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Tutorial: Blending Colors

All of our patterns use blended colors (two strands of different colors). This greatly increases the effective number of floss colors available to us, and it's what allows us to reproduce art so realistically. If you have not stitched with blends before, it can seem a little daunting, but a few tricks make it simple.
Blending: solids and blends
1. In the floss key, symbols with one number following them are solid colors, and are stitched with two strands of the same color. Symbols with two numbers following them are blends. Stitch them with one strand of each color.
Blending: solid and blend bobbins
2. In addition to a bobbin for each color of floss, set up a bobbin for each blended color. Put both floss numbers and the symbol on the bobbin. Our floss labels are ideal for this, or you can also photocopy the key and cut it up. Having both the numbers and the symbol will eliminate a lot of checking the key because everything you need to know is right there.
Blending: file all bobbins numerically
3. File the blend bobbins following the solid color bobbin with the first number in the blend. You can also arrange the bobbins with the same first number in order by the second number, but usually there are only a few so it doesn't make a big difference.
Blending: length gauge
4. Pick a consistent length that you will always use when cutting a length of new floss. We like 21 inches (53 cm) because you get 15 lengths per skein. (With 18 inches, for example, you'll get 17 lengths and have a 9 inch piece left over.) The consistent length allows any two colors to be blended and be the same length. Put a pin in the bottom edge your fabric at the chosen distance from the lower left corner, or keep a marked ruler at hand for reference.
Blending: pre-blending
5. Pre-blending is optional. You can wait until you are going to stitch a symbol for the first time, and collect the two strands then, or pre-blend. Some people just pre-blend one length for each blend. Others will do 6 lengths at a time. Still others blend one length but keep the remaining 5 strands of each solid color on the blend bobbin so they are handy when needed. In any case, keep blended colors on the blend bobbins you prepared earlier.
Blending: solid bobbins
6. For solid colors that have a symbol (i.e., that aren't only used in blends) you can keep the cut piece you've been stitching with on the solid bobbin, or you may prefer to save that bobbin for brand-new floss, and put your stitching piece on a separate bobbin. If you do that, put just the number on the "supply" bobbin, and the number and symbol on the "stitching" bobbin.
Blending: keep strands parallel
7. As you stitch, keep the two color strands parallel. It doesn't matter if every stitch looks identical, and it doesn't matter which color is on the left or right. Just try to have each color show equally. Avoid letting the strands twist around each other, or letting one color mostly cover the other.
Blending: stitch needing resetting
7a. If you take a stitch and find that one color is sitting on top of the other one, you can reset that stitch.
Blending: reset stitch part 1
7b. To reset a stitch, take a spare needle and pull the stitch up a little.
Blending: reset stitch part 2
7c. Now insert the needle under just the color that was underneath. Pull the color that was on top, down again, while holding the other color up with the needle.
Blending: reset stitch part 3
7d. Pull the second color down and it will lie alongside the first color.
Blending: spatial summation
8. Don't worry about strange color combinations, or blends with colors that are hard to tell apart. The blended colors "work" when you are back far enough from your work so that you can't see the individual threads any more. An optical effect called "spatial summation" comes into play and turns that red and blue into purple. To see this, step away from your computer a few feet. The stripes will become a solid color.
9. When returning blended floss to the blend bobbin, be careful to put it back on the correct bobbin. If you only had one length of floss blended, you have no visual assurance that you're returning the floss to the right bobbin. [We are investigating adding color swatches to our floss labels for this reason.] You'll be less likely to make a mistake if you set out the bobbin for the color you are currently stitching with and keep all others out of the way.

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