Needlepoint Leaf Stitch and Variations

The leaf stitch is really a combination of a number of straight stitches worked in the form of a motif that resembles a leaf shape. These leaf stitches can be fitted together to create an overall background pattern with an attractive texture

Each motif will cover nine canvas intersections in height and six in width. You can use compensating stitches to fill in around the edge of the area if necessary.

A chart showing a leaf stitch arrangementAn arrangement of leaf stitches

Plan Ahead

Before you begin, count the number of threads in the area you want to fill with the Leaf Stitch. This will help ensure that your stitches are evenly spaced and that you have enough room to complete the pattern.

In addition to depicting leaves, the stitch can be used for creating other organic shapes like petals or feathers.

Although the history of the stitch is not well documented it appears to have been in use since at least as far back as the 16th century.

There is also a knitting stitch with the same name, but we are sticking to needlepoint here.

As with any needlepoint stitch, maintaining consistent tension is key. If your stitches are too tight, they can warp the canvas. If they're too loose, they can create gaps in your design.


How to work leaf stitch

The diagram shows how the basic stitch is worked. 

The first stitch starts in the center and goes horizontally over 3 intersections of the canvas and up 4. The next two stitches lay at the same angle. 

Stitch 7-8 changes direction slightly, going down in the hole diagonally to the right of point 6. Sitch 9-10 is worked in the same way. The top stitch of the leaf is worked vertically over 3 canvas threads.

Once you reach point 12, work in the same manner down the other side of the leaf.

Numbered diagram showing how to do the stitch

In the photograph, I worked the leaf stitches in the shape of a small tree. I used Fern Stitch for the trunk and one strand of light green Persian wool for the leaf stitches.

Worked in a bluish-green, with two extra leaves on either side of the bottom row, this would make a sweet little Christmas fir tree. Stitched on 18 count canvas it would be the ideal size for a greetings card. You could even stitch a little star at the top in metallic thread.

A little tree comprising leaf stitches

Color choices

All your leaf stitch motifs can be worked in the same colour yarn, or you can vary them, either randomly or in an organised arrangement.

Worked in an overdyed yarn they can resemble a realistic "hedgerow" in a landscape design.

But remember leaves do not always have to be green. Fiery autumnal shades can add a splash of colour to your work!

Varations of Leaf Stitch

The addition of an optional straight stitch down the center, in either the same or a contrasting color, gives the impression of a stem. 

A chart showing a variation of the basic stitchLeaf stitch variation

You can also arrange four leaves so that their centers meet, to form a star, cross or flower shape, as shown in the photograph. These could be stitched side by side with the squares between them filled with tent stitch.

A four-way version of the basic stitch

Another variation of this needlepoint stitch can be worked over a smaller area, using just four stitches on each side. This is sometimes known as Diamond Leaf Stitch.

This is certainly one of those needlepoint stitches that can be utilized in many ways to add interest to a design. I do hope you will give it a try.

A chart showing diamond leaf stitch

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