to be separated. Will work on a 13-18 mesh canvas. Made in Japan.

Variegated threads in brown shades are great for trees and darker foliage...



Or lighter brown shades for rocks, hills, and sand...


5. Choose A Variegated Thread to Suit Your Stitch Choice

Your stitch choice plays a really important part in how your variegated thread looks in your design. 

A variegated thread stitched in basketweave produces diagonal stripes of color...

Basketweave stitch using a variegated needlepoint thread

The Continental stitch using a variegated thread produces a more subtle effect...

variegated needlepoint thread in Continental stitch

Decorative needlepoint stitches offer different effects as well.  Try some out until you find a stitch and a variegated thread that are a good match for the area you are defining.

Here are some examples of different needlepoint stitches using variegated floss...

The subtle blues in this thread, stitched in the slanted Victorian Step stitch, give a feeling of movement and depth that would work well for water or sky ...

Variegated needlepoint thread and Victorian Step stitch

The bold tan-gray-terra cotta shading in this variegated thread work well in a Horizontal Cashmere stitch to illustrate a stone or brick wall, or a pavement...

bricks stitched in a variegated needlepoint thread


Variegated threads make great French knots. Shrubbery stitched in French knots look 3-dimensional when stitched with Vineyard Silk Tone-on-Tone...

French knots stitched in a variegated needlepoint thread


And a leaf stitched in (wait for it), the Leaf stitch looks almost real...

Leaf stitch using a variegated needlepoint thread


A whimsical example is this little flower stitched in the Lazy Daisy stitch using variegated floss ...

Variegated needlepoint thread and a Lazy Daisy stitch

Variegated needlepoint threads are fun and the possibilities for different effects are almost endless. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun!

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tips for using variegated needlepoint threads


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