Embroidery on leaves – Leah Nikolaou

Embroidery on leaves

Mixing leaves and hand embroidery stitches were where my current embroidery designs began. Leaf art is a medium that has been growing in popularity in past years and I can see why as there is something so satisfying about embroidering into them.

leaves embroidered with handwritten paper

I began embroidering leaves when my daughter was a toddler as we foraged for flowers for her press and to pass the time. I’d left a busy full-time job in media and was a bit lost about what I wanted to do next. Embroidery on leaves was a natural progression from flower pressing to how I could mix flower pressing with hand embroidery. 

hand embellished 3d leaves

back of a hand stitched leaf

I loved embroidery as a teenager and had ideas about using it in a contemporary way. My flowers were far too delicate to stitch, I tried and failed, so I looked at other natural materials to act as a canvas. At the time, my neighbors had this huge bush in their garden, which dropped fabulous brown waxy leaves over my fence. I loved their natural organic forms and wrapped them with little stickers printed with lovely small-scale paper prints. They were perfect.

autumn leaf embroidered with handwritten paper

It was at this time that I discovered the crocheted leaf art of artist Susana Bauer who really opened my eyes to the contemporary possibilities of mixing crafts and nature together. Like Susana, I wanted to do embroidery on leaves which I chose to do with a fine cotton thread. I loved the process of stitching through the crunchy paper and leaves. I chose words to write on my little strips of paper with a felt marker which resonated with my day-to-day with a young toddler. The checked printed papers, polka dots, and felt tips pens mirrored the naivety of my days.

embroidered leaves with text

However, the limitations of embroidering on leaves led me to find another way to use my pressed flowers. I knew I wanted to use the great resource of natural materials that I’d collected and dried. That’s when I experimented with digital printing to preserve every delicate colour and organic detail.

So that’s how my current museum-quality paper embroideries were born!

embroidered tree leaves

 If you have enjoyed reading this blog post check out How To Do Paper Embroidery or Perforated Paper Embroidery 


  • These leaves had a slightly waxy coat and were from a bush, but I don’t know what it’s called. I would look for thicker leaf types.

    Leah Nikolaou
  • I love the beautiful colours of autumn leaves, but never thought of stitching through them. What type of leaves work the best?

  • Thanks Heather and Judy!

    Judy, I actually stitched these about 4 years ago and still have them, they haven’t decomposed at all. They are beautiful leaves that had fallen into my garden from a neighbours bush but don’t know what its called!

    Heather, I stitched a little garland of leaves to make some decorations for Sofia’s outdoor mud kitchen a few years back too. They are fun to have a play with!

    Leah Nikolaou
  • Wow, would love to have a go at that. Your ideas are amazing, and your work is beautiful

    Heather Bedworth
  • This is very cool. I can’t understand why the leaf doesn’t crumble when you stitch on it though.


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