Fern stitch consists of three stitches, fanned out from a central point. It can be worked as an isolated stitch or as a line stitch.
Fern stitch was used in China from the time of the Ming dynasty as it features as an isolated stitch on Mandarin squares from this time. The Victoria and Albert museum holds several 18th century English embroideries which feature the stitch.
Start by making a straight central stitch at the top of your fern.
Add a two further stitches of equal length worked at angles to one another
All three of these stitches should share the same base hole
Work further groups of stitches downward to form a branched line, as shown
This stitch makes a pretty branched line and is often used for decorating leaves and floral shapes.
Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.20
Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.96
Jennifer Campbell, Ann-Marie Bakewell, Guide to Embroidery Stitches (2004)
Schuyler Cammann. (1962) 'Embroidery Techniques in Old China', Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America pp.16-40. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20067040
'V&A 18th century floral panel', Victoria and Albert Museum (2009). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O360294/panel-unknown/ (Accessed: 07 September 2021)
'V&A 18th century bed panel', Victoria and Albert Museum (2005). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O110414/bed-cover-unknown/ (Accessed: 07 September 2021)