Learn Fishbone stitch with our step-by-step guide

Learn fishbone stitch and embroider a thoughtful gift for an avid reader with Mollie Johanson’s botanical bookmark.

how to embroider

If you’ve ever wondered how to embroider leaves, then fishbone stitch is one you’ve just gotta learn! It’s particularly suited to botanical embroidery, as you can not only fill in your leaves with colour but also give your stitches direction to help give your leaves a more 3D feel. In this tutorial we’ll show you the basics of fishbone stitch, then you can put it to use in the following ‘how to make a fabric bookmark’ tutorial!

Once you’ve made your bookmark, take a look at the rest of our free embroidery patterns and our Embroidery for beginners guide.

You will need

  • Linen fabric: 25x15cm (6x10in), bookmark front
  • Cotton fabric: 18×6.5cm (71/8×25/8in), bookmark back
  • Stranded cotton: light green, dark green and grey
  • Ribbon or selvedge: 1x8cm (3/8x3in)
  • Matching thread
  • Basic sewing kit


Use a 5mm (1/4in) seam allowance.

You will need to download and print the Free fishbone stitch botanical bookmark pattern template

How to embroider Fishbone Stitch


You Will Need

  • Linen fabric
  • Cotton fabric
  • DMC stranded cotton
  • Ribbon
  • Matching thread
  • Basic sewing kit

Step 1

Working on one leaf shape at a time, make a short vertical straight stitch. Bring the needle up on the right side of the shape and go back down just to the left of the centre line.


Step 2

Bring the needle up on the left side of the shape and then go back down just to the right of the centre line.


Step 3

Repeat this process to fill in the shape. You can make the stitches close together for a solid look, or spread them apart a little for a more open design.


Free botanical embroidery bookmark pattern

How to make a fabric bookmark

Tracing the leaf design

Step one

Download and print the Free fishbone stitch botanical bookmark pattern template

Step two

Place the main fabric right side (RS) up on top of the template. The design should be positioned centrally beneath the fabric.

Step three

Trace over the outlines lightly in pencil or with an erasable pen.

Working the leaf embroidery

Step one

Use three strands of stranded cotton for all the stitching as this will fill the design area well. If you want to use a different thread then practise a few stitches first on spare fabric.

Step two

Embroider each leaf in fishbone stitch using two shades of green. The leaves on the right are worked in dark green and the leaves on the left in light green.

Step three

To stitch the top leaf with both shades, work with both colours at the same time using two needles, alternating between the two sides.

Step four

Stitch the centre line in chain stitch using grey stranded cotton.

Making the bookmark

Step one

Trim the embroidered linen to 18×6.5cm (71/8×25/8in), making sure that the design is placed centrally.


Step two

Pin the front and back of the bookmark with RS together.

Step three

Fold the ribbon in half and pin it at the centre of the top of the fabrics between the layers with the raw ends matching up with the fabric edge.


Step four

Sew the fabrics together using a 5mm (1/4in) seam allowance, trapping the ribbon loop in place as you go, and leaving an opening in the centre of one long side for turning.

Step five

Trim the corners to reduce bulk.


Step six

Turn the bookmark RS out then fold the edges of the turning gap to the inside.

Finishing off

Step one

Stitch around the edge of the bookmark with running stitch using three strands of grey stranded cotton.

Step two

Keep your stitches close to the edge to decorate and hold the turning gap closed.