Couching is 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 make your embroidery pop. It is quick to work, easy to do, a heap of fun, and opens many doors. Couching is used in Laidwork and also known as convent stitch and kloster stitch.
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 the couching can be seen but normally you would match the colour. Use a large eyed needle to bring the heavy thread through the fabric.
Using a finer needle and thread at regular intervals 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 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.
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.
This example of couching is used to create a pattern along a crazy quilt seam. The metallic yarn was too thick to stitch with so I couched it down in 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 jelly fish is 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, 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.
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