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Bricking

  • Couching
  • Brick stitch

​Bricking is a method of holding down couched threads: the threads are laid in pairs and couched with small stitches at 90 degrees to the couched thread.  The couching stitches for each pair of threads are offset so that they form a pattern like brickwork.  This is the most common method for holding down couched threads as it creates a firm, stable embroidery with an even finish.

Bricking was certainly in common usage by the 19th century: articles in contemporary publications frequently refer to it, often mentioning that it is the easiest form of gold couching; Notre Dame parish church in Montreal contains an altar frontal which is documented as dating from this era.  Interestingly, the contemporary articles refer to the stitch sometimes being executed in floss crossed with gold (the reverse of the metal crossed with sewing thread which is currently standard).

N.B. there is another (canvaswork) stitch called brick stitch, also named for the offset pattern of the stitches.

Bricking is generously sponsored by Deborah Cooper

Method

The stitches should be evenly spaced, sit at 90 degrees to the metal thread they are holding down, and all be pulled to the same tension so that none of them lie higher or lower on the surface of the couched thread than the others.

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1

Lay down a pair of threads (the image shows Japanese gold threads) and couch into position using a single waxed thread. The couching thread should lay at 90º to the gold threads at intervals of 3-4mm, it should be tight enough to hold the gold securely but not so tight that it dents the gold threads. Ensure the gold threads lie flat and parallel without crossing and try not to over-tighten the stitches.

2

Lay another two gold threads parallel to the first. Holding the gold threads firmly in place, secure in place by couching a stitch between those of the previous row, producing a brickwork pattern. Bringing the needle up on the outer side of the threads and down between the current threads and the previous row will help to avoid puncturing the gold threads.

3

Continue to stitch along the gold thread, ensuring the stitches are evenly spaced and all lie at 90º to the threads. Make sure the gold threads do not twist over and do not over-tighten the stitches.

4

Continue to add more rows of gold to fill the space, placing the stitches in between those of the previous row, in a brickwork pattern. When you have completed the area to be filled, plunge the gold threads separately and secure on the reverse with a curved needle.

Bricking

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Bricking

​Bricking is a couching method in goldwork that can be identified by metal threads held down by a coloured threads so that one row of stitches over the gold thread lies alternately in between the next row of stitches to create the ‘bricking’ effect.

References

  • Jennifer Campbell, Ann-Marie Bakewell, Guide to Embroidery Stitches (2004)
  • Emma Haywood.Blanche de M. Morrell. (1890) 'Art Needlework - Hints for Embroidery', The Art Amateur pp.23-24. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25629182
  • Christine Turgeon. (2004) 'JEANNE LEBER: Recluse and Embroideress (1662-1714)', Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'histoire de l'art Canadien pp.6-47.
  • Mary Gay Humphreys.Constance Cary Harrison. (1882) 'Art Needlework - Embroidery Notes', The Art Amateur pp.86-87. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25627727

Examples of Bricking from the RSN Collection

Angel Head, RSN Collection No. 362

Triptych 1, RSN Collection No. 586