How We Plan Our Embroidery Collections: Creating a Colorway

How We Plan Our Embroidery Collections: Creating a Colorway

Hey everyone and welcome to this week’s blog feature on how we plan our embroidery collections! My name is Drea Goodine and I am the manager of the Creative Team at Anita Goodesign. I love creating new projects and coming up with new themes or ideas.

Getting Started with Planning Embroidery Collections

The biggest thing to remember is something a teacher told me many years ago – “There are no mistakes in art.” We consider embroidery in all its forms to be art, and often times the best way to see if something works is to try it out. Don’t allow yourself to overthink and get stuck! Some of the combinations we have been unsure about at first have gone on to become the biggest hits. The beauty of thread and fabric is also that it can be reinvented if you don’t like what you start with.

Our first step is looking at the artwork to review the overall style. For example, if the collection is realistic (think The Last Supper), then I know we will use a realistic color palette. If the collection has a more whimsical feel (think Here We Grow Again), that allows for more creative freedom in selecting colors.



Once the artwork has been digitized by our fabulous in-house team of digitizers, the next step is to review the techniques used. If the collection uses raw edge or is freestanding, I immediately begin thinking of materials that won’t fray (felt, leathers, etc). A quick check for appliqué gives me information about adding texture and dimension to the project. Then comes the fun part!


In our fabric room, we keep a few Fat Quarter Bundles with varied color palettes. We also have swatch charts from several companies showing their offerings of cottons, felts, and other fabrics. This is where we often start for inspiration, and just looking around usually gives an idea of what might be fun to try. If there are realistic animals (think Ol’ Anita had a Farm), research is done to make sure the animals are representative of what actually exists. Throughout the collection, we often hop on the internet to reference photographs of people, places, and things to get accurate ideas for shading and colors.


We are very fortunate at Anita Goodesign to have large thread racks that are sorted by color. With design in hand, I then start building a colorway with thread. My process is to pick a shade of each color – even if it is not in the initial design (remember, there are more to come!). I begin with black (or the representative shade, it may be dark grey or dark brown instead of true black), then white (again, this may be cream or beige instead of true white), and work my way through the rainbow.

Then, I go back and find one more shade of each color so that I have both lighter and richer tones, which will be needed for shading. One tip here – once turned into stitches, thread translates differently than it does on the spool. Two colors that you think might be far enough apart to show often times will disappear and blend into one another. We recommend using complementary shades that are farther apart in color than you initially think, this ensures all the shading will be visible.


Typically, for embroidery collections we prefer to stick to neutral bases such as black, navy, white, beige and the like to allow the embroidery to shine. Sometimes there is previous inspiration or we have found a fabric that we love, and we shake it up a bit by using something more bold. For quilting collections with embroidery, base fabric is chosen more carefully and often is colorful depending on the theme (think light blue to represent sky for Farmstead). For folded fabric and appliqué-heavy quilting, we often use a fat quarter or half yard bundle for inspiration and tend to pick threads in reverse.

With thread in hand, I head to the fabric room. We keep all our fabric in one room, where it is organized into containers. Cottons and the like are sorted by color, and specialty fabrics such as silk or lycra are sorted by type. If I am looking for a yellow fabric in the collection, I take both shades of yellow thread into the fabric room to look. I repeat this process until I’ve built what is needed for the collection.

Embroidery Collections – Keeping it Consistent

Now that the colorway is built, for our reference (and since we have multiple people stitching out designs) a chart is made with tiny fabric swatches and their matching thread colors. A list is written of all the threads we used, and this is the blueprint of the collection. Any designs that are digitized after this colorway is made will follow the same pattern, that way once everything is completed they look like a cohesive set. We don’t deviate from the colorway once it’s set, and often times that can result in thinking outside the box for the coloring of various elements. Different colors can substitute for the norm – don’t be afraid to try a pale grey instead of white, or a different shade of green that you’re used to.



Another very important tip is to make sure details that carry through the collection are the same colors. For example, if each realistic design has outlining, that should all be the same shade of grey that was initially chosen. If a more whimsical collection has flourishes in the background, we would select one to two colors for those details and carry them through all the designs. Maybe we incorporated metallic silver into the colorway, then we find something in each block or design that can be metallic. Another tip we use to make sure things are cohesive is to rotate all the colors equally whenever possible. If a collection has flowers, even if your favorite color is pink, you don’t want six pink flowers, one yellow, and one blue – that’s going to look odd when put together so we try to keep it even.

I hope the sharing of our preparation process has provided you with some inspiration to get started on your next project. Don’t forget to share your creations with us on all of our social media pages!

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