Let’s talk about fly stitch. This tiny little stitch packs a big punch. Fly stitch is used to make fancy scalloped borders, intricate leaves, textured tree trunks, fields of meadow grass, flocks of birds, and so much more. In short, when it comes to nature embroidery (which is what we’re all about here at Wandering Threads), Fly stitch is an essential part of any stitch repertoire.
Single Fly Stitch
Fly stitch can be worked in the shape of a “V”, “Y”, or “U”. It can also be stitched in a row to form vertical or horizontal lines. Let’s start with the basics and learn a single fly stitch in a “V” shape.
Start by bringing the needle up at point A, down at point B, and back up at point C. In this example, points A & B are directly across from each other, and C is between and below those two points.
Before you pull the thread all the way through, loop the working thread under the needle. The end result will be a V-shaped stitch with the thread hanging below.
Complete the V by bringing the thread down through the fabric directly underneath the loop.
Don’t be afraid to play around with your stitches. By varying the length and placement of the top stitches (points A & B) you can create very different looks.
As the name implies, a Y-shaped fly stitch is similar to the V-shape with an added tail at the bottom. Follow the same steps as above and form the tail by extending the thread below the V. The tail can be short or long.
The final single fly stitch variation is the U-shape. Create the U-shaped fly by placing points A and B farther apart. The end result is a shallow stitch that looks like a U.
Vertical & Horizontal Fly Stitch
Connecting fly stitch in a vertical or horizontal line creates fun borders, leaves, ferns, trees, and much more. To connect the stitches horizontally, make a single stitch, move over one stitch length, and come up at point B. Proceed with the normal steps until you reach the end of the desired length. Y, V, and U-shaped fly can all be stitched into connecting horizontal lines.
To create a vertical line of fly stitch, start with a single y-shaped stitch. I’ve drawn two parallel lines to keep the stitches straight.
End the stitch with a short tail and then repeat the steps to create a second stitch below the first. Bring the thread up at point A, down at point B, and back up at point C. Notice that C is the same point where the tail of the previous stitch ended. This is how the vertical stitches connect.
Continue the vertical stitches until you reach the desired length. Just like with single fly stitches, it’s easy to change the look of vertical fly stitch by varying the distance between the stitches. Play around with it and see what kind of results you can get.
Vertical Whipped Fly Stitch
Jazz up your vertical fly stitch by whipping the center row with a contrasting color. To create this look, simply stitch a row of vertical fly stitch and then twist a different color floss down the centerline without going through the fabric.
For more info on whipped stitching, take a look at the Whipped & Woven Stitch Tutorial.
Fly Stitch in Embroidery Patterns
There are countless uses for fly stitch in embroidery patterns. Here at Wandering Threads Embroidery, it is often used to create natural features such as grass, meadows, and birds. In the Joshua Tree National Park Pattern, it turns green and brown floss into desert grass.
The Vintage Trailer Summer Mountains Pattern features fly stitch as the base for clusters of meadow flowers.
The Capitol Reef National Park pattern uses long, narrow fly stitches to create a row of tall grass.
And the Denali National Park Pattern turns rows of upside down fly stitch into stately evergreen trees!
No matter how you use it, fly stitch is a versatile and simple stitch that will add interest to all your embroidery projects.