Three Ideas For Stitching Birds

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Kreinik Calling! Exclusive to Mr X Stitch!

Colors of Kreinik Blending Filament that add the iridescence to stitched birds.

I come from bird people. My grandmother in rural Oklahoma would show me the cardinals in the woods, we’d walk down the lane to spot bobwhites and scissor-tail flycatchers, and then we’d listen to the owls at night. My city grandma had shrubbery that attracted hummingbirds and a “special house” for blue jays. My aunt introduced me to bird feeders, and my uncle led me to the lake with a bag of bread as soon as we heard ducks quack. I’d get bird feeders for birthday presents, and decorate bird houses at camp. Today I sit with my cats, pressed up against the window, watching the orioles, bluebirds, goldfinches, red-headed woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, wrens and other species that grace our garden. Life-list accompli: I’ve even seen the stunning Indigo Bunting in the wild.

So it is no surprise that at a recent needlework tradeshow, my eye caught sight of bird designs galore. In fact, I’d even call it a trend: humorous birds, primitive birds, silhouette birds, and highly stylized, detailed birds are available on quilting fabrics, needlepoint canvases, cross stitch charts, and home decor designs. One popular social media platform has a bird in its logo (I’m @kreinikgirl on Twitter), and video game Angry Birds is a merchandising phenom that could put Donald Duck to shame. I’m not even going to get into Duck Dynasty. We are surrounded by bird themes.

This string-art bird is from Kreinik's new line of String Art Canvas Kits. Look for the "Nature" kit in needlework stores and at

Nature has influenced art since the dawn of art, it transcends languages, and it has always been a popular theme in textiles. Cross stitch, needlepoint, and embroidery are art forms that speak in threads and stitches. So in this month’s column I want to showcase stitched birds, with three observations on how to achieve some of their visual effects in your own projects.

Note the wonderful variety of stitches in this needlepoint canvas from Melissa Prince Designs. The stitch guide and stitching was done by Patricia Sone of Creative Stitches and Gifts in Dallas, Texas.width=

1. Threads. First, threads will help you interpret birds’ coloring. Birds come in shades of brown, black, white and tan. They also come in shades of pink, red, blue, purple, yellow, green, holographic and more. Nature put every color under the sun in the bird world, and thread companies (like KreinikOpens in a new tab.) make every color you need for a realistic or fantasy stitched version.

Metallics don't have to be over-the-top. These shades are three of the many muted colors available in the Kreinik metallic thread line, which add subtle shimmer to bird and nature designs.

This needlepoint bird canvas by Melissa Prince Designs is a treasure trove of techniques: varying stitches, using color for shading, and using different kinds of threads for textures.

Stitched in Kreinik metallic braid (holographic colors), this needlepoint canvas by Labors of Love looks like jewelry, like cloisonne.

Second, the variety of threads available to needleworkers today will help you create texture in your bird design. There are fuzzy threads that look like the down of a baby bird and there are metallic threadsOpens in a new tab. that replicate the iridescence of wings. Don’t be afraid to use an out-of-the-ordinary thread (ie, something other than cotton floss) to add effects to your design.

Kreinik Micro-Ice Chenille is a fuzzy thread that you couch on the surface of fabric, needlepoint, embroidery or cross stitch.

Louis Carney couched Kreinik Micro Ice Chenille around the bird and pears on this printed fabric.

Beaded and embroidered bird by Cathie Hoover, using Kreinik metallic threads in the wings and outlines of the bird-themed fabric.

2. Stitches. Notice the variety of stitches used in the photos here, and how they make the birds look more interesting. Even using the same stitch in alternating directions can create interesting visual effects. There are many stitch encyclopedias online; I recommend browsing through them and making a doodle swatch of interesting selections.

This is a needlepoint painted canvas from the design company Labors of Love.

Patricia Sone of Creative Stitches and Gifts in Dallas, Texas stitched this Melissa Prince Designs needlepoint canvas. Her stitch guide includes the variety of stitches and threads needed to create this gorgeous bird.

3. Feathers. Real birds have feathers, so why can’t your stitched birds have feathers? Buy them at outdoor/fishing stores, craft stores (ahem, you may even have a feather boa in your closet…), and attach with tacking stitches or even glue. No better way to make a stitched bird look eye-catching, and show a little attitude, than with actual feathers. One step beyond: add other ephemera like wire or beads.

A variety of stitches, threads and ephemera (wire, feathers) come together to make this stunning needlepoint hummingbird. Painted canvas design by Labors of Love design company.

So the next time you see a needlepoint canvas bird design, a sampler with bird motifs, embroidery patterns or a cross-stitch chart of a bird, think about creatively using threads, stitches and other materials to make your design come to life. Have fun. (I’d love to see photos of your stitched birds. Let’s meet up on PinterestOpens in a new tab., FacebookOpens in a new tab. or TwitterOpens in a new tab..)

This Kreinik thread cone is really for the birds, thanks to Rebecca and Evie of Hugs Are Fun.


Dena Lenham, aka KreinikGirl, is Creative Director at Kreinik Manufacturing Company, a family-owned, USA-based business that manufactures high-quality yarns and threads made of metallics, silks and real metals from their West Virginia factory. Dena’s monthly column, Kreinik Calling, sheds light on the fascinating fibres that we all use and love.

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