Open Fill Fly and Fishbone Stitch

fly fish and fishbone stitch open filled leaves

How to Fill Leaves with the Open Fill Fly Fish & Fishbone Stitch

Hey, how’s it flying? Pun intended 😉

With nights getting cooler and cooler the leaves on my trees are beginning to change colors and drop so I guess you can say it has inspired me to do today’s tutorial on how to open fill leaves using the fly stitch and fishbone stitch.

What do I mean by open fill?

When you fill in a shape it can be done using a closed fill or an open fill. A closed fill means your stitches will completely fill in your shape while an open fill will have some spaces where the fabric shows through.

Simple as that!

With that out of the way, let’s start with the fly stitch.

To follow along, just grab your hooped fabric, some green thread (I used 4 strands for this stitch tutorial), and needle. You’ll also want to draw two leaf templates.

If you’re a bit of an embroidery newbie then that’s great because this tutorial is easy enough for beginners. Yay!

Open Fill Fly Stitch

Before you add your fly stitch, you’ll need to add a straight stitch at the top of the leaf along the spine. It should look like this:

single straight stitch at the top of leaf template along spine

Next, it’s time to add your fly stitch. To make this an open fill there needs to be space between each fly stitch so I’ll show you how to make a LONG TAILED FLY STITCH.

Short and Long Tails

  • A short tailed fly stitch makes your stitch look like a “V”.
  • A long tailed fly stitch makes your stitch look like a “Y”

The “tail” of the long tailed fly stitch creates the spine of your leaf as you create open fill spaces.

So here’s how to add the long tailed fly stitch:

  • Come up along the edge of your leaf a small gap away from the top (A).
  • Return to the back of the fabric at B on the other side of your leaf. It should be parallel to A.
  • Keep your thread a bit loose and hold it down towards the bottom so you can see your needle in the next step.
  • Push your needle halfway up at C above your loose thread & hold it there as you pull your thread to the back.

Then pull your needle through & return to the back at D along the spine.

I’ll do another one…

  • Come up along the edge of your leaf (E) a small gap away from your first fly stitch.
  • Return to the back at F but keep your thread loose and hold it down towards the bottom.
  • Bring your needle halfway up at the bottom of your last fly stitch at D and pull your thread through to the back.

Pull your needle through and make your tail by returning to the back at G. Start your next fly stitch at H.

See how that long tail is helping to create the spine?

Keep adding the long tailed fly stitch until you’ve filled your leaf. Then add a stem by either using the tail of the last fly stitch or another stitch like the back stitch. It’s really up to you!

Open Fill Fishbone Stitch

Now I’ll create a leaf using an open fill fishbone stitch.

Where the long tailed fly stitch creates “Y” shapes, the fishbone stitch creates more of an “X” shape.

Start the same way as it was done with the fly stitch by adding a straight stitch at the top of your leaf.

Come up along the edge of your leaf a small gap away from the leaf tip. Then cross over your spine and return to the back slightly lower than your straight stitch.

Do the same on the other side of your leaf. The two stitches should form a criss cross near the bottom.

To keep this an open fill make sure to leave a small gap between each fishbone stitch as you repeat them down your leaf.

I’ll add a straight stitch to create the stem.

And that’s how you create open filled leaves using the fly stitch and the fishbone stitch.

fly fish and fishbone stitch open filled leaves

If you want to add an outline (which is optional) around your open fill stitches try adding a simple back stitch.

By the way, you can use the same steps to create things like arrow quills, pine needles, and fish bones. In these cases, I would probably not consider them a fill stitch since they’re not really filling in a space like a circle or square but acting more like lines. In either case, the techniques are basically the same.

I hope you enjoyed this embroidery stitch, and the video tutorial below.

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Enjoy!

❤️

VIdeo Tutorial

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Feel free to pin this embroidery tutorial to Pinterest so others can learn too!

Open Fill Fly Stitch & Fishbone Stitch leaves