In this post, I've provided written and photo instructions; if you prefer a video tutorial, you can find one at the bottom of this post (feel free to jump ahead!).
Step 1: Draw guidelines (optional)
I drew my guidelines using a white water-erasable transfer pen, but you can use whatever transfer method works best for you. You also totally do not need to draw guidelines before stitching; it's called freehand embroidery for a reason, after all!
Step 2: Using straight stitch, create your first stitch.
When working section-by-section, I like to start by stitching one of the middle stitches first.
Step 3: Using straight stitch, stitch the "fanned out" stitches that extend to either side of your first stitch.
Now you've stitched your first fern stitch!
Fern stitch options
You actually have two options for stitching a line of fern stitch!
Your first option is to take your line of stitching section-by-section, following steps 2 and 3 as outlined above. I demonstrate that here, as I lay down a second fern stitch just next to my first.
Your section option is to stitch each element separately. In the photos below, I start by stitching the center stitches, then the stitches that fan out to the outside of my shape, and finally the stitches that fan out toward the inside of my shape.
The only difference between these two options is what the back of your hoop will look like, and honestly? Nobody cares what the back of your hoop looks like! Use whichever option works best for you!
Video tutorial for fern stitch
In this short video tutorial, I demonstrate the above steps and also show just how easy it is to modify this stitch by changing up the length of the stitches that "fan out" to the sides. I hope it's helpful!