This is a technique often used in Stumpwork, to create slight volume.
There are 3 distinct stages to this stitch:
1 The preparation stage.
Normally, we would transfer the pattern to the fabric, or trace it on with a temporary ink pen. But we’re working on counted fabric here… and if you’ve ever tried tracing on it, then you’ll know there’s no point in hoping to trace anything accurately on 28ct or 32ct fabric – the weave is far too coarse for that. So here’s the trick:
Backstitch the outline of each leaf directly onto the fabric. No point in being too detailed about it: when you get a straight line, just stitch a long straight stitch (rather than stitch by stitch backstitch). Remember that everything will be completely covered by then end, so no need to put out all the stops at this stage.
Then cut out the shape of that outline into a piece of felt. Again, it doesn’t have to be super accurate – it’ll be covered up. The main thing is that the felt is NOT bigger than the outline. It must all fit in. If it doesn’t, then trim the felt a bit.
You can use white felt – it’s easier to come by, and it definitely won’t bleed colour onto your stitching (especially if you wash your stitched work). However, washing Stumpwork is rarely a good idea… so when I know I won’t need to wash my stitched piece, I prefer using a shade of felt that blends in with the colour of the covering stitches. This is particularly useful if you’re a beginner as it will help hide any imperfections in the satin stitch.
2 The padding stage.
Place the felt shape inside the leaf outline, to make sure that it is a good fit.
Then tack it into place with little stitches all around. Make sure these little stitches don’t bite into the outline.
3 The covering stage.
Time to make things look pretty!
Use satin stitch* to cover one side of the leaf. Make sure that you trap the backstitch outline under the satin stitches, to hide it completely as it must not show at all.
Then, cover the other side of the leaf. You can use a slightly lighter shade at this stage, if you like.
Finally, run a single straight stitch along the central vein of the leaf.
[* Satin stitch is a series of parallel stitches which are used to cover a specific area. They are stitched very close together, for maximum coverage. The stitches cover the back of the work equally well, making it reversible.]