Fishbone Stitch Tutorial

fishbone stitch and fishbone stitched leaf

Create a Beautiful Fishbone Pattern with the Fishbone Stitch

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Here’s another easy embroidery stitch to create design elements, fill in shapes, and add visual interest. It’s the fishbone stitch.

It’s simple to make and to break it down, it’s basically the letter ‘X’ stacked on top of each other. The width of the ‘X’ can be consistent all the way through or it can vary and go from narrow to wide which is how a leaf is made.

The fishbone stitch can be used as a closed-fill, meaning the fabric below it is completely covered. It can also be used as an open-fill stitch which is more open, as the name suggests. The stitches are more spread out so some of the fabric below is exposed.

I’ll go over how to create a flat fishbone stitch, raised fishbone stitch, then end it with a leaf made with a closed-fill fishbone stitch. If you want to learn how to make an open-filled version I have a post just for that.

Flat Fishbone Stitch

  • Draw 3 parallel vertical lines to serve as guidelines.
  • Make a straight stitch from the top left and cross over the center at an angle.
  • Return to the back near the center line.
  • Repeat steps on the right side.
  • This will form an ‘X’ with a narrow bottom.

three vertical parallel guidelines with two stitches that start at the top and crosses over each other at the center and ends near the center

From here, repeat the steps and stack them directly below each other.

flat fishbone stitch

Raised Fishbone Stitch

This variation looks very much like your flat fishbone stitch except it'll be a bit plumper.

  • Draw 3 vertical parallel guidelines.
  • Add a straight stitch from left to right at an angle, from the first guideline all the way to the third.
  • Then repeat this on the other side.

three parallel, vertical guidelines and a uniform 'X' stitched at the top

Repeat and stack each one directly below each other.

 raised fishbone stitch

Fishbone Stitch Closed Fill Leaf

To make a leaf, I’ll use the flat fishbone stitch:

  • Draw a leaf template.
  • Add a straight stitch at the top of the leaf along the spine.
  • Add an ‘X’ over and follow the outline of the leaf as each stitch is added below.

leaf template with a straight stitch at the top center and an 'X' stitched over it.

When you get to the bottom of the leaf you may run out of room to cross the stitches. That’s okay. Just taper them into a point and if you still have space along the bottom of the leaf that needs filling you can add a few simple stitches. Add a stem if you’d like.

 leaf made with the flat fishbone stitch

Fishbone Stitch Video Tutorial

For more embroidery stitch tutorials take a peek at my stitch library.

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