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Hand Embroidery: How to Make a Fly Stitch

Updated on February 6, 2023
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Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth.

A fly stitch (left) and a tulip made from a fly stitch then filled in with satin stitches.
A fly stitch (left) and a tulip made from a fly stitch then filled in with satin stitches. | Source

What is a fly stitch?

A fly stitch is a hand embroidery stitch used to create a looping, curved line that resembles a flying insect. It is commonly used to create decorative borders or edgings, fill small spaces with a decorative element, or create outlines for other stitches.

The stitch is created by making a small stitch in the fabric, bringing the needle back up to the surface a short distance away, making another small stitch, and repeating the process.

Fly stitches are beautiful stitches that are especially useful for embellishments and edging. They can be used in rows or as independent, scattered stitches. I often use a fly stitch as a quick and easy way to create an outline (and stem) of a flower.

This stitch is sometimes called the Y stitch, perhaps because it strongly resembles the letter Y. Once you learn this stitch, though, you'll find yourself coming up with fun variations that look less like the Y design.

The fly stitch is a simple concept, but, like many types of stitches, it can be difficult to get a hang of. Once you learn this stitch, though, you'll be able to do it on the fly later (pun not intended.) If you know how to make a lazy daisy stitch, you'll find this stitch to be similar.

How to make a fly stitch?

In order to make a fly stitch, you must first know how to make a straight (running) stitch.

Figure 1: Start out by making a straight stitch.
Figure 1: Start out by making a straight stitch. | Source
Figure 2: Don't pull your floss taut. Instead, leave it a bit lax, making a little loop.
Figure 2: Don't pull your floss taut. Instead, leave it a bit lax, making a little loop. | Source
Figure 3: Tying down your loop
Figure 3: Tying down your loop | Source
Figure 4: Your first fly stitch
Figure 4: Your first fly stitch | Source

Step 1: Start out by making a straight stitch (figure 1), but don't pull your thread so taut as you would do with most stitches. Instead, leave a small loop (figure 2.)

Step 2: Very gently pull the loop downward along the fabric. Flatten and smooth it out along the fabric. Pull the needle out from underneath on the very tip of the inside of the loop (figure 3.)

Step 3: Make another straight stitch in order to "tie down" the stitch. Congratulations! You've just made your first fly stitch. Trying making a few more so you get the idea down pat.

Perfecting the Stitch

I find that the toughest part of making a fly stitch is judging where to bring the needle through so that I can make the tip pointy. That said, you can make a variation of the stitch so that it is rounded. It all depends on where you bring your needle through.

One thing you can do is poke the needle through to see where it (the needle) is. This really helps me judge where to pull through.

To make a sharp point, stretch your loop as far down as it can go before pulling your needle through. If you want a rounded fly stitch, just do a looser tie on the stitch. In the picture at the top, I've included an example of both fly stitches. The one on the left is pointy and the one on the right has a more rounded "tulip" look to it. I filled the tulip on the right with a satin stitch.

Making sure your fly stitches are the same size can be tricky. If you want all your stitches to be the same size, keep in mind the amount of floss you're using for each stitch. This helps in judging how much floss to leave behind in your loop. You can also use a fabric pen to draw guidelines on your fabric. Many fabric pens wash off with water, which makes them super handy!

© 2011 Melanie Palen


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