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Couching in a circle (goldwork) icon
Couching in a circle (goldwork)

Couching in a circle (goldwork) main image

Couching is the most commonly used way of filling areas of your chosen design with metal thread in goldwork embroidery; couching in a circle is one such way of doing this.  Metal passing threads are couched down with a fine thread in a brick pattern; the reflection of light on the spiraled passing thread creates an interesting effect.

The Art Institute of Chicago holds a stomacher with examples of gold couched circles.  The garment dates from the 17th century and was made in England.

Couching in a circle (goldwork) is generously sponsored by Joanna Hart

Method

A single, waxed, machine thread or strand of stranded cotton is the most common choice of sewing thread with which to make the couching stitches. However, any thread that is relatively stable and even in width can be used.  The colour is normally matched to the colour of the metal thread: yellow for gold, grey for silver and red-brown for copper.

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1

Create a fold in the centre of your length of gold.  Using a single thread waxed with beeswax, stitch over the folded gold passing to secure it in the centre of the circle.

2

Bend the gold passing around to start the spiral, keeping both strands of passing together.  Bring the needle up through the fabric at the outer edge of the gold (approximately 3-4mm away from the first stitch) and stitch over both threads.  Manipulate the gold to form a tight curve, then bring the needle up next to it on the outer side and stitch over both threads, as before.  Make sure that there are no gaps between the gold threads.

3

Continue stitching the gold in a tight circle: bring the needle up on the outside of the circle and down in between the current threads and the previously worked ones.  When taking your needle down, angle the needle underneath the previously worked gold threads to keep them snugly together. Position your stitches an equal distance apart.

4

As you continue to increase the circle, ensure the gold threads lie flat and parallel without crossing or untwisting.
The correct spacing can clearly be seen here: the stitches are an equal distance from each other, and the stitches for each new spiral fit between those of the previous spiral to form a bricked effect.

5

When the circle is the desired size, plunge the gold threads through to the back of the base fabric .

6

On the underside; bend the gold threads back on themselves and secure by oversewing them with a curved needle. Trim off any excess gold threads on the back to finish.

Couching in a circle (goldwork)

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Couching in a circle (goldwork)

​A circular spiral of densely worked couched metal thread.

References

  • Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.231
  • '17th century metalwork stomacher ', Art Institute of Chicago. Available at: https://www.artic.edu/artworks/7981/stomacher (Accessed: 18 July 2022)

Examples of Couching in a circle (goldwork)

Triptych 2, RSN Collection No. 587

Gold circle background

RSN Training School Sampler, RSN Collection No. 96