Creative Embroidery: How to Work the Fly Stitch

Whether you create full-on embroidered quilts or just do a little hand stitching here and there, I bet you a have a favorite stitch or two.

Detail of Deborah Boschert’s “Verdant Vista” quilt,
with hand stitching and machine stitching.

I find that the running stitch and back stitch can are very versatile-you can outline, write, and create patterns with them.

Some fiber artists have a signature stitch. For example, Deborah Boschert almost always hand stitches little Ys on her quilts–a variation on the fly stitch.

The fly stitch is one of the easiest hand embroidery stitches to do. In fact, it takes longer to describe it than to do it.

Here are the basic steps.

1. Pull your needle and thread up to the top of the fabric and then down a short space away as if to make a straight stitch, but don’t pull the thread taut. Leave it as a small loop.

2. Point the needle down diagonally beneath the fabric, below the first two entry points and midway between.

The fly stitch.

3. As you come up with the needle to the top of the fabric, make sure the loop of thread is below the needle. Catch the loop with the moving thread and then take a stitch straight down. Traditionally, this last stitch is very short, just over the loop thread, giving the stitch the fly shape. But you can extend it to make the Y, as Deborah does.

You can also alter the shape of the stitch by adjusting the distance between the first two entry points, the length of the loop, and by bringing the needle up off center before catching the loop. The stitch can be worked singly, horizontally (where it makes a nice edging stitch), or vertically. When linked vertically, it makes the feather stitch.

I hope you’ll consider adding the fly stitch and other hand stitches to your embroidered quilts.

Deborah shows you how a little embroidery can pull a fabric collage together and give it personality in her Quilting Arts Workshop video, Contemporary Fabric Collage: Design, Stitch, & Finish.

P.S. Do you add hand embroidery to you quilts? Why or why not? Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Machine Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog

2 thoughts on “Creative Embroidery: How to Work the Fly Stitch

  1. Embroidery was the first “craft” that I learned when I was a kid, and it’s always held a special place in my bag of skills. I almost always add embroidery to my art quilts; I love that it can add line and texture all at once. I’m currently working on a piece with a lot of embroidery, including “rays” of sunlight created with fly stitch. Fast and easy!