Embroidery leaves are such a vibrant part of hand stitching. Leaves can be used in a wreath design, a border, or even in a picturesque setting. In fact, leaves are a big part of many stitched designs. How wonderful it is to be able to embrace embroidery leaves using different stitches and threads to replicate the variety nature provides.
The fifteen suggestions below are just part of what can be achieved by using different stitches and even combining stitches with texture and fillers.
Embroidery Leaves – Tools
HOOP – Embroidery leaves are best done in a hoop to hold the fabric taut and to prevent puckering and unattractive pulling.
THREAD – Like most embroidery, leaves can be sewn with embroidery floss in endless colors. Verigated thread can look particularly attractive and gives a natural feel to your leaves. For fine embroidery work, use 2-3 strands and for a chunkier look, use 6 strands.
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NEEDLE – Choose a needle suitable for the thickness of your thread and the type of fabric you are stitching.
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Embroidery Leaves – Stitches
Here are the easiest stitches to use for embroidery leaves. Some of these may be combined to further enhance your leaves. Leaves may be realistic or abstract depending on your design and your level of patience in stitching.
To start your stitches you can use a knotted thread, small backstitch or leave a long tail and work it in at the back later. Read more about the different methods in my how to embroider article.
Designs can be transferred to your fabric by tracing using a lit window or backlight, special transfer paper or drawing freehand.
Backstitch is an easy way to stitch the outline of a leaf leaving negative space in the center. It can also be combined with other stitches such as satin stitch to give definition to borders and to hide messy edges.
As well as the outlines of leaves, backstitch can be used for leaf veins and for stems.
Backstitch is one of the quickest stitches you can do making it one of my favorites.
Full Article: How to do Backstitch
This stitch gives the leaf a very nice corded edge. Work the buttonhole stitch around the leaf in a similar method to that used to make buttonhole wheel flowers.
Start in the center working your way around the edge. The buttonhole stitch is best for wider shaped leaves.
When wrapping the thread around the needle, it is important to pull down afterwards to form the knotted edge.
Full Article: How to do Buttonhole Stitch
Chain stitch is a beautiful way to make spikey leaves if you make the loops longer. In this sample, the center was done in a smaller stitch and then the leaves were sewn with longer loops.
Remember when doing chain stitch that it is important not to pull the loops too tight. Points (1) and (2) in the photo below can be touching for a narrow chain stitch or a little wider for a wide chain stitch.
The distance of the point (3) from points (1) and (2) determines the lengths of your leaves.
Full Article: How to do Chain Stitch
Couching is probably not the first stitch that comes to mind when doing embroidery leaves but it can be used to great effect when you want a chunky look.
Use it for nice and thick stems and leaf outlines.
The surface stitch can be done in the same type of embroidery floss, or a thicker yarn can be used.
Full Article: How to do Couching Stitch
Cross stitch has long been used to create intricate embroideries that contain leaves and flowers. Cross stitch is typically done on an open weave fabric such as Aida so that you can count the stitches across.
Full Article: How to do Cross Stitch
The article also shows you a fast method for larger cross stitch embroideries.
Feather stitch can be used to make delicate ferns and free-flowing embroidery leaves.
Feather stitch does take a little more concentration to do but looks lovely and free once you have the hang of it.
It is worked on 4 rows. When learning, it is best to draw in the rows and design until you can stitch it from memory and create less geometric stitches.
Full Article: How to do Feather Stitch
Fern stitch looks particularly nice when sewn in curved lines. It is a simple and delicate stitch that can be done by beginners.
Fern stitch is worked in small triangular shapes that look a bit like chicken feet.
Full Article: How to do Fern Stitch
Fishbone is the ideal stitch for filling in leaves. Vary the length of the stitches to create a beautifully shaped leaf.
Fishbone stitch is done by using straight stitches that overlap in the center. This produces an effect similar to a large vein going down the center. A backstitch can be used around the outline to neaten the edges if necessary.
Full Article: How to do Fishbone Stitch
This stitch makes a delicate fern-like leaf and highlights the veins in a leaf. Drawing the design with a disappearing heat-sensitive pen will help with a more controlled outline to follow. If you use graphite pencil you will still see the outline at the end.
Fly stitches can be symmetrical or of different sizes to give shape your leaf. Use a backstitch to continue the stem for a seamless look. The leaves in this sample were done in a joined row making it look like the veins of a leaf.
French knots can be used in clusters for small embroidery leaves on branches. You could even do an entire tree with these little knots.
For larger knots, do more twists before putting the needle back through the fabric at point (2). Always wind the thread around the needle away from you.
Full Article: How to do French Knots
Long and Short Stitch
This stitch is a great filling stitch for small and large designs where you want a solid fill appearance. The stitches are sewn in an offset brick pattern which makes it durable and less likely to catch.
The look produced is very intense so tonal thread colors are often used to create light and shade. Really fine work will even look like machine embroidery.
Running Stitch is the fastest and easiest embroidery stitch you can do. Most people think of this stitch when hand sewing seams but it can create simple but effective embroideries as well.
It is worked in a simple up and down motion. The stitches can be as short or long as you wish and the gaps can be regular or irregular.
Full Article: How to do Running Stitch
Everyone’s favorite filler stitch, satin stitch is ideal for filling in smaller embroidery leaves. The vein can be stitched in if necessary as a single thread sewn at the end.
The size and density of the leaf can be altered using different types of thread or floss. For a more precise outline, use a backstitch either at the beginning of the end of your embroidery leaf.
Satin stitch is better for smaller leaves since longer strands may catch.
Rember when sewing an embroidery leaf in a satin stitch that it is best to start in the center and work towards the edge. Then go back to the center and work towards the other edge.
Full Article: How to do Satin Stitch
Seed stitch can be used for embroidery leaves as a random-looking filler. When done with really small stitches it gives an interesting look which I find to be quite modern.
This stitch looks great when paired with a backstitch border to give some definition to the leaf. Seed stitch can be used underneath the satin stitch to give a raised and padded appearance to the leaf.
Seed stitch is stitched with an up and down stitch in a random pattern.
Full Article – How to do Seed Stitch
Stem stitch can be used to create a rope-like outer border to leaves but is mainly used for stems that are thick and textured. It works well in variegated thread colors that show up the texture.
It is best to sew stim stitch diagonally to get a thicker rope look.
Full Article: How to do Stem Stitch
Embroidery Leaves – In Conclusion
These fifteen suggestions for embroidery leaves can be used singularly or in combination to produce beautiful and unique designs.
MORE EMBROIDERY ARTICLES
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Cross Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- How to Embroider
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- French Knots
- Hand Embroidery Stitches
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Running Stitch
- Sashiko Embroidery
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch | Embroidery Tutorial
- Whip Stitch