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Bokhara couching

  • Kloster Stitch
  • Bokharan couching
  • Self-couching
  • Laid oriental filling
Bokhara couching main image

Bokhara couching is a form of self-couching: the same thread is both laid and also used for the couching stitches.  (Conventional couching uses separate threads, often of different types, for the laid and couching threads.)  Bokhara’s couching stitches form a short diagonal line across the laid thread; collectively across a motive they line up to form diagonal lines.  This contrasts with Romanian couching‘s long couching stitches which form a subtly textured effect, rather than a regular pattern (N.B. some sources transpose the names of the two stitches).

For Bokhara couching the short couching stitches are occasionally perpendicular to the laid thread rather than diagonal (as with ‘standard’ couching).  Historical references frequently refer to ‘self-couching’ without specifying which stitch was used.

Bokhara couching was used extensively in northern Germany in the 13th to 16th centuries to produce ecclesiastical wallhangings, hence the name Kloster stitch (kloster means monastery or convent).  The stitch was normally worked vertically, starting at the top of the area to be filled, although faces and smaller areas were sometimes worked in a different direction to suit the design.  The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a Swiss ecclesiastical panel from the 16th century where the diagonal pattern of the stitch can be clearly seen.

More recently, Bokhara couching is used widely on Suzanis (large wall hangings) from central Asia to fill sold blocks of colour.  The name presumably references Bukhara in Uzbekistan, a prominent stop on the Silk Road.

Kate Christie in dedication to The Dunington sisters

Method

This example couches the threads in a traditional diagonal pattern, but you could experiment with other more creative patterns. You may find it helpful to draw your desired pattern onto the fabric before you start.
Ensure you do not pull your laid thread too tight as couching over it will tighten it further.

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1

Lay a long horizontal stitch from left to right, spanning the design area.

2

Working back along the length, couch over the laid thread with a short diagonal stitch from bottom right to top left.

3

Continue couching along the length with evenly spaced diagonal stitches. Previously drawn diagonal lines on the fabric will help to achieve a regular pattern.

4

Lay another horizontal thread directly below, again from left to right. This time the couching stitches will be slightly offset from those above.

5

Continue to lay down horizontal stitches, paying attention to lining up your couching stitches with the lines on the fabric.

6

Continue to fill the area, building up your desired pattern with the couching stitches.

Bokhara couching

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Bokhara couching

Bokharan couching is normally used to fill an area in a design.  It is typified by subtle, raised diagonal lines across the area which are formed by the couching stitches.  If the lines are less regular, check the length of the couching stitches as it may be Romanian couching.

References

  • Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.133
  • Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.55
  • 'C16 Swiss ecclesiastical panel', Indianapolis Museum of Art. Available at: https://collections.discovernewfields.org/artwork/8134 (Accessed: )