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

October 13, 2016

Looking for more embroidery stitches? See more here.


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.