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Fly Stitch: Stitches to Savor

Learn hand embroidery. Watch a step-by-step demonstration of the fly stitch as seen in the April 2014 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting.

American Patchwork & Quilting is celebrating a year of embroidery
stitches with designer Sue Spargo in our back page column,
Stitches to Savor. On this example, Sue has stitched a
fly stitch around the outside of a wool circle and
in the center. It's the same stitch using two different
weights of pearl cotton (a 3 and a 5 weight
thread). Stitching the fly stitch is easiest if you use
a chenille needle. It's sort of an average length needle,
but the chenille needle has a larger eye, so you
can get heavier weight threads through it easily. So, that's
the importance of choosing an embroidery needle for this project.
For our example today, I'm going to stitch with an
8 weight pearl cotton. And when you're looking for pearl
cotton, sometimes it comes on a skein or a ball,
but you want to look for that number (in this
case it's an 8 weight). Like I said, our original
sample was stitched using a 3 and a 5 weight,
and a smaller number is a larger weight thread when
you're referring to pearl cotton. So just keep that in
mind. It's also commonly found in 12 weights, which is
a little bit thinner. And it just depends on what
look you're going for in your finished piece. So for
this one, I'm going to bring my needle up about
a quarter inch away from the applique shape, and I've
got about a 15- or 18-inch long thread tail and
again, I'm using a chenille needle. Now, because I want
my stitches to be about a quarter inch away from
my applique, I'm going to image that there is a
line that's about a quarter inch outside of this. Now
when I go back in, I'll follow that line. So
here, I'm putting my needle tip down a quarter inch
away from where I came up and a quarter inch
away from the applique. And then, I'm going to just
really divide the distance between the two. So, here I'm
going in right next to the applique--about a quarter inch
away is where my needle tip comes up. But it's
about an eighth of an inch or about half way
between that first stitch and the second one. And I
want to make sure that my thread stays below the
tip of the needle when I bring it back up.
Because making this stitch is going to make the top
arms of my fly stitch. Then, you can judge how
long you want the tail of your fly stitch to
be. Just holding your thread in--and once you've decided how
long you want that to be, putting your needle back
down in to your applique shape and completing the stitch.
So, that's one fly stitch. So, then we'll work counterclockwise,
and again, following that imaginary line around the outside, I'll
bring my needle up. Here, you can use your last
stitch as the guide and go in right next to
that. Bring your needle up again next to the applique,
pull the arms of the fly stitch taut, and then
go back in to make the tail. And you'll continue
all the way around making your fly stitches. Now, this
is a great way to add sort of a dandelion
effect around the outside of the circle, but I'll bring
back in our sample. You can see here, to make
the flower center, you're just doing the same thing in
a tighter circle. So you have your arms of the
fly stitch into the center. And every time the tail
of your fly comes into the same hole, so that
makes this effect and makes another flower shape in the
center of your circle. Watch for more stitches in American
Patchwork & Quilting in every 2014 issue, as Sue Spargo
shares with us more decorative embroidery stitches from her Creative
Stitching book.


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