Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Tutorials for Hand Embroidered Leaves & Flowers


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Do you want to add more variety to your hand embroidery projects by stitching different types of leaves or flowers?

After all, when you look at flowers and foliage in their natural setting, they’re rarely exactly the same!

Since flowers and leaves are probably the most common motif in hand embroidery, it’s good to have a whole arsenal of stitching techniques on hand for embroidering them.

Here are sixteen different ways you can embroider leaves and flower petals.

Stitches for Flowers and Leaves

Whether the samples below demonstrate how to embroider a leaf or how to embroider a flower, with a few tweaks, you can use any of them interchangeably for flowers or for leaves – just the stitching techniques to your petal or leaf shape.

Each technique links to an article or a video that will take you step-by-step through the embroidery process. Many of the techniques were worked in isolation for the sake of demonstration, but some of them are parts of larger projects, extracted to show you the technique.

Raised Fishbone Stitch

Raised Fishbone Stitch

Although the raised fishbone stitch was not covered in the recent Stitch Fun series on hand embroidered leaves, I thought I’d include the link here. It’s a video tutorial, and it makes beautiful large or small leaves that are slightly raised.

Fishbone Stitch Leaves

Fishbone Stitch

Regular Fishbone Stitch can be used to create leaves as well. They are not quite as raised as the raised fishbone stitch. The alternating overlap in the fishbone (and raised fishbone) stitch creates a natural spine down the center of the leaf.

Satin Stitch Leaves

Satin Stitch Leaves with Sharp Tips

In this photo tutorial, which is part of this Tudor-Style Rose project, I show you how to pad tiny satin leaves and embroider them so that they have a nice, sharp tip.

Padded Satin Stitch Leaves

Padded Satin Stitch Leaves

In this photo tutorial, which is part of the Mission Rose project, we look at very padded satin stitch leaves in silk, and we talk about stitch direction, the play of light on silk threads, and other aspects that will affect the finished look of the leaves.

Long and Short Stitch Leaf

Long & Short Stitch Shaded Leaf – Simple Shape

In this photo tutorial, which is part of the Long & Short Stitch shading lessons here on Needle ‘n Thread, I show you how to work a simple leaf shape in long and short stitch, shading from light on the outside to dark on the inside.

Long & Short Stitch embroidered leaf

Long & Short Stitch Shaded Leaf – Slightly More Complex

This photo tutorial, also part of the Long & Short Stitch shading lessons here on Needle ‘n Thread, concentrates on a slightly more complex leaf shape, shaded from dark on the outside to light on the inside. We talk about stitch direction, and we look at a simple way to add a tiny shadow on each tip, to make the leaf stand out a bit.

Long & Short Stitch Shaded Leaf

Long & Short Stitch Shaded Leaf – with a Turnover

Also part of the Long & Short Stitch shading lessons, this tutorial focuses on a more complex leaf with a turn-over on the tip. It involves long & short stitch shading and padded satin stitch.

Embroidered Holly Leaves

Free-Style Embroidered Holly Leaves

This Stitch Fun tutorial demonstrates how to embroidery quick, free-style holly leaves, without using a pattern.

Daisy Stitch for Leaves

Simple Daisy Stitch (or Detached Chain Stitch) for Leaves

Never underestimate the power of the simple stitch! The detached chain stitch (also called the daisy stitch or the lazy daisy stitch) makes terrific, simple leaves and flower petals! This is a video tutorial.

Granitos - hand embroidered leaves


Where are the leaves? Well, in the video tutorial for granitos, the samples show petals on flowers, but granitos can make very effective, simple leaves, too!

Cast On Stitch

Cast-on Stitch & Double Cast-on Stitch

Again, the samples for the video tutorial for the cast-on stitch illustrate the stitch used for petals on flowers, but with a little manipulation, both stitches work great for leaves, too – especially the double cast-on stitch.

There are clear step-by-step photo instructions for the double cast-on stitch in the Cast-On and Double Cast-on Stitch printable available as an e-book.

