Fly stitch is absolutely fabulous for embroidering leaves and feathers. It is quick, easy and very effective. You can stitch leaves of different shapes, and you can use just one colour or change your ribbon half way onto another colour to get more colour variation.
How to use ribbon for fly stitch
The picture below illustrates key steps in making a fly stitch. Start by coming up to the front of your fabric at point 1, and go down at 2, leaving a small loop on the front. Do not pull the thread or ribbon tight. Come up again inside the loop at point 3 that is slightly below points 1 and 2. Pull your thread or ribbon through and tighten the loop. Now secure the loop with a small vertical stitch. Your feather stitch is done!
To embroider a leaf as on the picture below, stitch a cascade of fly stitches one under another. I recommend drawing the main vein first with a pencil or pen to make it easier to follow the intended direction. Work a single straight stitch for the tip of the leaf, and then embroider fly stitches below it.
Paula and Alice from the Needlework Society made a wonderful embroidery pattern where you can use fly stitch. The pattern is free and you can find it here (scroll down the page). Once a month they send out an email newsletter where they post Needlework Society news, interviews with embroidery artists and free embroidery patterns. Sign up for free to get it every month!
I will be working with them to make stitch tutorials for their patterns, so more free tutorials coming soon. I will be adding ribbon stitch samples where it is appropriate, so you could have more options whether to use thread or ribbon for those stitches.