Leaf Sampler - Part 1, Fly Stitch

I am still here...

...and I haven't forgotten you, nor the leaves I promised to show you 'next week'. 

I guess that sometimes life just has different plans but I feel terribly guilty that 'next week' has turned into a month! In fact, I had to check my previous blog post to remember exactly what it was I had intended to show you.

Wee Tree Leaf Sampler 
Fly Stitch; Cretan Stitch and Fishbone Stitch.
FREE Pattern Download

I had promised: '...three different stitches for the small leaves (not counting satin stitch) so next week I will show you those three stitches and how they compare and can so easily be interchanged.'

Fly stitch; Cretan stitch and Fishbone stitch.

I piled all three into one blogpost, but it ended up going on Foreveeeeerrrrrr....

So I have decided to divide it into three posts, one for each stitch. That way it will also be much easier to find later on if you want to search back to it.

~ ~ ~ ~ BASIC FLY STITCH ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Fly stitch is a stand alone stitch. Each stitch is completed before you move on to the next. It could be called 'Y' or 'V' stitch as the shape of the stitch, resembles those two letters.

1) Bring the thread to the front at A. Take the needle to the back at B and emerge at C. 
C is midway between and below A and B. Make sure the thread is below the needle tip.

2) Take the needle to the back at D, directly below C. 
I refer to this stitch as the 'anchoring stitch' as it secures and completes the fly stitch. 

The appearance of fly stitches can be varied by the length of the anchoring stitch and how deep or shallow the 'V' shaped part of the stitch is. To fill leaves, it is most common to use the version at the bottom in the picture above, where the anchoring stitch only just covers the thread.

~ ~ ~ ~ FLY STITCH LEAVES ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Fly stitch is possibly one of the most commonly used stitches for filling small to medium leaves. It is relatively quick and forms a nice center vein down the leaf as you stitch. 

1)     I always start my leaves with at straight stitch at the tip. This gives the finished leaf a nice sharp point. 
Work the straight stitch from the tip of the leaf to the top of the center vein.

2)     The first fly stitch is placed closely around the straight stitch. 
Bring the thread to the front on one side, near the tip (A) and take the need to the back on the other side (B).

3)     Bring the needle to the front on the center vein, at the base of the straight stitch (C). 
The needle should be through the same hole as the straight stitch and inside the thread loop.

4)     Pull the thread through so the loop sits snug around the thread. 
Take the needle to the back, just below the loop.

5)     The anchoring stitch should just cover thread.

6 & 7)     Repeat steps 3 and 4, stitching through the marked outline for the leaf. 
Make sure the stitch is snug around the first fly stitch.

8 & 9)     Continue down the leaf in this way.  After a few stitches, you will see the anchoring stitches begin to form a center vein. 

~ ~ ~ ~   Fly Stitch Leaf   ~ ~ ~ ~ 

As with most stitches, a few little tricks can often make all the difference to the finished result.

Tip #1:     Keep your stitches nice and close along the sides. 
One of the most common problems with fly stitch leaves, is angle of the fly stitches becoming more and more 'flat' as you near the base of the leaf as shown in the picture(s) above . This happens, when the stitches are not placed close enough along the outer edges of the leaf. 
I use the tip of my needle to feel that I am touching the previous stitch, before pushing the needle through.

Tip #2: Lay your stitches. 
To lay my stitches into the right position, I start by pulling the thread straight up, away from the fabric (pic 1).
Once the thread loop is snug against the thread, I lay it down in the direction towards the base of the leaf. The movement help place the fly stitch nice and evenly flat.

Tip #3: Finish with straight stitches.
At times the fly stitches will not match the shape of the leaf at the base. Rather than trying to make them fit, use a few straight stitches to fill any extra bits of the leaf.

~ ~ ~ ~   Fly Stitch Leaf  ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I couldn't help but have a play with the standard fly stitch leaf.

Variation 1

1)     If you make the anchoring stitches just a little longer, the fly stitches will be slightly spaces. It gives a nice, more open appearance to the leaf. 
2)     You could leave the edges open, which does look quite feathery. If you do so, you will need to remember to mark the leaf with a pen that can be erased.
3)     I outlined my leaf with stem stitch (I think it looks a little too heavy).

Variation 2

1)    For this one, I started with a spaced fly stitch in the same way as Variation 1.
2)    Use a second thread (I changed colour to get a stripy effect) and place a straight stitch into each of the spaces. It is easiest to work these stitches from the outline into the centre vein to avoid accidentally splitting the previous stitches.

Here are the tree side by side; the Standard Fly Stitch Leaf; an Open Fly Stitch Leaf and a Stripy Fly Stitch Leaf. I am sure, there are other variations to the Fly Stitch Leaf theme. 

Next up is one of my very favorite leaves: Creatan stitch:


  1. I so need to practice these stitches ! :) x

  2. Thanks for this tutorial. I can never seem to get my stitches as neat as yours are. Maybe with a bit more practice I will make it.

  3. For me a very clear and good tutorial, Anna, the leaves look so much more beautiful if they're embordered by you. I've learned alot: new sort of stiches and a way of filling in the space. Thank you for sharing!
    Stay safe, take care, dear Anna.
    Hugs, Ilona

  4. Hi Anna! The leaf stitches are very clearly explained! The variations you can make are a great addition to the basic stitch. I love seeing what difference can be achieved with the same stitch and different threads and spacing. One of these days I will do more embroidery! :)

  5. Wow, Anna this is so interesting and useful. Thank you for sharing the techniques with us. Some time in the future I will take up embroidery again and then I will be sure to revisit this.


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