Changing colours in an embroidery or cross stitch pattern

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For some embroidery or cross stitch patterns, it’s normal to want to change some colours (say of a girl’s hair, or a dress, etc). Changing colours is not as simple as it can seem at first, so below is a video tutorial with some tips and tricks to make sure you end up with a finished project you’re happy with. 🙂

First up, do not attempt this on a massive full coverage pattern, there are often dozens of colours making up any element. So, it would be near impossible to do substitutions on anything but the smallest of elements.

Struggle is real elephant cross stitch pattern


As an example for the video tutorial, I’m using the “The Struggle is Real” pattern. Let’s say you want to change the colour of the red blanket to blue. First, you’d look at your pattern and see how many colours are in the blanket. In this pattern it’s quite simple, there are only two shades of red.

Ideally, you have a copy of DMC’s floss colour card (or a colour chart of whatever floss you’re using). You “can” use a printed version, but the real floss version is much better. You can order this direct from DMC, or from many needlework retailers (they may have to order it in). Here’s a link to the DMC real floss chart. If you don’t have a colour card, you could do a similar substitution using your stash, or going to your local needlework shop and selecting from the bins of floss directly.

For each tone in the original pattern, you’ll need to find a similar tone in the new colour. For example, in this pattern there’s a dark red and a darker red. So if you wanted to switch to blue, you could use a dark blue and a darker blue (or light and medium, etc). Try to keep the differences between the tones as similar as possible, you can see that 350 and 349 are right next to each other on the DMC floss card. So don’t choose two colours that are quite far apart (like a light and a dark blue, the pattern won’t stitch up well and may look a little odd). The floss card does group colours together in colour families (similar hues such as orange-reds, pinkish red, purplish reds, etc), so choosing your new colours from the same colour family will help them be cohesive. That’s not a hard and fast rule though, but it will help the tones blend together better.

It’s advised to not substitute an element in a design if it has more than 5 colours, it would be quite hard to get all the new colours blending well. You may have to change out colours as you work if the design looks a little funky as you stitch if you’re switching out a lot of colours. 🙂



Tips on changing out colours

  • Only attempt to switch colours on elements that have five or less colours — more could become quite complex and throw off the design
  • Using a colour card is ideal, but if you don’t have one you can do your best with your stash or the selection at your local needlework shop
  • Try to keep the tones balanced with the alternates, and keeping tones in the same colour family is preferable.




Changing colours in an embroidery or cross stitch pattern
Article Name
Changing colours in an embroidery or cross stitch pattern
Changing colours in an embroidery or cross stitch pattern can be a little trickier than it seems, so this video tutorial will help with tips and tricks.
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Peacock & Fig
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