Couching Technique

We may receive a commission when you make a purchase from one of our links to sites such as eBay and others. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for support!

Couching is one of my absolute favorite techniques in a lot of projects I do so today I thought I would share everything you could ever need to know about couching and getting started with it!

What is couching in needlework?

If you are new to couching, you are probably wondering what it means. Chances are you’ve seen the technique in all sorts of different projects and maybe just didn’t know it has a name!

If you aren’t familiar with couching, it’s basically a sewing technique where you use one type of thread to attach another (usually thicker) thread or material to your work. Here’s my official definition of couching:

Couching is a decorative stitching technique in which yarn, cord or other material is attached and sewn onto your fabric using stitches to hold it in place.

It’s a fun and easy technique that can be used to add texture and visual interest to all sorts of projects. Whether you like slow stitching, crazy quilting, embroidery, appliqué or just have a special project that needs a little extra pizazz, couching is the technique for you to explore!

Couching Technique
Couching Technique

You can use couching to add cording, yarn, braids, ribbons and more – basically, if something is thin and long, you can couch it on!

While the most straightforward way to couch is in a straight line, you can really have some fun by using the cording to create various designs and textures to projects. Here’s an example of couching in a scroll pattern:

Couching In Scroll Pattern
Couching In Scroll Pattern

If you want to learn some more techniques and examples with couching for decorative designs, check out our post on couching in laidwork – and we have TONS of different couching projects and patterns in our vault!

I love couching for a number of different things, whether it is as a seam treatment in crazy quilts, a border for appliqué or even just creating different designs in my slow stitch projects and adding texture to my textile art.

There are many ways to do couching in textile art and you can do it either by hand or with a sewing machine. If you have a hard time sewing by hand or maybe even don’t want to sew by hand, you will totally want to check out our post on how to couch with a sewing machine!

How To Do Couching In Hand Embroidery and Stitching

To do couching by hand, it’s a really simple technique where you first choose the item you want to couch on (ribbon, cord, yarn, braids, etc.) and then place it on your fabric. You can temporarily pin it down if you want, although its not always necessary.

Once you have the item you are couching on in place, you simply use regular embroidery thread or hand quilting thread and stitch small stitches around the item, working from one side of it to the other and then coming back around to the side you started on from underneath.

The easiest and most simple method of doing this by hand is with small straight stitches, but you can actually do a lot of decorative stitches too for different effects.

Visible vs. Invisible Couching

Sometimes you want to see the couching stitches, but sometimes you might not want to, depending on what you are sewing on.

If you are using regular plain solid colored yarn or cord, you might want to use a fun contrasting color of thread to do the couching with so that the couching stitches are visible – you may even want to use a thick thread so those stitches are easier to see.

You may even want to experiment with various ways you do the couching – for example you could do it in groupings of 3 or even do cross-stitch type lines with your overcasting thread. The image below shows some of the different techniques:

Couching Examples With Visible Stitching
Couching Examples With Visible Stitching

Of course, there really is not limit on what kinds of stitches you could do for couching your cording or yarn on! You could do loop stitches or even basket weave style stitches. You could also use more than one cord!

Here are some examples of “fancy stitching” in couchwork:

Couching Fancy Decorative Stitches
Couching Fancy Decorative Stitches

When you do this method of using more fancy stitches, you may want to tack the items on in place using some basting stitches, but that is really up to your and your own personal preference.

Of course, on the other hand, sometimes you really don’t want that couching to be too obvious. Maybe you have some pretty lace trim that is very narrow and thick and you don’t want the tacking on stitches to be seen.

In that case, you can use a very thin thread that matches the color of the item so that when you sew around your item you can barely notice the couching threads are there!

Raised Embroidery Stitches with Couching

Couching is a method that can also be used to create a raised effect in fill stitches for your embroidery. This is sometimes called “ancient couching” and it’s basically done so that a fill stitch (typically satin stitch) is done over the raised cord and you can’t even tell the cord is there!

If you ever wondered the secret behind some of the more puffy embroidery, it’s usually done with couching to give it some more depth!

You Can Couch ANYTHING!

While couching in the traditional sense is most commonly used for laid-work, quilting, appliqué, and embroidery, I’ve found as a textile artist you can pretty much use couching in ANY kind of project – and it’s especially fun when you get into mixed media!

While couching is traditionally done in most needlework projects using cord, decorative braids, yarn, or ribbon, honestly if you can sew thread around it, you can couch it on to your foundation fabric!

You can couch almost any material, whether its yarn, cording, lace, trims, braids or even ribbons. If you want to really get experimental, you can couch on long narrow objects, rope and twine, or even work with wire or jewelry.

You really can couch almost anything! See my list of 101 Things You Can Couch Onto Fabric for even more ideas!

If You Can Sew Thread Around It, You Can Couch it On!

There is no limit for what kinds of things you might couch on!

Although, if you are using your machine, you’ll probably want to stick with things that are no wider or thicker than your machine could handle and aren’t going to cause issue or be a safety hazard if you accidentally hit them with your needle!

While my sewing machine can do couching with yarn, cord and ribbon no problem, I don’t think I’d risk doing wire, jewelry, or sewing on any long, narrow objects with it.

Couching is Awesome + You Should Just Try It!

Couching is a great way to add some extra detail and visual interest to your sewing projects. This technique can be used on a variety of fabrics with all sorts of material, and it’s a great way to add texture and depth to your designs!

Now that you know the basics of getting started with couching, you are ready to do all kinds of things with it!

Do you have any questions about getting started with couching? Any tips or techniques you would like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *