Couching is a wonderful technique that many embroiderers forget about, but it is easy to do and a wonderful way to use interesting textured novelty threads in your embroidery. You can create wonderful surfaces by couching down threads and then embroidering over the top of them. Combined with beads and textured stitches in interesting threads, you can really make your embroidery pop. It is quick to work, easy to do, a heap of fun, and opens many doors. Couching is used in Laid-work and also known as convent stitch or kloster stitch — for its association with medieval monastic (literally, cloister) embroidery in Germany and northern Europe. It is also used in Scandinavia, for example in Hardanger embroidery.
How to work Couching Stitch
With couching, a surface thread is laid on the fabric, and anchored using a second thread. I have used a contrasting thread so that the couching can be seen, but you would normally match the colour. Use a large-eyed needle to bring the heavy thread through the fabric.
Use a finer needle and thread at regular intervals to make small, straight stitches over the thick thread to secure it to the fabric. Work in this way until you have completed the line or filled the area.
Take the end of the heavy thread to the back of the fabric using a large-eyed needle. Secure both ends with small stitches using the fine thread. Do not clip the heavy thread too close, otherwise, it will pop up to the surface.
There are many ways to use couching. You can create patterns of the thread itself. In this case, I have used a metallic thread to couch chenille thread in a spiral pattern.
Three examples of couching stitch
Couching is ideal for attaching highly textured or thick threads the foundation fabric, building up rich complex decorative surfaces in a freeform manner. In the sample below, I couched a blue chenille yarn and novelty knitting yarn to a hand-painted fabric and then covered it with textured embroidery and beads.
In this example of couching, I have used it to create a pattern along a crazy quilt seam. The metallic yarn was too thick to stitch with, so I couched it down in a zig-zag pattern before adding beads.
Here is another example of couching used on a crazy quilt block. The seaweed is made up of novelty threads couched tot he surface, and the tendrils of the jellyfish are also made of couched threads. This is a block on my I dropped the Button Box Quilt. You can read more about block 81 here.
This last example of couching is a small scene of summer grasses. It is mainly made up of couching and straight stitch worked in free form manner, French knots and wooden beads.
I hope I have given you a few ideas on how to use couching in a contemporary way.
Have you seen my Stitchers Templates?
Create your own designs with Sharon’s easy-to-use stitchers templates. Combine shapes to create hundreds of patterns and designs to embroider. It is the ultimate mix-and-match fun for stitchers of all skill levels. I created them to be as versatile as possible. I include four multi-patterned templates in each set. You will find them easy to use, totally clear to help you position them on your work, and they are nice and compact to fit in your sewing box. Each set comes with an e-book filled with patterns and designs that you can create and use as a jumping-off spot for your own designs. They are available now in our shop here!
Follow Pintangle and have it delivered to your inbox
You can have Pintangle delivered to your inbox by using the ‘follow’ feature in the sidebar. Just enter your email address, and when you get the confirmation email make sure you say yes and you are all set!