Woven Picot Stitch

Woven Picot Stitch

In the video tutorial for the woven picot stitch, you’ll see how to make a terrific dimensional stitch that works really well for leaves and petals.

You can also find step-by-step photo instructions for the woven picot stitch in my Lavender Honey & Other Little Things e-book, where I use the stitch to create dimensional sunflowers.

Fly Stitch Leaves

Fly Stitch Leaves

Using a combination of fly stitch and twisted chain stitch – or just using fly stitch – you can create quick, simple leaves with turned tips. This step-by-step photo tutorial will show you how.

Closed Cretan Stitch Leaves

Closed Cretan Stitch Leaves

In this step-by-step photo tutorial, you’ll see how to create broad leaves with a braid down the center spine, using the closed cretan stitch.

Tiny Buttonhole Stitch Leaves

Tiny Buttonhole Stitch Leaves

The tiny buttonhole stitch leaves demonstrated in this step-by-step photo tutorial work well for ground foliage. They can also be enlarged and worked with heavier thread.

Rose Leaf Stitch

Rose Leaf Stitch

The rose leaf stitch can be used to create shaded leaves and to embroider buds. The photo tutorial for the shaded leaves demonstrates the movement of the stitch step-by-step, with plenty of tips to help you through it.

The rose leaf stitch bud tutorial shows you how to adapt the stitch to create a little rose bud.

I hope all these tutorials help you to add variety and interest to your hand embroidery endeavors!

If you have any other suggestions for tutorials that you’d like to see on Needle ‘n Thread, feel free to leave a comment below.

You can find this list of tutorials permanently linked under the Stitch Fun series index under Tips & Techniques here on Needle ‘n Thread. You can also find a direct link under Hand Embroidery Lessons & Step-by-Step Projects in the Tips & Techniques section.


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(53) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    Thanks to you, frustration went out the window and serenity came back, to make my stitching a joy! Not only do I have more fun, getting a whole lot more done, the best part you show us ways to do stitches which makes it all just such a pleasure.

    Thank You

  2. Hi Mary,

    Thank you for widening my horizons. You take lateral thinking – thinking out of the box – to a whole new level. Having little kids, I don’t have much time for embroidering, but I stich vicariously through your blog and mentally plan future projects. No more limitations, each stitch has so many possibilities not yet discovered.
    So many things to do, so little time…

  3. Thank you so much for organizing this, making it easier to find the various leaves. You have definitely endeared yourself to the OCD side of me!!

  4. Mary:
    Although I have written you a letter regarding vermicelli lesson I thought I would see by this request if I am the only one who has requested this stitch.
    Best Wishes for today and all of your tomorrows,

  5. Dear Mary

    What a good idea to organise them into one place and so easy to find, I love all the different techniques of the leaves. Although simple, leaves are so important in embroidery and I never knew there were so many different stitches and ways to embroider them. Thanks for organising them into one place your a marvel.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. sei sicuramente l’insegnante di ricamo migliore del mondo,i tuoi insegnamenti sono sempre perfetti, la tua generosità è unica.Grazie, con te si impara in modo semplice

  7. This is an excellent index to leaf techniques. I hope you are planning to add this list to your Tips and Techniques section, as I am not sure how I will find it again in my favorites lists! It is such a good overview; you are so clever!

  8. Mary
    I do not always get the chance to sit down and read all the wonderful info. that you put out there on your websit….but when I do it always helpful and I learn so much. Thanks!!!!

  9. This is a great resource! I am inspired and appreciate the time and effort to put them into this order!

    Mary – how do I ask a question off topic – like this: How do I hoop a corner or edge of a fabric to add a monogram? Am thinking corner of napkin where there isn’t enough fabric for the entire hoop? Or do I make the design smaller? I want to embroider cuffs and lapels, and center backs of garments. Do I make the garment/item first or make the embroidery first then try to fit it on the pattern/item? PS – love the leaves!

