couching stitches

What is couching ?

It is the art of attaching other fibers to a fabric with little stitches. Any fiber – different types of yarn like hemp yarn,  ribbons, embroidery thread,Cord, zardosi thread or even beaded chains can be attached to fabric with the couching stitches. The couching gives you a beautiful 3 D texture to the whole fabric which is very beautiful

The advantage of using couching on your fabric is that you can embellish the fabric with different types of thread / fibers which otherwise would not penetrate the fabric, like thick metallic thread, beaded chains and even wire; Some alternatives for the laid thread are cotton perle, silk, stranded cotton, fine braids, very narrow ribbon, or raffia, seed beads threaded together, strips of leather or metallic thread.


There are two parts to a couching stitch – the base thread and the anchoring stitches made across it . You can attach the base thread with your hand sewing as well as machine sewing.

There are mainly two ways of doing the hand couching stitches. One is to keep the yarn / fiber on the fabric, fix in place with couching embroidery stitches.  The next method, which I prefer, is to place the small couching stitches all over the design, then thread the yarn fiber in between. This is more convenient for me but to each his own. See which you would prefer

Donot forget to stabilize the fabric or it may sag under the weight of the couching


What thread to use for couching?

The beauty of couching is that you can choose anything for the base thread – cord, embroidery floss, metallic threads, jute braids,bead chains, sequins chains, wool yarn, zardosi thread. 

Method 1.  Place Base thread and then use tacking stitches to anchor

Step 1
Thread your needle with the number of strands of fiber, thread you need as the base thread. Bring the needle from the back of the fabric to the top of the fabric and then place the base thread as you like it on the design ( eyeball it or lay on a previously drawn design) . If you want use a little glue to keep the base thread in place.

couching embroidery stitch
Step 2
Thread another needle with the thread you want for the anchoring stitches. You can use a matching thread or a contrasting thread, depending on the effect you want for the design. Now tack the base thread in place using small straight stitches across the base thread, somewhat 1″ apart. You may need to add more such stitches where there are angles or curves
Step 3
After the whole couching stitches are made across the base thread, bring the base thread to the back of the fabric . Knot it at the back

Method 2 Make the tacking stitches first and then thread the base thread.

Step 1
Thread your needle with the anchoring thread. Make small straight stitches 1/2 – 1″ apart throughout the design. Ensure that curves and angles have more couching stitches

couching stitch

Step 2
Thread another needle with the base thread . This should be blunter needles. Bring up the needle from the back of the fabric to the top at the start of the design. Thread the base thread through the small stitches you have made.

couching stitches
Step 3
After the whole design is threaded, bring the base thread to the back of the fabric . Knot it at the back

Method 3 Bokhara couching

couching bokhara

Bokhara couching refers to couching work done in such a way that straight couched rows are worked closely together.

Other than the placement of the couching thread, the way you place the straight anchoring stitches can also add a pattern to the design
For eg you can make these couching stitches in an alternating pattern as in the picture above

4. Sewing Machine couching

Machine couching makes everything easy – No more painstakingly making countless small stitches; just stitch over the fancy thread you have. Easy right. But You need a couching foot or a cording foot to do couching on a sewing machine.

The couching foot will have a groove through which your thread or yarn will pass through.The cording foot given below have 3 grooves to accommodate many fibers at once. The one above has 7 holes.You will need to use a cord/ yarn which will fit inside the channels in a cording foot.

If you are into textile art couching foot is a must have tool to experiment with the different patterns and designs you can draw on fabric with couching stitches. When you buy the foot it will come with clear instructions on how to use it. 

You can use monofilament thread to make the couching stitches almost invisible.

A simple zig zag stitch is enough to do the couching with the sewing machine. Practise on a scrap of fabric with your choice of base thread to  get the zig zag stitch just the right width; not too much wide that it extends beyond the base thread or too small that the thread is not adequately covered.

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