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Fishbone Stitch

Fishbone stitch is a closed fill technique in hand embroidery that can be thought of as a combination of straight stitch, cross stitch, and satin stitch. I love using this stitch for leaves and petals, but you can absolutely use this stitch to fill in any sort of shape you like!

Photo of an embroidery hoop with leaf shapes stitched in green, pink, and blue, on linen fabric using fishbone stitch for hand embroidery.
Finished fishbone stitch in three colors.

In this post, I provided written and photo instructions for fishbone stitch; if a video is easier for you, I've got one at the end of this post (feel free to jump ahead!).

Step 1: Draw a shape to be filled in using any transfer method you like.

I drew a leaf shape for this demonstration, but you can fill in any shape you like! I used a heat-erasable transfer pen to draw my shape, and I'll be working with all six strands of cotton embroidery floss on linen fabric.

Step 2: Make a single straight stitch that reaches from the top of your shape to (roughly) the middle.

Step 3: Bring your needle back up through your fabric, just to the left of that first stitch and following the guideline you've drawn for yourself.

Step 4: Cross your floss over that initial straight stitch and bring your needle back down, parallel to the end of that first stitch.

Step 5: Bring your needle up through your fabric parallel to where you just brought it down.

Step 6: Cross over those first two stitches, bringing your needle down just to the right of your first stitch.

Again, you'll be bringing your needle down on the guideline you've drawn for yourself.

Step 7: Repeat Steps 3-6 until you've run out of room at the bottom of your shape.

Here's what my shape looks like once I'm about halfway finished:

And here's what your shape will look like once you've run out of room at the bottom:

Step 8: Finish your shape by satin stitching each side.

You'll still be following the guidelines you've drawn for yourself, and the direction of those existing stitches.

Here's what the left side of my shape looks like once I've finished this final step:

And here's my final shape!

Video tutorial for fishbone stitch

I hope this was helpful! If you're brand new to embroidery and prefer to learn with a kit, make sure to check out the kits in my shop!

Happy stitching!


Your new favorite hobby awaits with these beginner-friendly embroidery kits!

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