  10. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the leaf tutorials especially. The only one I’m not sure I can get without a photo tutorial is the little rosebud one. I completely understand the leaf and feel comfortable with it, but finishing the one with the rosebud still eludes me. I keep getting lost at the end where you do the fly stitch to close it up to make it look right, Would it be at all possible for you, whenever possible, to do a photo tutorial on making the rosebud?
    With great respect, Deonia in Florida

    1. Mary, please forgive my error in my question. I, actually, was requesting a “video” to be able to watch you stitch it. But, I appreciate your response and will endeavor to use your added instructions per your reply.
      And, again, thanks so much for your teaching. You’re one of the best I have ever known. But for MY inability to see and understand, your instructions are totally precise. No one could explain these stitches better.
      Deonia in Florida

  11. Dear Mary,

    I am a frequent visiter of your website nearly on daily basis although I hardly post any comment but for this one I am very thankful, it must have been an effort to compile them up and post them. I have always learnt a lot from oyur website, and you have always inspired me. Now I just need to figure out how to save this page on my IPad.

    Regards Shahla

  12. Wow. Thank you for this very complete recap of possibilities. I had no idea there were so many different ways to make a leaf.

  13. Hello Mary,
    I always wanted to embroider daisies but never knew which stitch to use. Woven picot is the thing! Also plaited braid stitch had always intrigued me, as I like it in Elizabethan embroidery. Yout tutorials are perfect. I needed small projects to get my feet wet with un-counted stitch embro and your Little Things are just what I needed.
    But here in my neck of the global woods, covered buttons aren’t sold with the plastic holder and pusher. I have to get these.

  14. I am so happy I found this web site!Dying to do this. Now all the sewing machines “try” to replicate these beautiful designs; lacking the dimensional effect of realism. But these absolutely beautiful crafted by hand, with love embroidered flowers will become the heirlooms of tomorrow.
    Off to watch all the tutes. THNX-J

  15. Oi boa tarde, gostaria de saber se você qual o seu blog. E se você ensina no YouTube? Obrigada.

  16. Dear Mary, I have admired your work for many years.
    I’d love to have every bit of it in my library.
    Do you ever issue hard copies/old fashioned books of your body of work?
    I was tempted by your monogram series, but I sort of don’t want a flimsy bad paper version printed off my computer.
    With great hope,
    Gail Davis

  17. Those little leaf stitches for the rose are wonderful. I wish you had expended a little more on them. The two color version is stunning and perhaps I’ll know more when I put needle and thread to fabric. Most every day I read your pieces and regardless of
    how thorough I think I am in that stitch or area “You always teach me something” to
    improve my work!!
    Thank You, many times,

  18. I wanted to thank you for all your wonderful, absolutely gorgeous stitches that you share. I have learned so much from you. Your a sweet heart for sharing

  19. Do you have a tutorial on how to do a variety of plant stems or branches? I’d also really appreciate suggestions for drinking straws, I’d like to do a lemonade theme 🙂

  20. Looking for a way to do more detailed realistic way to do the stamen of a flower to have the anther and filament more distinct. Any ideas? I am going to try white 30 gauge wire ( colored as appropriate) and try to weave or wrap a tiny detail/stitch at tip. If there is another way someone is aware would love to see this.

  21. señora un gran beso. es usted una persona maravillosa por tan bellos trabajos y regalos de enseñar . dios me la bendiga. y muchos buenos deseoa para usted y toda su familia.

  22. I was able to most of hand embroidery due to your picture tutoring its very easy,but how ever roseleaf stich was not quite quick to grasp can you provide a vedio for rose leaf stich mam.

  23. Thank you! I enjoyed reading up on all those beautiful stitches. You gave me hope and courage to plunge in and begin to work on a piece immediately. I love the idea that someone has my back in this. Many blessings!

  24. lieve mary
    met veel plezier kijk ik elke dag naar u website .
    Door u heb ik veel geleerd .
    Hiervoor mijn dank heel veel dank.
    marlie curfs uit holland

  25. Thank you for a wonderful site – with the advent of COVID I decided to take up quilting and embroidery and have to say your tutorials and videos have been not only instructive but inspirational.

  26. I just wanted to thank you for having this available! It’s all super easy to follow and really valuable, especially for a beginner like me. Hope all is well all these years later and thank you again!!!

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