Open Fill Fly and Fishbone Stitch

Open Fill Fly and Fishbone Stitch

Fill Leaves with tHe Open Fill Fly Stitch & Fishbone Stitch

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There are so many ways to embroider leaves so here’s an open fill fly stitch and open fill fishbone stitch variety which exposes more fabric below. The shapes can be outlined or they can be left out so the stitches give the suggestion of the leaves.

These two stitches are easy, perfect for beginners, and to follow along use 4 - 6 strands of thread.

What Does Open-Fill Mean?

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 to cover all of the fabric below.

There may be times when you want to see some of the fabric below and that’s what an open fill does. Stitches in an open fill are spaced out to expose some of the fabric underneath.

Open Fill Fly Stitch

Step One: Add a Leaf Tip

Before starting the fly stitch:

  • Draw a leaf template with a spine
  • Add a straight stitch at the top of the leaf along the spine so your leaf has a point.

straight stitch added to the tip of a leaf template

Step Two: Add the Fly Stitch

To make this an open fill fly stitch, the tail needs to be long to create more of a ‘Y’ than a ‘V’ shape:

  • Create an open loop near the top of the leaf, slightly away from the tip of the leaf. (A to B)
  • Come up at the bottom of the straight stitch (C). Needle should come up over the loop.
  • Pull needle through. You can tighten your loop so it hugs your needle first if you’d like.

loop added near top of leaf and needle poking out from bottom of straight stitch along center

Return to the back along the spine a small distance away from C.

first long tail fly stitch

Repeat all the way down the leaf. Add a stem if you’d like.

leaf made using open fill fly stitch in green

Open Fill Fishbone Stitch

Next, 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, along the spine.
  • 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.

thread criss crossing over center and straight stitch on leaf template

  • To keep this an open fill, leave a small gap between each fishbone stitch as you repeat them down your leaf.
  • Add a straight stitch to create the stem.

leaf made using open fill fly stitch in green

Here’s a comparison of open filled leaves using the fly stitch and the fishbone stitch.

Open Fill Fly and Fishbone Stitch

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

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!

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